PARIS — Amanda Anisimova, an unseeded 17-year-old American, upset Simona Halep, the defending French Open champion, 6-2, 6-4, to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday.
“I’ve been working so hard, but I didn’t think it would pay off like this,” Anisimova said in her postmatch remarks on court. “This is honestly more than I could ask for.”
Anisimova, born in the United States to Russian immigrant parents, will face Ashleigh Barty, the No. 8 seed, on Friday for a place in what would be either player’s first Grand Slam singles final.
Barty, a versatile Australian who once quit elite tennis to focus on cricket, defeated Madison Keys of the United States, 6-3, 7-5, in Thursday’s other quarterfinal.
The other semifinal on Friday will be between No. 28 Johanna Konta of Britain and 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who is also among the last four at a major for the first time.
Thursday’s matches were played simultaneously: Barty and Keys on the Suzanne Lenglen Court and Halep and Anisimova on the main Philippe Chatrier Court, where Halep finally broke through last year to win her first major title.
But she was unable to summon the same consistency and clutch shotmaking against Anisimova, missing several big opportunities to take control of the second set.
Instead, Anisimova closed out the match with a backhand down-the-line winner and then dropped her racket on the red clay, covered her face with both hands and said, “What?,” in the direction of her coach, Jaime Cortes.
Others in the stadium also were surprised at how Anisimova managed her first major quarterfinal.
“I’m still shaking,” said Chris Evert, the seven-time French Open singles champion. “For a 17-year-old to play that well was pretty awesome.”
Evert was a teen phenom herself, reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at age 16 at the United States Open with her avant-garde two-handed backhand. That shot has become the standard in women’s tennis since then, and few have hit it as well as the young Anisimova.
That stroke is also Halep’s signature, but Anisimova repeatedly held her own or better in the backhand exchanges and was also able to generate rally-controlling pace with her forehand. She showed tactical variety too, hitting drop-shot winners after pinning Halep deep in the court with her baseline power.
“I knew if I wanted to win today I had to do something different, because it’s not an easy match to win,” Anisimova said. “I’m really happy with my performance because this is one of the best matches I’ve ever played.”