|Anna Kournikova: The young Russian tennis star whose style is winning her countless fans both on and off the court
Hello Magazine, Aug. 24, 1999, by Tree Elven, Nati Abascal, Photos made by Jesus Carrero (photos do not appear on my page)
The first thing that stikes you about Anna Kournikova, bright young star of the tennis world, is her incredible poise. It's only later that you notice the waist-length flaxen hair, endless legs, smooth tan and metalic silver-blue eyes which have undoubtedly help shoot her into the celebrity stratosphere.
The poise is something Anna must have had to work at - after all, she has only just turned 18. Her social skills have been honed by massive press coverage and public exposure, and she is already adept at being the focus of attention without ever seeming to hog the limelight.
It's an attractive combination. Sex appeal with no manners would soon pall, and though Anna's enjoying her newfound "babe" status, she doesn't seem to be in any danger of letting it go to her head. "It's not all photo shoots, " says her mother Alla, a pretty 36-year-old who is continually being mistaken for Anna's sister. "She has to work and she knows that."
Anna, whose "are-they, aren't they" relationship with fellow Russian and ice hockey player Sergej Fedorov, 28, has spawned as much interest as her tennis, has yet to win a major singles title. But though her physical attraction has certainly helped get her noticed - sports clothing giant Adidas dresses her and she also wears the Berlei Shock Absorber bra - Anna is by no means dismissed as a serious tennis player by those in the know.
Pam Shriver, who won 22 Grand Slam double titles, says Anna's had to struggle against on-cout nerves to get where she is today. "Some people felt she thought it was more important to look good," she remarks. "But you don't fight to get over the yips if you're only about looking good. A lot of people would have fallen away. That might me something about her character."
The poise may have been perfected by practice, but it's not rooted in determination. We spoke to Anna in Miami, where she has an apartment on trendy South Beach.
Anna, you left Russia when you were nine - what nationality do you feel you are now?
Anna: "I didn't really leave Russia, I just came to America for better training facilities. In Moscow, it was very difficult to work out and train. I needed good food, sun and facilities in order to get on. When I came to Florida, I found everything - sunshine, rackets, fresh fruit, it was perfect. It was great for me to be able to concentrate on my training, rather then waste time shuttling between the courts, the gym, my school, in a big city like Moscow. It was really very difficult there."
Where is home for you?
Anna: "I travel 40 weeks a year, so it's hard for me to call anywhere home. I'm Russian and American, I take the best of both worlds."
What's the best of Russia?
Anna: "The culture. The history, the books, the museums, all of that. And here in America, everything is very simple - you know, you can just pick up the phone and order a pizza! So it's great to have the combination of amazing history and this very easy lifestyle."
What about your character. Do you feel being Russian has helped you?
Anna: "Oh yes. It's tough when you don't have anything and you try to get out of that situation. You develop a strong will. You want to be somebody and do something."
When you first arrived here you trained with the famous coach Nick Bolletieri, who said you were focused to the point of being selfish. Is that true?
Anna: "Well, I don't know about selfish. I mean, I was only nine years old! All I know is that as far back as I can remember, playing tennis was not work for me, I was just interested in playing the game. I wanted to play, compete and win. It was fun for me."
Do you still feel like that or has it become more like a job now?
Anna: "It's definetely different, it's not just a game anymore! But I still love it like I loved it then, and it's the best part of my life. Since I was five, it's been the only thing for me."
Who taught you to play?
Anna: "My parents sent me to a club to learn because I had so much energy - they didn't know what to do with me! Some of the girls on the circuit seem to have 'parents from hell'."
Do you suffer from that at all?
Anna: "No. Absolutely not. My parents didn't know anything about tennis, they didn't have any ambitions for me, they just wanted me to play for health reasons. Then later, they came to the States with me because a nine-year-old can't make a trip like that on her own. They encouraged and supported me,but that's all."
You've been quoted as saying that you'd like to see more femininity on court.
Anna: "I didn't exactly say that. If people ask my personal opinion, I say that we are playing a ladies' sport, we are wearing skirts, and I think we should look like nice ladies and be feminine, because people come to see us and it's like going to the theatre, people want to see actors dressed up and doing their job and it's little bit the same for us."
