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Anisimova has shown plenty of poise and maturity for an 18-year-old making massive strides in the game; already a Grand Slam semi-finalist she just wants to be known as Amanda
Last Updated: 04/07/20 7:01am
“It gives me confidence when people compare me to her.” This teenage star has been dubbed as the natural successor to Maria Sharapova, but in her own future she just wants to be known as Amanda Anisimova.
The similarities between the pair are uncanny but since Sharapova announced her retirement from the game, all eyes have turned to Anisimova.
Tennis notoriously has a pressure-cooker atmosphere behind the scenes with agents, media and fans wanting a piece of tennis’ next big superstar. But when the temperature hits boiling point, players like Anisimova remain the calmest in the room – and she’s only 18.
Born in Freehold, New Jersey, to Russian-born parents, Anisimova moved to Miami with her family at the age of three. Her raw talent was nurtured. Already a finalist in the French Open girls’ singles, in 2017 she won the US Open junior title without dropping a set, beating another gifted teenager, Coco Gauff, in the final.
A year later and Anisimova scored her first top 10 victory at Indian Wells, against Petra Kvitova, at the age of 16.
After reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open last year, the then 17-year-old Anisimova dethroned defending champion Simona Halep at the French Open to become the first player born in the 2000s to reach a major semi-final.
Although she would go on to lose to the eventual champion, Ashleigh Barty, in the last four, a star was born.
We still have our differences but when it comes to people comparing me to her it’s a huge compliment.
Anisimova on being compared to Sharapova
Anisimova, speaking from her apartment in Miami where the summer temperatures are reaching 33 degrees celsius and an uncomfortable 74 per cent humidity, says she doesn’t feel any added pressure of being tagged the next Sharapova.
“I don’t feel like there’s any pressure,” Anisimova said. “It’s actually really nice and gives me a little bit of confidence when people compare me to her and say those kinds of things.
“She’s an amazing athlete and has accomplished so much so to have people believe in me like that is really nice but in my own future I just want to be the next Amanda.
“We still have our differences but when it comes to people comparing me to her it’s a huge compliment.”
Like Sharapova, Anisimova is an advertisers dream. She recently signed a multi-year partnership with Therabody, a Los Angeles-based tech wellness company whose percussive massage therapy device is widely used by elite athletes the world over. Her presence on social media is one of the reasons why so many companies are keen to sign her up.
Anisimova already has endorsement deals with Nike and Gatorade, boosting her global appeal.
She openly admits that she has had to mature a lot quicker than most athletes in order to cope with the intensity of the media.
“Yes, I definitely think that you mature quicker when there’s a lot of media interest,” Anisimova said. “You just have to be aware of what you say and how you act, so in a way, yes. But also growing up playing tennis you learn a lot about independence and maturing quickly so that kind of prepared me for that.”
Anisimova, who has taken time to enjoy the game again following the sudden death her father and coach, Konstantin, returned to tennis at the start of the year before the pandemic struck.
She has enjoyed an interesting lockdown experience, spending a lot of it cosying up to her dog, Miley. Anisimova is understandably scared she will experience separation anxiety once the travelling starts all over again.
After winning her maiden title on clay in Bogota last year, Anisimova declared that she was “just getting started”.
Her next goal is to do well at the US and French Opens with the tournament at Flushing Meadows in New York due to take place behind closed doors at the end of August.
She added: “I’m really looking forward to it if that ends up taking place. Playing without fans is going to be difficult and coming to France after the run last year will be nice.
“But at the end of the day we have to look at the fact that at least I’m playing and the tournament is happening so I just have to be thankful to that.”