PARIS — To Amanda Anisimova, it seems “like, forever ago” that she was playing in the French Open main draw for the first time.
For the record: It’s been all of two years.
Ah, to be young again.
Still only 17, and ranked 51st, the precocious American with the quick-strike strokes and self-described “effortless shots” became the first player born in the 2000s to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, overwhelming Aliona Bolsova of Spain 6-3, 6-0 at Roland Garros on Monday and earning the right to face defending champion Simona Halep next.
Anisimova, born in New Jersey and based in Florida, is the youngest U.S. player to get to the round of eight in Paris since Jennifer Capriati in 1993, the youngest from any country since 2006.
Not that she’s keeping track, mind you.
“I have no idea about who did what at what age. People tell me, and then I just forget after a second. I don’t really care about it too much,” said Anisimova, the words flying out of her mouth with the same sort of pace that tennis balls zoom off her racket. “I’m in the present and I want to do good and I hope for good results, but I don’t really think about how old I am.”
Now she will take on the 27-year-old Halep, the No. 3 seed, who dispatched another teenager, Iga Swiatek of Poland, by a 6-1, 6-0 score Monday.
When someone asked about going from an 18-year-old opponent in Swiatek to Anisimova, Halep’s initial reply was: “I feel old.”
“To play against someone 10 years younger than me, that’s not easy. But I feel stronger on court,” she went on to say. “They’re young. They have nothing to lose. So every match is tough.”
Halep is one of only two women left in the draw who already own a major title. The other quarterfinal matchup on her half is No. 8 Ash Barty of Australia against No. 14 Madison Keys of the U.S.
In Tuesday’s quarterfinals on the other half of the bracket, 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens meets No. 26 Johanna Konta of Britain, and No. 31 Petra Martic of Croatia faces 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.
In the men’s quarterfinals, it’ll be No. 3 Roger Federer vs. No. 24 Stan Wawrinka, and No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 7 Kei Nishikori on Tuesday, followed by No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 5 Alexander Zverev, and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 10 Karen Khachanov on Wednesday.
Stephens, the runner-up to Halep in Paris a year ago, joins Keys and Anisimova to give the United States a trio of French Open quarterfinalists for the first time since Capriati and the two Williams sisters made it that far in 2004.
If Halep’s first attempt to defend a Grand Slam trophy got off to a shaky start with a pair of three-setters, she is really rounding into form now. She has ceded a total of four games over the past two rounds.
“You have to enjoy the moment,” Halep said.
The key to her success has been remarkable returning: She has won 70% of her opponents’ service games, 30 of 43, which not only leads the tournament but reads as if it’s a misprint.
On the other hand, her own serving has been an issue, tied for 49th in the 128-player draw at a 65% hold rate.
The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Anisimova, meanwhile, takes balls early, not waiting for a full bounce, and uses her strong shots to dictate points and wrong-foot her opponents.
“She just showed up,” said Bolsova, a qualifier ranked 137th. “She took the initiative.”
Before heading out for their match, Anisimova watched Halep play and took notes.
“I was, like, `Oh, my God, her backhand down the line is so good and she was taking her time,” Anisimova said, “and then I think I was mimicking it in my match.”
To Anisimova, this feels as if it’s the next natural step in what’s been a fast progression.
This is only her fourth Grand Slam appearance – she reached the fourth round at the Australian Open in January.
She was the 2016 junior runner-up in Paris, then the 2017 junior champion at the U.S. Open. Earlier that season, at age 15, she picked up a U.S. Tennis Association wild card into the French Open for her debut at a major.
“Even though I was in the main draw, I was still in the qualifying locker room. I didn’t even know they had a locker room here,” she said Monday. “I’m aware of that now.”
If she keeps playing like this, the world will be aware of her very shortly.