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Beware The Fearsome Tennis Child Mirra Andreeva

Mirra Andreeva hits a slice
Julian Finney/Getty Images

I've seen enough: Sound the alarm reserved for prodigies, real hoopers, absolute dogs who will bite themselves in the arm in the self-destructive pursuit of excellence, because 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva has again reached the fourth round of a major. I watched her take out seeded players at her first-ever Wimbledon, and now, in her first appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open, she's doing the same. She still has age-based restrictions on the number of tour events she's allowed to play. This is intended to protect her, but perhaps it is really for the well-being of her elder colleagues.

Ons Jabeur should be included in that number. Andreeva's task in the second round was to beat her idol, the No. 6 seed, on a show court. That could have been a disorienting challenge for a kid; instead the disorientation ran the opposite direction, as Andreeva routed an out-of-sorts Jabeur in 54 minutes. We could talk about the tennis, but there wasn't really much of a tennis match here at all, just one player removing another with the businesslike ease of a veteran who fully intended to stick around for week two. After her 6-0, 6-2 victory Andreeva talked about how much she admired Jabeur's game and how much she had matured since last year—back she was just a kid, as opposed to now.

Andreeva's success in Australia looked to have run its course during a yo-yo-ing third-round match against Diane Parry. The 21-year-old Parry had been tormenting her junior with low-skidding slice backhands and Andreeva fell into a 1-6, 6-1, 5-1 hole. At that point she bit her own arm in anger. That's some maladaptive teen behavior, you might suspect. Or is it instead just another indicator of greatness, Andy Murray wondered from his sofa:

Game by game, Andreeva reasserted herself, erasing one match point at 5-2 when a potential Parry passing shot sailed well wide, and eventually leveling the set at 5-5. It was in this stretch of the match that she proved just how stubborn her tennis could be, and this rally in particular is one of the points of the tournament for me:

Andreeva will track down every shot. It's not—or not yet, at least—a powerful style of tennis, but instead a subtle and precise one, relying on movement, placement, and a deadly two-handed backhand. In those respects I see some shades of Daniil Medvedev; maybe it's no coincidence that she trains at the academy in Cannes where he came up.

Andreeva is funny in interviews, and sometimes slightly scary. “Fourth round is nothing," Andreeva said after her Parry win. What 16-year-old says that? "Maybe if I win a slam, I have to win three more matches, and it’s really tough to win seven matches in a row. I don’t think that I did something incredible. I have time to do it, I hope." A remarkable 6-3 record at the majors suggests she'll have plenty of chances.

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