Amanda Anisimova may have a Russian last name, but she is the last American standing in the 2019 French Open. She sent shockwaves through the tennis world with a 6-2, 6-4 upset of defending champion Simona Halep Thursday at Roland Garros.
The win was Anisimova’s first against a top-five player, and it secures her first trip to the semifinals at a major championship. Halep is ranked third in the world, while Anisimova is well below that at 51st.
The 17-year-old will need to beat Australian Ashleigh Barty in order to punch a ticket into the finals. That match will be on Saturday at 5 a.m EST (Tennis Channel).
Here’s what you need to know about her.
1. Her Parents Moved to the United States from Russia Before She Was Born
She is the daughter Konstantin and Olga Anisimova. According to the New York Times, the couple moved from Russia to the United States in 1998. This included stops in Florida, where they sought to turn Amanda’s sister Maria into a tennis prodigy.
Anisimova’s father, Konstanin, has said that he and his wife, Olga, moved to the United States in 1998 in the hope of providing more opportunity to their older daughter Maria, who was 10. The family eventually moved to Florida, and Maria went on to play tennis collegiately at Pennsylvania.
Amanda, born in Freehold Township in New Jersey on Aug. 31, 2001, became the superior player. She moved to Miami when she was 3. Her father and elite tennis coach Nick Saviano mentored her. Saviano also tutored top-ranked American Sloane Stephens.
While tennis clicked with Amanda more than her sister, she committed to the sport because of Maria. Per an interview with WTA:
Anisimova has always been a bit ahead of schedule, playing with tennis balls as a baby and picking up the game at just two years old, inspired by older sister, Maria.
“My sister ended up playing for UPenn at college. So when I was little she was playing tennis. I always saw her playing, and I wanted to do it too. That’s how I got into it and my parents got into it too.”
2. She Turned Pro Full-Time Just a Year Ago
According to USA Today, Anisimova turned pro full-time just a year ago. She competed professionally before, earning a wild-card spot to her first French Open when she was just 15.
Last year, in her first professional season, she climbed to No. 95 in the world with a handful of solid performances, including a runner-up finish at the Hana-Cupid Japan Women’s Open in Hiroshima and a run to the fourth round at Indian Wells.
Anisimova then reached the Round of 16 at the Australian Open in January, where she lost to Petra Kvitova.
Hitting the professional circuit that young takes a lot of individuality. She told WTA that she loves the individual nature of the sport the most.
“In tennis, you don’t have to depend on anyone. I did gymnastics as a kid, and I liked that too, because I only had to depend on myself.
“It’s not like it’s all about me, but at the end of the day, if I won or lost, I knew what I had to improve, and couldn’t rely on a team.”
3. She Has Raked in $694,813 of Career Earnings in Her Short Career
According to her WTA bio, Anisimova has earned $694,813 in her career. Her overall record in singles matches is 65-32.
Much of that pile of money came from her win at the 2019 Copa Colsanitas in Bogota. That netted her $250,000 in prize money. It still stands as her lone tournament title in her career, although she also reached the finals at Hiroshima in 2018.
By making the semifinals at the French Open, she will nearly match her entire career earnings with a $662,000 prize. That number will bump up to $1.34 million if she wins the whole thing.
4. She Emulates Maria Sharapova
Her parents told RT that her idol has always been Russian tennis ace Maria Sharapova – “whom she dreams of facing on the court in the future.”
“She has always said she wants to resemble Maria Sharapova,” said Olga, adding that she had wanted a poster with her tennis idol for Christmas when she was seven.
“Maria is definitely the player I have looked up so much, she is an amazing athlete and a great person too,” Anisimova said during this year’s Australian Open. “I want to be the next player after her to win a Slam as a teenager.”
Sharapova hit the WTA Tour when she was just 14 years old. Only a few years later in 2004, she took home the Wimbledon title at age 17. In the final, Sharapova upset top seed and defending champion Serena Williams, becoming the third-youngest woman to win the Wimbledon title, behind only Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis.
Anisimova was just two years old at the time. Her former coach Saviano said that he hopes she blazes her own trail.
“I think and hope that she will continue to develop and will be, rather than the second Sharapova, the first Amanda Anisimova,” he told the New York Times. “She’s really got a very complete game. She can come forward and volley. She can drop shot, has a great return and a good serve. And Amanda, even when she was little in practice, she couldn’t wait to play points and get competitive.”
5. If Tennis Doesn’t Work Out, She Wants to be a Surgeon
Anisimova’s quick ascension to a Grand Slam semifinals is evidence enough that she is likely going to thrive for a long time as a professional. However, she told the New York Times in 2017 that she has a backup plan just in case.
“If I didn’t play tennis, I’d want to be a surgeon,” she said. “Actually what I want to do is go to online college while I’m in my pro career and then go to med school after I finish.”
WTA’s website reported two years ago that Anisimova “spends her free time reading books and watching Youtube videos about science and chemistry.”
“I’ve always been curious about it, and I think it’s pretty cool,” she said at the time.
This even led to her visiting the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” in August 2016.