The grand-daughter of a former Russian national team coach, Anastasia Potapova won her maiden main draw match in St.Petersburg, lost two WTA Finals in Moscow and Tashkent and made her Top 100 debut on October 1. It was, beyond any reasonable doubt, one heck of a ride for the former Wimbledon junior champion.
Potapova, whose full-time coach is Irina Doronina, ended 2017 ranked No.237 and began her transition to the tour. The Russian began the 2018 campaign with a runner-up finish at ITF 15k event at Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt. In St.Petersburg, she scored her first career WTA main draw victory as she beat in straight sets, Tatiana Maria.
She had faced the German last year at Wimbledon but, she remembered in the post-match press conference, “when the score was 2/1 in the second set I felt I couldn’t continue the match and retired. When I saw the draw of St.
Petersburg Ladies Trophy 2018 I thought – that your destiny! As I already said, I’m happy that this time around I was lucky to beat her”. So, when she went 2-0 up in the second set at home, she began to say herself: “Nastya, put yourself together, this game is yours”.
Potapova added she even saw that victory ”in a dream. Everything was the same. [I see tennis in my dream] pretty often, because I spend 20 hours a day on a tennis court”. She made evident progress in her game. “I feel stronger and confident on the court when I’m playing in front of a big crowd.
Three months of preparation really helped me. I can show everything that we prepared in the practice sessions”. A basketball fan, initiated to football matches thanks to her agent who's a huge Spartak Moscow fan, Potapova lost in the second round to Wozniacki but she used that experience as a breakthrough for the rest of the season.
In July, she reached the final in Rome, in the ITF event staged at the Circolo Antico Tiro a Volo club, losing to her friend and former doubles partner Dayana Yastremska, whom she had defeated in the iconic Wimbledon junior final in 2016.
But the best was yet to come. In Moscow, she lost to Olga Danilovic in the first final featuring two millennials at WTA level. “Emotions are overflowing - not only did I get to the WTA final for the first time ever, but I also did it at home.
I cannot put it into words” she said after her semifinals win over Tamara Zidansek. “Today was amazing for me, despite my loss in the final. I want to thank everybody who supported me - my team, family, friends and all the fans.
Wonderful day and wonderful week” said Potapova who clinched the doubles title with Vera Zvonareva. “I think, this final was special for tennis' history, but I didn't feel anything special. For me it was an ordinary day, an ordinary final” she confessed.
The turning point came when she smashed into the net at 4-3 40-0 in the decider. “This moment gave Olga confidence. (It) was one of the key points for her, I think” she said. "I’m feeling more confident, for sure," the Russian added at the US Open, as the WTA reported.
"After that final, I recognized that I can make it anywhere I want, and now I’m enjoying just every second I spend on the court." The pair met again at the Tashkent Open, and this time it was Potapova who emerged victorious en route to a second WTA final.
“I'm trying to focus on improving my game and not on my rankings", said Potapova speaking to the Tashkent Media Team. “My family and team help me a lot, my grandmother, my mother Julia and my coach keep me focused on the game and they keep pushing me”.
Irina Doroinina, she added, mix kindness and toughness and knows really well how to keep her balanced. Potapova, who struggles to continue her studies during the tournaments and carry her books on the tour, helped sometimes by her teachers on Skype to understand and complete assignments, confessed her vast ambitions.
“I want to be the best on the WTA tour. I'm so happy to compete on the higher level, I did my best and hope to be regular in the tour and keep Competing at higher level events in the coming months” she explained in Tashkent.
Potapova lost the title-match to World No.299 Gasparyan, the lowest-ranked WTA finalist this year, who became the second lowest ranked WTA champion after Angelique Widjaja, who was World No.579 when she won Bali in 2001.
In the 29th all-Russian WTA final, and first, since Elena Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova at Indian Wells 2017, Potapova surrendered to her doubles partner in the tournament. In their first event together, they reached the semifinals before falling in a match tiebreak to No.1 seeds Irina-Camelia Begu and Raluca Olaru.
Potapova, as Alex McPherson wrote in his preview of the Tashkent final for the WTA website, won her first ever pro final, an ITF $25,000 event in Curitiba in March 2017 over Anisimova, but since then has lost five straight championship rounds: to Yuliya Hatouka in an ITF $15,000 event in Sharm el-Sheikh in March, to Vera Lapko in Khimki in May, to Dayana Yastremska in the ITF $60,000 event in Rome in July and to Danilovic in Moscow before the Tashkent clash. However, she increased the number of teenagers in the Top 100. The future is now.