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“I know it's in me”: Anisimova targets another big Roland Garros run

  • Matt Trollope

Amanda Anisimova arrived in Paris brimming with confidence, saw off the threat of Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka, and booked a spot in the second round at Roland Garros – a happy hunting ground for the young American.

A semifinalist in 2019, Anisimova next faces Donna Vekic and will attempt to take another step closer to matching the result which significantly elevated her profile and standing in the sport.

On Monday, Anisimova completed a second straight Grand Slam defeat of Osaka, after stopping the former world No.1 in a third-round thriller at Australian Open 2022.

This time around, it was a straight sets affair; while both women finished with 29 unforced errors, Anisimova smacked more than twice the number of Osaka’s winners (27-13) to complete a 7-5 6-4 win in 90 minutes.

Beating a four-time major winner like Osaka might represent a tournament high point for many players, yet Anisimova is looking beyond that.

She said her 2019 run did not come into her mind as she prepared to face Osaka, but the knowledge of it had lingering positive effects.

“I have played this tournament twice since then, so it's been a while back,” said Anisimova, who reached the third round in 2020 and fell in her opening match last year. 

“But it's good going into this tournament knowing that I was so close back then and just having a very good run, so I know it's in me.

“I just have a lot of confidence right now with all the tournaments that I have played so far, so I'm just happy. Yeah, I'm looking forward to next round.”

As it currently stands, no player remaining in the women’s draw has won more matches on clay in 2022 than Anisimova.

The 27th seed is now 11-3 on the surface this year – including 5-2 against top-20 opponents – and backed up her Charleston semifinal with quarterfinal finishes in Madrid and Rome. 

“I saw that the other day, and I'm pretty happy. I didn't realise that until I saw it,” Anisimova said of the stat.

“It's been good, and I have been playing well, back-to-back tournaments, so I'm just happy with the way I have been performing.”

Her form on clay is part of a broader resurgence which has seen the 20-year-old rise from world No.78 at the beginning of 2022 to back inside the top 30.

The former world No.21 has built a 21-8 record this year, scooping her first WTA title in three years in Melbourne in January and winning her first eight matches of the season before then-world No.1 Ash Barty stopped her in the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Always a quality returner, Anisimova again used that weapon to counter Osaka’s typically fearsome serve.

And while Osaka felt the clay actually gave her more time to deal with the return onslaught than she was afforded in Australia, she nevertheless committed eight double faults and won just 41 per cent of second serve points.

Anisimova, meanwhile, won close to half her return points for the match.

“I think the serve issue was just down to … kind of being a bit shaken by what she could possibly do,” Osaka acknowledged. “So I was trying to maybe go for too much, more than usual.”

Unlike her opponent, Anisimova thrives on the terracotta-hued courts which make Roland Garros so distinctive.

A win over Vekic – whom she beat on Rome’s clay-courts two years ago in their only previous meeting – will allow her to spend more time on them.

“I do love the courts here and the surface. The clay is very nice, so that's something I really enjoy about Roland Garros. I really like the atmosphere and the crowd,” Anisimova said. 

“It's just fun to play here, and it's a very nice Grand Slam. It's always a pleasure to be here.”