Do you think the women should get paid the same as the men?
Anna: "Well, the men are stronger and better. I respect that. But the women regularly get higher ratings on television in many parts of the world. And it's not as though we take any money away from the men, they wouldn't lose anything if we got paid the same. But I leave issues like this up to the Tour Officials. I just love to play."
Is there a lot of rivalry among the women?
Anna: "We have a very normal atmosphere in the locker room. Obviously sometimes a player is upset if she's lost a match, and there may be an uncomfortable situation with the other players because of that, but next day everything will be back to normal. It's impossible for anyone who's never been there to understand how difficult it is to lose, train, win, workout, and travel constantly. But athletes understand each other."
People used to say that your image was based more on glamour than tennis. Which is really more important to you?
Anna: "Tennis, for sure. I've been playing since I was five and I've never had any professional goal in my head other than being the best tennis player I can be. I've never imagined being anyone else. The rest is just something that people build around you, and I can't change or control that."
But you're enjoying it anyway?
Anna: "I might as well, if I can't change it! I have to accept the situation. But I enjoy my tennis successes most of all."
Did you enjoy Wimbledon?
Anna: "Yes, it was nice to be back and I played some good matches. Wimbledon is special, there's no other word for it."
Did you get to see London at all?
Anna: "Yes, I've been round London quite a lot."
Did you check out any of the clubs?
Anna: "No, nothing like that. I was living in the Wimbledon village and it is simply not possible to go out at night and play good tennis in the daytime."
What are your weaknesses on court?
Anna: "Oh I'm going to admit those...! No, I think I have to learn to be more consistent."
And how about your weaknesses off court?
Anna: "Chocolate! Anything chocolate."
Do you have a special diet, or watch your weight?
Anna: "No. I don't eat three desserts, or anything like that, but I'm working out and training every day so I don't worry about what I eat."
Apparently you said once that you'd like to be an actress.
Anna: "Ah, that was when they asked me what I'd like to be if I wasn't a tennisplayer. I didn't say I wanted to be an actress. Maybe I'd like to try it one day, but it's not as if I'm dreaming about it."
Can you see life after tennis?
Anna: "I've just started my tennis career, so it's hard for me to say what I'll do afterwards, but I'm not the type of person to sit at home and do nothing. I'd like to do something inspiring, exciting."
What about modelling?
Anna: "Oh, modelling's fun, but by the time I finish tennis I'll be 30ish and there'll be lots of young girls around. I'm not intending to be a model."
How do you spend the day when you've finished training?
Anna: "Well, I do not like anything boring. I won't sit and read a book all day. I like to go out onto the beach, rollerblade, be in the sun, swim - I love anything to do with the water. Or I'll just go grocery shopping. I have to go somewhere, do something, I can't sit in one place!"
What kind of clothes do you like to buy for yourself?
Anna: "Different styles, but mainly classical with a bit of fun thrown in. I like plain colours, black, white and also very bright colours."
What about music?
Anna: "It's hard to say, because very often one group will have just one good song and then they're gone. As an artist, I like Madonna."
Do you go out much at night?
Anna: "No, I like to get my beauty sleep! I get home at about 7:30pm, then just watch TV and go to bed. I need a lot of sleep. I can sleep for 24 hours and nobody can wake me."
What qualities do you look for in a man?
Anna: "He has to be happy, have a god heart, and understand what it takes to work. And be honest, of course."
How do you like to be treated by your boyfriend?
Anna: "The way every lady wants to be treated. He has to be supportive."
Have you got that now?
Anna: "I don't want to talk about that. I have a good heart and I'm happy, so that's important."
There's been a lot of speculation recently; you were reported to have broken up with Sergei Federov, but then appeared with a diamond on your wedding finger.
Anna: "There'll be a place and time when I'll talk about my private life, but this is not the right time. I want to keep things to myself. When I'm ready, I'll tell everyone about it, and it won't be a problem for me."
You've just turned 18, so you're now officially an adult. What's the most important thing your parents have taught you?
Anna: "So many things. My mum is always telling me I have to work and work. In Russian we have a saying: 'God gives all to those who get up early.' It means that those who work hard deserve their success."
Find out more at Anna's offical website: