Mirra Andreeva builds on impressive 2023 with record-setting win over Ons Jabeur

WTA’s Newcomer of the Year became youngest player to defeat a top-10 seed in women’s singles at a major

Mirra Andreeva celebrates her win over Ons Jabeur at the Australian Open. Getty Images
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Of the many lessons Mirra Andreeva has learnt from her breakthrough 2023 campaign, one particularly stands out to her – it’s that tennis is just a game, and if she treats it like one, then things will likely go her way.

The WTA’s 2023 Newcomer of the Year started last season “crying every day for over a week” after losing to her best friend Alina Korneeva in the Australian Open girls’ final.

Little did Andreeva know that just 12 months later she would be defeating one of her idols, sixth-ranked Ons Jabeur, en route to the third round of the women’s draw at the Australian Open.

“I'm happy I played with Ons. It was one of my dreams to play against her because I really like the way she plays. I'm inspired by her. So today it meant a lot, this match that I won,” said the 16-year-old Andreeva in Melbourne on Wednesday after becoming the youngest player to defeat a top-10 seed in women’s singles at a major.

Rapid rise

Andreeva’s defeat to Korneeva last year proved to be a turning point for the talented Russian. After making three finals in as many tournaments on the junior circuit at the beginning of 2023, Andreeva stepped up to the professional tour in April and won her first 16 matches in a row.

During that stretch, Andreeva picked up back-to-back W60 titles in Switzerland then announced herself on the WTA Tour in tremendous fashion, knocking out three top-50 players en route to the round of 16 at the Mutua Madrid Open.

It took eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka to halt her unbeaten run. But Andreeva, who turned 16 that week in the Spanish capital, had already made history as the youngest player to ever make it that far at a WTA 1000 event.

Off the court, she was charming her way from one television studio to another, her bubbly personality and earnestness shining through as she narrated her first experiences on the big stage.

“Of course, I didn’t expect that to happen because in the beginning of the year I played juniors Grand Slam, I had a quick rise up,” Andreeva told The National at the World Tennis League in Abu Dhabi last month.

“I was just trying to do my thing, I was just playing and hoping that I will get a chance to play Roland Garros qualies. That was my goal when I was playing the two tournaments in Switzerland, and I did it.”

Stepping up at the majors

Making her Grand Slam debut at the senior level in Paris, Andreeva made it through qualifying and marched to the third round of the main draw without dropping a set. Her last-32 clash with 2022 Roland Garros runner-up Coco Gauff went the distance but ultimately went Gauff’s way.

Another new challenge was up next for Andreeva: Wimbledon. The France-based teenager had never competed on grass before setting foot at Roehampton in June to contest the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon.

She spent a great deal of her practice sessions stumbling onto the lawns in south-west London – “I think I’m the person who falls more than anybody else,” she said during qualifying – but that didn’t stop her from winning six consecutive matches on the surface to advance to the fourth round at the All England Club.

“At Wimbledon, I said, ‘Okay it’s my first tournament on grass, probably I’ll lose first round qualies, it’s okay. But at least I get a chance to play on grass this year’. And with that mentality, I made the fourth round, which I think is not bad. I’m just thrilled that I got a chance at this level this year,” she reflected.

By November, Andreeva had cracked the top 50, moving up 266 spots up the rankings in the span of seven months – a leap that earned her Newcomer of the Year honours.

“It means a lot because the people, they were voting for me, they were maybe watching the way I play and that’s why they voted for me. So I’m super, super happy that I won the award,” said Andreeva, who is the youngest player in the top 150.

“Maybe next year I will win something else, I hope so. But I’m super happy.”

Lessons from Coco

The last teenager to make such an impression on her Tour debut was Gauff, whose maiden Grand Slam main draw appearance in 2019 was an explosive run to the Wimbledon fourth round – as a 15-year-old qualifier – that included victory over seven-time major winner Venus Williams.

Andreeva squared off with Gauff twice in 2023, losing to the American on both occasions, at Roland Garros and the US Open, where the American was later crowned champion.

Asked what stood out to her the most in Gauff, Andreeva said: “Her mentality for sure because she always fights for every point. I didn’t really get a chance to watch her when she was younger but I knew that she was also this teenage star, that she beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon.

“I watched that match and I was like, ‘wow, that’s huge’. I didn’t do the same thing but it was close to her. So I’m happy.”

Andreeva admits managing her temperament on court remains a work in progress. She can sometimes dwell on her mistakes, allowing them to weigh heavily on her thoughts, but says she tries to remind herself that even the very best commit errors during matches.

“Now I’m trying to just let it go. If I miss, it’s okay, even Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal also miss. So just let it go,” she added.

High targets

Her biggest takeaway from 2023, however, is this: “I guess the way I was preparing for the matches, my mentality of, I will just play, it’s a game, it’s like table tennis.

“When I play table tennis, I’m just having fun. With my sister when we play, I don’t care if I win or lose, I’m just having fun. And on the court, I try to do the same, and I guess that works out not so bad.”

Andreeva says her goals for 2024 are “fluid” but she still has a few targets in mind.

“I’ll try to be top 30 and if I break this goal during the year then I’ll go for top 20 and we’ll see. So I hope that I will make it,” she said last month.

Having kicked off her 2024 campaign with a quarter-final appearance in Brisbane and now a flashy top-10 victory to earn a place in the Australian Open third round, Andreeva is already up to 34 in the live WTA rankings.

Time to improvise a new bucket list for this season because top 30 is well within her reach, and we’re barely three weeks into 2024!

Updated: January 17, 2024, 2:00 PM