Amanda Anisimova ends Harmony Tan’s run with Sharapova-like ease

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<span>Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP</span>
Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

When Amanda Anisimova watched Harmony Tan’s first-round upset of Serena Williams in the Dog and Fox pub in Wimbledon village, she didn’t really clock her unusual style at the time. Clearly the American has done her homework since, because she brought a swift end to Tan’s surprise run here, dispatching the world No 115 6-2, 6-3 with a blithe assurance that will only add to comparisons with a certain other player of Russian descent.

The rangy legs, the blonde plait swinging from behind the visor – even the way the 20-year-old, who was born to Russian parents in New Jersey, holds her racket is reminiscent of her role model Maria Sharapova, with whom she shares an agent. Her lithe movement around the court here, not to mention the power with which she hit from the back of it, hints that the idolatry may not be in vain.

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Anisimova’s first break came 12 minutes into the match, and her second just 10 minutes later. Love it or hate it, Tan’s patented mixture of all-sorts has troubled every one of her opponents in this tournament, but the Frenchwoman met her match in a player prepared to play each shot on its merit, cover the court judiciously, and work her way forward to set up the winner.

If anything, Tan’s trademark slice became her weakness, like a dog turning on its owner, and there was an early indicator of the outcome when Anisimova ran Tan’s first attempt down easily. Soon the shot had ceased working for Tan entirely, with some deliveries sitting up to be smacked back down, and more never even making it over the net.

“She was really aggressive on every ball,” said Tan afterwards, praising her opponent’s confidence. “She doesn’t miss a lot … you know, when she plays like this, it’s really hard to play against her.

Tan lost five games in a row before she managed to put up some resistance, saving three more breakpoints in the seventh game. In the baseline rallies, she simply didn’t have the game to compete with Anisimova’s power, who showed an indefatigable patience in setting up winners.

The pair had previously met only on clay, in the first round of the French Open three years ago, when Anisimova prevailed in two sets. That tournament was a career highlight for her, reaching the semi-finals at the age of only 17; by the end of 2019 she had become the youngest American to win a title since Serena Williams, and leapt through the rankings to the top 25.

But after her father and coach, Konstantin, died of a heart attack at only 52, Anisimova’s form fell away. After two years of struggling for results, it was evident in her winning display on Court No 1 that she has found a way back into the game she loves.

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“It’s been a very tough journey the last couple of years,” said Anisimova after the game. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs so that’s why these moments are extra special to me. Back then I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do now. It’s just so amazing after having lows to be on a high right now.”

Tan’s route within professional tennis not been straightforward, either. As a youth she received no backing from the French tennis federation, and it took some major sacrifices (including selling a family home) to enable her to pursue her career before she met coach Nathalie Tauziat, “the one person who believed in me”.

She fought long and successfully to avoid going an immediate break down in the second set, but she succumbed to love on her next service in a game that looked a microcosm of all her problems to date, and ended in a double fault. Anisimova, by contrast, progressed smoothly, and even added insult to injury by nailing the very little dink that Tan was struggling to land.

When Tan laid out the only trip hazard – securing her first two breakpoints of the match at 4-3 – Animisova pulled out her two best serves of the match to save them. The 20th seed faces a tough next match against Simona Halep, the former world No 1 who beat her in that French Open semi-final and to whom she lost in the Bad Homburg Open two weeks ago.

“She’s really tough to play on grass, for sure,” admitted Animisova, before adding: “I’m not completely satisfied with just a quarter-final because my goal this year has been to win a grand slam.”

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