Amanda Anisimova of the U.S. celebrates winning her fourth round match on  June 3 (Pavel Golovkin)
Amanda Anisimova of the U.S. celebrates winning her fourth round match on June 3 (Pavel Golovkin)|Associated Press

Tennis Wednesday - Abrams on French Open Women’s Quarterfinals, Barty v Keys, Halep v Anisimova

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Women’s Quarterfinals

Ash Barty over Madison Keys
There are players on both the ATP Men’s Tour and the WTA Women’s Tour who I have trouble picking, either to win or to lose, because the difference between how they can play and how they do play can be so different. On the Men’s side, the most likely culprits of that description are Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, and Karen Khachanov. On the women’s side the most inconsistent players are Sloane Stephens, Aryna Sabalenka, and Madison Keys. All of these players have one thing in common: when playing well they can each beat every other player on the Tour because they are all supremely talented, but you never know what you’re going to get when they take the court. In the 1950s, there was a men’s player named Marty Mulligan who was similar in his results. His problem, though, was confidence. He’d go one year without winning at all, and the next he was always a challenger for the Big Four titles. When he played with confidence he was a world-beater, and when he had none, he played like a dog. Unfortunately, Madison Keys is one of those three women mentioned above. She is blessed with all the physical gifts possible, but she could go off on a spree of double faulting, or missing every forehand, or simply stop competing, and that doesn’t spell “champion” to me. If she plays well she has the game to win this match, but it is unlikely that she can bear down and compete here well enough to move on. I say that Keys loses this match, not that Barty wins. But Barty will be in the semis.

Simona Halep over Amanda Anisimova
This match is starting to feel like the U.S. Open premier of Chris Evert in 1971, when, as a 17-year-old she got all the way to the semifinals by upsetting Mary Ann Eisel in the second round after saving match points in the second set. Evert went on to become an American favorite, and a monster champion who eclipsed Billie Jean King in popularity and became the prototype for all American women after her. Amanda Anisimova has the game, the charisma, the look, and now the media spotlight to rediscover tennis for American women, but that’s not going to happen because of this match. As good as Anisimova is, she is not yet good enough or steady enough to beat Simona Halep on the red clay in Stade Roland Garros. In my mind, Halep is the most ferocious competitor on the WTA Tour, and she just won’t let herself lose to Anisimova. But this match should teach the Yank from Freehold, N.J., some lessons, and those lessons will become apparent very soon — perhaps in a couple of months in New York City at this year’s U.S. Open. Either way, watch this match, because Anisimova’s talent is absolutely mesmerizing, and Halep is a true champion.

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