‘It’s the most special day of my career’: Anisimova beats Gauff to reach last 16

It is entirely possible, should they keep improving at the same rate, that there may come a time when a clash between Amanda Anisimova and Coco Gauff is a grand slam final. Gauff has already reached one final herself, at the French Open last month, and on the evidence of her performance on Saturday, Anisimova is well capable of making one herself, perhaps even here.

The world No 25 turned the match around brilliantly after losing the first set on the tie-break, ripping through the second and third sets for a 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-2 win that puts her into the fourth round of a grand slam for the third straight time. It is her first time in the last 16 at Wimbledon, though, and her delight was fully deserved.

“It’s my first time playing on Centre Court, it’s the most special day, I think, of my career,” Anisimova said. “It’s just a huge privilege to play on this court. I was so excited, playing Coco, she’s an amazing player, just got to the final of a slam. I was so excited to play and I wanted to soak in this moment. Winning today is so special.”

A little under five years ago, a 16-year-old Anisimova beat a 13-year-old Gauff to win the girls’ title at the US Open. A beautiful ball striker, her easy power made her a threat immediately. In 2019, she reached the semi-finals of the French Open and she was on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 20 when her father, Konstantin, died after a heart attack at the age of 52. Not surprisingly, the loss hit Anisimova hard and she struggled for the next couple of years.

A win over Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open in January showed she was back and it took the eventual champion Ash Barty to stop her. She maintained her form to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros and against Gauff, in breezy conditions, she found her groove again.

It was not easy. Gauff, chasing everything down and playing some clever stuff, including a number of drop shots, led 3-0 and 3-1, 40-0 only to let Anisimova back in. From 3-3, the pair traded breaks before holding well to force a tie-break and it was Gauff, the world No 12, who took it 7-4.

But for the 13th time in 2022, Anisimova came through in a decider, thanks to some clean hitting and aggressive tennis that rushed Gauff into mistakes. Gauff will rue her missed chances – she took only three of her 13 break point opportunities, compared to seven of 12 for Anisimova – but in the end, she was well beaten. “I had the same experience at the French Open and it’s really important to bounce back and give everything I have,” Anisimova said. “It was extremely exhausting but I just pushed through.”

Knocked out before the last 16 here for the first time, Gauff’s time will surely come. For Anisimova, who next plays Harmony Tan, the Frenchwoman who beat Serena Williams and on Saturday, perhaps her time is now.