Mirra Andreeva, one teenage tennis miracle after another

Mirra Andreeva came to tennis in the middle of last season, like the new kid at school who just had her mother or father transferred to the local branch.

One day, no one had heard of her, the next, she’s the only thing everyone talks about: 16 years old, three days into the online version of her junior year in high school, complaining about homework and taking care of this Australian Open. She’s pulling off a miracle every other day and then talking about it with equal parts sophistication, self-deprecation, humor and sarcasm in her third language (Russian and French are one and two) better than many people in their first.

The other day, Andreeva defeated Ons Jabeur, a three-time Grand Slam finalist and her women’s tennis idol, playing near-flawless tennis on her way to a 6-0, 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena, the same court where lost the junior final here last year. On Friday, Andreeva achieved a different miracle. She recovered from losing the first set to Diane Parry 6-1 to tie, then somehow climbed out of a 5-1 hole in the third set, she saved two match points and went ahead 6-5, then couldn’t take out. her the match, but she quickly recovered to defeat Parry in the deciding set tiebreaker 10-5.

She clutched her face, hiding a kind of embarrassed smile, then began pulling bracelets out of her bag and throwing them to the enthusiastic Australian crowd who had fallen for all her charms last week.

An hour later, he was back on the ground, his feet planted firmly on the ground, or as much as they could, on his rocket ride into the spotlight of the game he loves so much.

Andreeva emerged from the abyss (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

“I’m fine with what’s happening.” Andreeva said with a wry smile to a handful of adults twice and triple her age. “Maybe if I win a Slam. I have to win three more games and it is very difficult to win seven games in a row.”

Andreeva is not like other teenagers, or maybe she is, but she simply has a taste of tennis in the habits of youth.

At the end of each day, she turns off the lights in her room and talks to herself about what happened.

He watches a lot of videos on his computer and phone, but often it’s an old tennis match. She is well versed in the greatest hits of Martina Hingis, the Swiss prodigy whose smooth, powerful baseline game is often compared to hers.

She ogles her heartthrob. It turns out that he is a 36-year-old married man with four children, a receding hairline and a metal hip: Andy Murray. After his win on Friday, she praised his mental strength on good. More on that in a moment.

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For Andreeva, this was everything.

“Honestly, I didn’t think he would watch a game and then, after tweeting, comment on something,” he said. “I’ll try to print it somehow. I don’t know, I’ll put it in a frame. I will take it everywhere with me. Maybe I’ll put it on the wall so I can see it every day.”

On the court, Andreeva presents a series of seductive contradictions. She doesn’t look fast, but somehow she always has her feet behind the ball. She is petite. She doesn’t seem to swing that hard, but she can make the ball fly off her strings. In Friday’s most crucial moments, there was calm in her as Parry panicked, although according to Andreeva, that’s not exactly what she felt inside her brain.

She said she felt pretty confident after crushing Parry in the second set. She had won five games in a row, she had gotten multiple breaks of serve and she just needed to keep doing what she was doing.

Then he lost his own serve, missed his chances to get back on serve at 2-0 and before he knew it he was trailing 5-1. He looked at the scoreboard and noticed the absurdity of a match that could end 6-1, 1-6, 6-1, so he set out to win a game so that at least the score of the final set would be 6-. 2.

Andreeva defeated her hero, Ons Jabeur (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

With a match point down 5-2, she ran to the net and thought, “Am I crazy? Am I going to go to the net at match point? But then Parry failed.

At 5-3, he felt his adrenaline pumping and once again he really wanted to win. He then got two quick points on Parry’s serve, but gave them back on missed returns. His inner voice told him, “God, it’s okay, that’s all.”

The next two “crazy spots” were a confusion of running and swinging. When he beat them, he knew he had the mental advantage, that energy flowed through her and drained from Parry. Even when he couldn’t serve out the match at 6-5, he still knew he had come a long way.

“It was like, ‘Okay, six total, I didn’t think it was that,’” he said. “I already knew I would win, but I have to do everything possible to achieve it.”

Andreeva’s connections to the Australian Open run deep. Andreeva, a tennis expert, likes to rewatch old matches in her spare time and the 2017 final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is one of her favorites. But the ties actually began two years before his birth, when his mother, Raisa, got hooked on the sport watching Marat Safin win the men’s singles title in 2005. A few years later, she brought in Mirra’s older sister, Ericka, who Now he is also a professional, in classes, with Mirra in tow.

This was in Krasnoyarsk, a city of a million people in Siberia, right in the middle of the largest country in the world, not exactly tennis heaven. When the girls began to thrive on the court, Raisa moved them to Sochi on the Black Sea, a much warmer place and Maria Sharapova’s breeding ground, and then to Cannes, France, where they enrolled in a tennis academy and still they reside. . An IMG recruiter found her when she was 12 and called headquarters.

He burst onto the scene at the Madrid Open last year when, at just 15 years old, he became one of the youngest players to beat a top 20 opponent, Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil. She then did it again in the next match, beating Magda Linette of Poland, who was twice her age.

He won five matches at the French Open, including qualifiers, and two at Wimbledon, his first major competition on grass, before his teenage head emerged and he condemned his defeats: a ball hit in the crowd in Paris, a racket perhaps thrown at Wimbledon. That costs you a key point. She swore she dropped it and didn’t throw it.

At the US Open, she ran into a still deformed Coco Gauff in the second round and was handily defeated.

Since then he has shared paths with his coach, Jean-Rene Lisnardformer Monaco pro, and has a temporary coach, Kirill Krioukov, a Russian who worked with Andreeva and her sister when they were younger.

She’s trying to balance the academic headaches of high school life without the social benefits, a dynamic that doesn’t always work out so well. Growing up as a teen phenom isn’t for everyone.

For now, it’s not a problem, not as long as he takes over Melbourne Park and is in the second week of a Grand Slam for the second time in seven months. This life suits him very well.

“I like it here,” he said, not just talking about Australia. “I like to travel all over the world. “I’m fine with what’s happening.”

(Top photo: Robert Prange/Getty Images)