At 14, Anisimova breaks through into Eddie Herr semis

BRADENTON -- Two weeks ago, Amanda Anisimova was in Mexico without many lofty expectations. The 14-year-old Floridian went to the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano from Nov. 16-22 in Mexico City unseeded. If the favorites won out, she'd have to play a top-14 player in each round except the first.

By the second round, her performance was already stunning. Anisimova knocked off No. 6-seed Kayla Day in straight sets and suddenly the draw was open. She won in straight sets all the way until the final, where she met Great Britain's Katie Swan, the No. 3 seed.

This one finally took three sets. An improbable run was complete with her biggest upset yet for her first International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior championship.

"It was unbelievable," said Konstantin Anisimova, Amanda's mother. "Nobody expected this from her."

On Friday in Bradenton, it finally became time for Anisimova to stop surprising. Playing on the main clay court at IMG Academy, Anisimova swept fellow American Alexandra Sanford, 2-0 (6-4, 6-2), in the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships. She is the youngest of the four girls playing in the semifinals Saturday around 10 a.m. and one of two unranked Americans trying to score an upset against a top-five player. Anisimova will face No. 5-seed Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia and Kylie McKenzie will face Hungarian Dalma Galfi, the top seed, at 9 a.m.

The boys and girls doubles finals will both be played at about noon. IMG's Ingrid Neel and fellow American Sofia Kenin will play in the girls final, against Galfi and Slovakian Tereza Mihalikova. Norwegian Casper Ruud, the top seed who was upset in the third round Thursday headlines the boys final with Serbian teammate Miomir Kecmanovic against De Minaur and Irish teammate Bjorn Thomson.

The boys side lost its final American on Friday when No. 12-seed Ulises Blanch fell to No. 4-seed Alex De Minaur, an Australian, in the quarterfinals. De Minaur will face Canadian No. 14-seed Benjamin Sigouin on Saturday at 9 a.m. while Greek No. 2-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will meet Canadian No. 6-seed Felix Auger-Aliassime at about 10 a.m.

No one's arrival in the semifinals, however, is a bigger surprise than Anisimova's.

The daughter of Russian immigrants, Anisimova has played tennis for as long as she can remember, first with the coaching of her parents and now with instruction by coach Max Fomine. She's played in big junior tournaments before, including the 2015 US Open and the 2014 Orange Bowl, but this is her first time in the 18s division of the Eddie Herr International after falling in the semifinals of 12s two years ago.

"I'm getting more stable now," Anisimova said after Friday's win."I can play three sets without getting tired. I prepare very good before every point, knowing that I can't make any mistakes. I think that's a really big part of my game, that I'm aggressive and try to have good placement on every single ball. I don't make many easy mistakes."

At 14, Anisimova is roughly the age when many girls tennis players start to make a leap. Since she began the tournament in Mexico, Anisimova has clearly ascended to a new plane.

The Aventura resident got in to the Eddie Herr on a wild-card invite from IMG after rising to No. 71 among juniors with her win at the Abierto Mexicano.

By the second round, her performance was once again stunning. Anisimova knocked off No. 7-seed Bianca Vanessa Andreescu in three sets and suddenly, the draw was open.

"That was a really good win,"; Anisimova said.

Konstantin Anisimova admits this is all surprising once again, even if there is a bit of deja vu. She's overwhelmed at the thought of her daughter winning two more matches and claiming her first two ITF wins two weeks apart.

She can tell something has changed, though, and she's getting stronger as the Herr goes on. After needing three sets to win her first three matches, she swept her way into the semis on Friday.

"Now she's so confident. When you see she misses a point it's like it shouldn't have happened," Konstantin Anisimova said. "I guess her training, finally everything came together."