Max Eisenbud, the man tasked with helping the five-time Russian singles winner become the highest-paid female athlete in more than a decade, believes he has found another player with similar potential: Amanda Anisimova.
Tall, blonde, of Russian origin and blessed with a rare tennis talent, Anisimova resembles Sharapova in more than one way.
“Obviously there are similarities, it’s hard to walk away,” Eisenbud, the director of IMG Tennis who has overseen the careers of players like Sharapova and Li Na, the first champion, told CNN Sport. Chinese Grand Slam Singles.
“I’m the agent, they’re both very attractive, they both have Russian roots, all that sort of thing. There are those similarities that will always be there. But they’re very different personalities.”
A star is born
Born in Freehold, New Jersey, to Russian-born parents, Anisimova moved to Miami with her family at the age of three. In 2017, she won the US Open junior title, beating another gifted teenager, American Coco Gauff.
At Roland Garros last year, Anisimova, then 17, dethroned defending champion Simona Halep of Romania to become the first player born in the 2000s to reach a major semi-final.
Even though she would lose to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the final four, a star is born.
Anisimova’s run in Paris “really caught the attention of a lot of people,” said Eisenbud, who extended his deal with clothing giant Nike in November.
In January, Anisimova joined Serena Williams as the only other tennis player to endorse US sports drink maker Gatorade. She also recently signed a multi-year partnership with Therabody, a Los Angeles-based tech wellness company whose percussion massage therapy device is widely used by elite athletes around the world.
With Nike and Gatorade looking to strengthen their roster of female athletes, and Sharapova and Williams nearing the end of their careers, Anisimova’s moment of ascension couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Eisenbud.
Although he dismissed media reports in October suggesting the deal with Nike was worth $ 100 million, Eisenbud said it was “possibly one of the biggest clothing deals on the market.”
‘Mark Maria Sharapova’
Sharapova was born in Russia but moved to the United States at the age of eight. Ten years later, she became a world star by beating Williams for the 2004 Wimbledon title.
The former world No.1 left the sport in February, after earning a total of $ 325 million in endorsements, cash and appearances, according to Forbes. It’s right behind his longtime opponent Williams, who has earned over $ 350 million in his career.
“Maria has been very successful,” Anisimova told CNN Sport in March. “It’s really cool that she has her own line of candy and she’s got a lot of exciting things going for her now that she’s retired, and she can go back to those things,” said the young American, whose Tennis idols grew up were Sharapova and Serena Williams.
“I have my own brands that I signed with and I’m really excited to produce some things,” said Anisimova, adding that she still manages business decisions in front of her older sister, Maria Egee, a former tennis player. become a success story on Wall Street. banker. “Maybe I’ll make my own lines or something I’m interested in. But I have my own thing going on,” she added.
The creation of “Brand Maria Sharapova” is not a model for the marketing of future stars such as Anisimova, said Eisenbud.
“Sure, I think there is no cookie cutter; I don’t think what worked for Maria or Li Na will work for Amanda,” he said.
“When Maria won in 2004, there was no social media, and now there is. It’s a big difference … brands want different things. It all depends on what we do on them. social networks. “
Anisimova’s social media presence was one of the reasons Therabody was keen to start working with the 18-year-old.
“She’s a youngster and we want to be able to support her,” Dr. Jason Wersland, founder and director of wellness at Therabody, told CNN Sport. “She has a big advantage in tennis. And that’s not the only reason we chose to work with her; it was that well-balanced approach to things.”
Seeking a way to help her cope with debilitating pain following a motorcycle accident in 2008, Wersland invented a percussion massage therapy tool called Theragun, which uses frequency to relieve sore muscles.
The partnership is all about educating people about the product and promoting the brand, which Anisimova, who has used Theragun for years, will do through her social media.
Wersland was struck by Anisimova’s poise and maturity at such a young age. “She has such a cool energy about her… She has charisma. I really appreciate her perspective.”
“She’s really down to earth,” Eisenbud added. “That personality trait can be appealing to a lot of brands … but I think at the end of the day she’s going to be a real big winner, and brands want to be associated with that.”
Anisimova’s rise in the rankings was halted by tragedy in August, when she withdrew from the US Open shortly before the start of the event following the sudden death of her father and coach, Konstantin. .
“It took a little while for me to enjoy the game again,” said Anisimova, who did not play again until January. “But I’m finally getting back to it. I do it for myself and also for my father.
Although all professional tennis has been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sport is expected to resume in August.
Anisimova, who competed in four events before the pandemic hit, took a few weeks off at the start of the lockdown before resuming her training. She is expected to play an invitational charity event in Charleston, SC at the end of the month.
Tennis insiders have no doubts that the American teenager is the real deal.
“She has incredible timing and every time she hits the ball she hurts her opponent,” Patrick Mouratoglou, longtime coach of Serena Williams, told CNN Sport during the French Open. last year.
“She can improve her movements a lot and I’m sure she will. She works hard; she has good people so she will be very dangerous.”
Although Eisenbud delayed signing big trade deals until Sharapova won a major, he didn’t with Anisimova. Still, he’s not concerned about the added pressure that endorsements can bring.
“She has Russian blood, so I’m not too worried about that. She’s pretty tough, very motivated and very professional,” he said.
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