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Anisimova is lost for words after stunning Halep to reach semis

 

In shock: Amanda Anisimova celebrates after knocking out defending French Open champion Simona Halep
In shock: Amanda Anisimova celebrates after knocking out defending French Open champion Simona Halep

By Eleanor Crooks

Amanda Anisimova announced herself as not just the future of women's tennis but the present as well by knocking out defending champion Simona Halep in the quarter-finals of the French Open.

The 17-year-old American was the first player born in the 2000s to reach the last eight at a slam and she overcame her nerves to hit Halep off the court in a stunning 6-2 6-4 victory.

"I don't think it will sink in, at least not for today," she said. "It's crazy. I really can't believe the result today. And getting the opportunity to play against Simona, that's amazing, but how it ended is even crazier to me."

Halep's defeat means there is guaranteed to be a first-time slam champion come Saturday, with Britain's Johanna Konta the only one of the remaining quartet who had ever reached a singles semi-final before.

If Anisimova can keep playing like this, there is no reason it cannot be her. She is the youngest semi-finalist at Roland Garros since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006 and is yet to drop a set.

Should she win the title, she would be the youngest slam champion since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004.

It would be fitting if Anisimova, who will take on eighth seed Ashleigh Barty in the last four, emulated Sharapova given the similarities in their background and the fact she grew up idolising the Florida-based Russian.

Anisimova also hails from Russian parentage, although her mother and father emigrated to America before she was born, ironically because of the tennis potential of her older sister.

The teenager made her slam breakthrough in Australia in January by reaching the fourth round before losing to Petra Kvitova.

"When I was playing in Australia, I was thinking about winning it," she said. "It seems like such a hard thing to do. I didn't really think that I could.

"Even getting past Petra, she just killed me in that match. In this tournament, I feel more confident and I'm feeling my game a bit better than I did there."

A prodigious ball-striker - particularly off her backhand side - and a fine mover, the 51st-ranked American raced through the first set and was 4-1 up in the second before she even seemed to register the magnitude of the occasion.

Anisimova looked increasingly agonised with every miss as Halep fought back to draw level but it was the 2018 champion who crumbled.

Halep began the tournament as the title favourite and that only strengthened as her rivals tumbled out but ultimately she had no answer to Anisimova.

"I knew that she's going to play very well, but she played great today," said the Romanian.

"All credit to her. I feel sad and I'm a little bit upset because I couldn't make my game. I couldn't move normally.

"Coming as a defending champion, the pressure was on. But I think I had good matches, and I'm leaving this tournament with positive thoughts."

Australian Barty has been in superb form this season and has carried that onto the clay, with her latest victory a 6-3 7-5 success against 14th seed Madison Keys.

"It's incredible," said the 23-year-old. "We have approached this clay-court season a little bit differently to others. I have really enjoyed it, embraced it, been playing some pretty good tennis."

Both quarter-finals had been scheduled for Wednesday but were washed out, meaning the semi-finals were also delayed and now must be played on the same day as the men's contests.

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