At 16, and with some main draw Grand Slam experience already under her belt, Amanda Anisimova was a grizzled veteran next to her opponent in the US Open junior girls’ singles final.
And she acted like it.
Anisimova defeated Cori (CoCo) Gauff 6-0, 6-2 in an hour and five minutes to win her 1st junior Grand Slam title.
“Since last time I played her, she’s gotten a lot stronger, and she hits the ball really big. She has a really big serve, so she’s pretty tough to play, and she’s just really fast and overall a great athlete. She’s tough to play,” Anisimova. “I think I have improved a lot. You know, I started playing smarter since last year. Just thinking about how to, like, push your opponent off the court and just play with your mind, and not your body.”
Gauff, who was in the tournament on a wild card, is … 13 years old.
Her big “get” this week was a straight-sets win over Canadian-American Carson Branstine in the second round,
Branstine, 17, was the No. 5 seed.
Some of her Gauff’s opponents also upset seeded players. And Gauff maximized by beating them. But against Anisimova, who already is at a career-high No. 182 in the WTA Tour rankings and earned her way into the women’s singles qualifying on her own ranking, she was outclassed.
The match might have been quicker. But the final game lasted an eternity.
Anisimova needed 10 match points to close it out as Gauff hung tough all the way to the end.
“I thought she did well changing the direction of the ball and hitting winners. I was hitting hard, but she would hit it right back. Most of the time it was down the line, and she was hitting good shots on both sides of the court. Today I thought she played well,” said Gauff, who is in the eighth grade and lists Serena Williams as her idol.
Williams’ agent Jill Smoller and coach Patrick Mouratoglou were among those checking out the match. But Gauff said she has no plans to turn pro any time soon. She has trained at Mouratoglou’s academy.
Both players are based in Florida (Anisimova near Miami, and Gauff in Delray Beach). Anisimova’s mother left to evacuate her grandmother and relocate her to Charlotte, N.C. So it was a challenge for both to put the potential destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma out of their minds and just play tennis.
Anisimova’s junior adieu
This will be Anisimova’s last junior event, as she plays pro tournaments full time even though she will be limited in the number by the WTA’s age restrictions.
How quickly it all goes.
Anisimova was considered highly precocious when she reached the girls’ final at the French Open a year ago. She was a couple of months away from turning 15, and it was her first junior Grand Slam event.
She hadn’t come close to taking that next step in the ensuing major junior events, until finally coming through in New York.
Gauff is a year and a half younger than Anisimova was then. And this was just her fourth ITF-level junior event – period. She made her debut at Roehampton on a wild card, then received another wild card into the Wimbledon junior qualifying.
“Every part of it. Every single part of it was so much fun, being on-site, being here, being – just being at the US Open in New York was the most fun. I enjoyed every single part being here,” she said.
Big-time American girls’ pipeline
All-American women’s semis? An All-American final? All-American junior girls’ final? The women are handling it.
“The success of our women and girls this year has been dramatic and comprehensive. It is a reflection of the fact that the pipeline is full, and it will have a huge, demonstrative and inspirational effect on all our players, male and female,” USTA Player Development GM Martin Blackman said.
American girls won three of the four junior girls’ titles at the Grand Slam tournaments this year. Whitney Osuigwe defeated another American, Claire Liu, to win the French Open juniors.
Liu turned around and won junior Wimbledon, where she defeated American Ann Li.
Li lost in the first round here. Liu didn’t play (she played the women’s qualifying). Osuigwe was the No. 1 seed; she lost in the second round to Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia.