Moving to the tennis hotbed of south Florida, Anisimova soon began to demonstrate her remarkable ability, reaching the final of the 2016 Roland-Garros junior tournament and winning the junior US Open event the following year.
Sharapova her inspiration
Though her story is actually very different to that of Maria Sharapova, the starlet who made her name in the US, learning her trade in Florida, but who continued to represent Russia, Anisimova, who still speaks Russian with her own parents, has always felt a connection with the tale of the five-time Grand Slam champion.
“Maria is definitely the player I have looked up so much, she is an amazing athlete and a great person too,” Anisimova explained at the Australian Open. “I want to be the next player after her to win a Slam as a teenager.”
A breakthrough year
After an excellent 2018 campaign when her progress was rudely interrupted for four months after she suffered a foot injury in Miami, the full flowering of her ability has unfolded this season, starting with a superb run to the last-16 of the Australian Open, during which she won her first Grand Slam singles and knocked out the world No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka.
After that, she took her WTA-tour title with a triumph on the clay at the Copa Colsanitas under her new Colombian coach Jaime Cortés. Remarkably, she had never won a tour-level match on clay before then.
Hungry, and a fast learner
What has been striking about Anisimova’s progress is how she has adapted to all surfaces, including clay, so quickly and has increasingly embraced a more versatile, complete game, developing, for instance, as a fine drop-shot and ever-improving volleyer.
After her win over Aliona Bolsova in the previous round, she revealed how she had adapted her already exceptional backhand for that game after watching the former world No.1 Halep’s patience with her own searing version of that shot. “Oh, my God, her backhand down the line is so good and she was taking her time,” said Anisimova, “and then I think I was mimicking it in my match."
Her appetite to learn is obvious too. For while she has a great appreciation of her own game - “I have been mixing up my shots on clay,” she says - she also accepts that she has a lot of learning to do, especially in the serving department, and is eager to put in the hard yards. “I’m definitely not (a finished product). No player is ever a finished product. I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of building to do,” she says.
Born in the USA, but not Freehold’s most famous child
Anisimova is rising swiftly but she still has some way to go to match the fame of her home town’s most celebrated son, Bruce Springsteen.
Not that an ageing rock legend like ‘The Boss’ has ever quite infiltrated this particular millennial’s radar. “Wait…Bruce who?” she asked quizzically at the Australian Open, much to middle-aged journalists’ amusement, after being asked about the Freehold connection. “Is he, like, old?”
Like her idol BJK, she has forthright views
Anisimova certainly knows her own mind and is not afraid to speak it either. There’s a touch of Billie-Jean King’s own forthrightness about her, which is not surprising since the former US great’s work for women’s rights has made her the youngster’s idol.
Also, after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year, Anisimova offered her own outspoken views on the gun control laws in the US. “I actually had a friend that goes to that school. It’s really close to me. It’s really sad what’s going on. I think that guns should be banned. That’s what my opinion is,” she said.