A Grieving Young Tennis Star Finds Solace on the Court

A Grieving Young Tennis Star Finds Solace on the Court

“When I see girls close to my age doing well, like Bianca or Coco, it’s motivating in a way that if they can do it at that age then I can I do it, too,” said Anisimova, who defeated Gauff and Andreescu in junior competition.

At a practice session with Rodríguez at IMG Academy in December, Anisimova worked on tweaking her forehand technique and on generating more pace and penetration with her serve, to allow her to take earlier control of rallies. Rodríguez also wants to improve her net game, including her overhead, so she can take better advantage of the openings she creates with her baseline power.

Off the court, Anisimova’s focus is on steadily improving her fitness and avoiding further injuries.

“When you see her tennis level and physical level, there is a huge gap,” said Rodríguez, who noted that, like many tennis players, Anisimova’s left side is significantly weaker than her dominant right side. “That’s why she’s had some of these physical problems, and what I explain to everybody is, we’re not going to solve that in a month or two. It’s six months of consistent work, because you have to do it slowly. We are building a champion, but you have to give me time to set up the routines and a mind-set.”

Still, Anisimova sounds like a young woman in a hurry.

“I really think I can win a Slam in 2020,” she said. “I’ve been working as hard as I can to make that happen, and with the team I have now, I think it is possible.”

Her rise has been rapid indeed. She is the youngest player in the top 60, and as an 18-year-old she no longer has tour restrictions on the number of tournaments she can play. Her groundstrokes are booming and her game evolving.

The challenge will be to maintain her focus and momentum after a daunting few months.

“It never goes away,” she said of the grief over her father. “But you can’t change it, and you have to get back to life.”

Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting from Miami.

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