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In Centre Court debut, Amanda Anisimova settles nerves to upset Coco Gauff
Through to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time, the 20-year-old American will next face the Cinderella story of the tournament, Harmony Tan.
Published Jul 02, 2022
WATCH: Amanda Anisimova defeats Coco Gauff in the 2022 Wimbledon third round
Is it possible for a three-set tennis match to be decided in the fourth game of the first set? This was the major question that defined Amanda Anisimova’s 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 win over Coco Gauff today in the third round of Wimbledon.
“It was obviously a tough match for me today,” Gauff said afterward. “Amanda played really well. I mean, there's a lot to learn from it, a lot I have to improve on for the next time.”
Through the early stages, Gauff was thoroughly in charge. This in large part was expected. After all, Gauff was the 11th seed, Anisimova the 20th. Gauff was the one who’d just reached the finals at Roland Garros, her rapid rise up the ranks frequently defined by keen court sense and an ability to play excellent tennis under pressure.
Another factor was that Anisimova had never previously played on Centre Court, a career milestone that greatly excited her but one that is also naturally daunting for any competitor. Toss in the windy conditions and it was no surprise to see Gauff sprint through the first three games versus a jittery Anisimova.
Then everything changed—though at the time this hardly seemed possible.
Serving at 0-3, Anisimova fought off two break points and eventually held. In the next game, Gauff went up 40-love, but ended up dropping her serve. Soon, Anisimova served at 4-3, 30-love, only to lose that game. In the tiebreaker, Anisimova served at 4-1, at which point Gauff won six straight points, a self-contained mix of movement, consistency and focus. Though each player had hit 12 winners in the first set, Anisimova’s tally of 26 unforced errors was double Gauff’s total.
“It was a tricky match,” said Anisimova. “It was very tough conditions-wise. It was constantly changing and you had to adapt every second and just be focused on what's going on.”
Amid so many squandered opportunities for Anisimova, it was easy to see Gauff now in position to snap open the match and advance to the round of 16. But it didn’t go that way. Not by a long shot. Said Anisimova, “It's obviously uneasy to lose a first set 7-6 and bounce back after that. It's extremely difficult. But I was just trying to slow down the pace and just really take it one moment at a time. Of course, I was a bit more tired after that first set. It was just kind of slowing down.”
There have been times when adverse twists in momentum have hindered Anisimova. That wasn’t the case today. Once Anisimova felt comfortable and kept her feet moving, it became clear that she has tremendous weapons for success on windy days. With spins, angles and variation in pace quite difficult to pull off in blustery conditions, it’s best to drive the ball deep and hard. These are Anisimova’s core competencies.
She began the second set positively and never let up, frequently finding ways to peck away at Gauff’s weaker side, the forehand. Meanwhile, Gauff’s energy seemed to drop, perhaps a result of all the ebbs and flows of the first set. Quickly, Anisimova leveled the match.
Then came the biggest surprise: Heavy one-way traffic. By the early stages of the third set, Gauff seemed unable to assert herself, everything from forehands to drop shots, serves and even backhands lacking precision. With Anisimova serving at 1-all in the third, Gauff missed four straight forehands. In the next game, she was broken at 30.
Yet even as Anisimova took a 4-1 lead, the X factor remained Gauff’s tenacity. Here, though, Anisimova asserted herself well, with sustained depth and pace, winning eight of the next nine points.
“In the third set honestly I was cramping in my leg, so I was trying to be more aggressive," Anisimova revealed. "Also, the wind kind of calmed down, so I was able to go for my shots more. In the first set if I was going for them, the wind would just make it go long.” Over the course of the final set, Anisimova committed only four unforced errors. She closed out the match with a signature shot, an untouchable crosscourt backhand—Anisimova’s 27th winner. It was one of the finer efforts of Anisimova’s career.
Said Gauff, “I think grass is a good surface for her, especially the way she hits the ball, it's pretty flat. It's tough. Today was kind of windy so it was tough to time the ball for me. I think she has got a good shot of pretty much going all the way to the final. If she plays like she did those last two sets against me, I think that's some top-notch tennis right there.”
On Monday, Anisimova will play the Cinderella of this year’s Wimbledon, Harmony Tan. The only previous time these two have met came in 2019, when Anisimova beat Tan 6-3, 6-1 in the first round of Roland Garros.
“She is a tough opponent,” Anisimova said. “I'll come up with a game plan with my coach and, yeah, just enjoy the moment and being in the fourth round.”