He’s hardly her secret weapon, but Darren Cahill has emerged as Amanda Anisimova’s key ally in the American prodigy’s daring quest to crash the Australian Open Barty.
After fending off match points to oust defending champion Naomi Osaka in the shock of the Open, Animisova now plans to crush Ashleigh Barty’s title dreams on Sunday.
And behind the scenes, Cahill is quietly directing the show, perfecting the villain’s lines after reaching out to Anisimova for a coaching trajectory that has already paid off immensely this summer.
Having led Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep to the top spot and a host of Grand Slam titles, the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to Cahill’s unrivaled coaching credentials.
No wonder former world No. 1 John McEnroe is applauding Anisimova’s locks of South Australian Cahill as the 20-year-old continues her revival after her father’s sudden death two weeks before her 18th birthday.
“Really happy for Anisimova, she’s been through some tough times,” McEnroe told Eurosport.
“She may look like Sharapova as a great ball striker, but she doesn’t move as well as some of the top players.
“The biggest change I’ve seen in her over the past two months is the presence of Darren Cahill.
“He coached Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Simone Halep. Well, guess what? All three of them reached number 1 in the world.
“So this is something Anisimova was looking for, the right person to take her and bring her where she belongs, which I think is in the top 10.
“So this is a fantastic asset for her, a great moment for Amanda.”
McEnroe is also happy for Cahill, his longtime commentary colleague at ESPN.
“He’s a quarterback – a lot of players have called Darren Cahill. He’s been waiting for the right moment and it just seems to click beautifully,” said McEnroe.
“It’s been tough for him, he was away from his family for six or eight months last year because of the pandemic.
“He is an example of a man who had to quarantine twice, and that will make you harder and make you appreciate on a tennis court.
“He’s got a great attitude and he definitely knows the game through and through, and you could see her willingness to fight there again against Osaka.
“Number one, just the fact that he has been around players who have reached the top and succeeded on a large scale, that alone will give her a lot of confidence.”
And that little boost in confidence could make all the difference in helping Anisimova cross the line against Barty.
The one-time number 21 in the world already knows she has the weapons to beat the top tier, having come painfully close to overthrowing Barty in an epic 2019 French Open semi-final.
Barty often credits her big breakaway that day in Paris, after forfeiting a 5-0 lead in the first set and then rising from 3-0 in the second set to take the win before claiming her first Grand Slam crown. claimed, as a major turning point in her career.
Now Cahill’s “great addition” to her box could be the turning point for Anisimova.
“He’s trying to help me stay calm and relaxed and give me the confidence to just believe in myself and know I can do it,” Anisimova said.
Barty of Anisimova play in the quarterfinals against the Greek fifth seed Maria Sakkari or the American Jessica Pegula.