end of February 2001
|There's no doubt that Anna Kournikova is the most dazzling star on the tennis circuit today. Currently ranked No 9 in the world in singles, having already reached No 1 in doubles, the stunning 19 year-old Russian makes men the world over go weak at knees and earns millions each year from various product endorsements. Advertisers adore the gorgeous blonde from Moscow, who moved to Florida ten years ago to join Nick Bollittieri's celebrated tennis school.
Anna, who competed in the Atlanta Olympics when she was just 14, is incredibly close to her parents, mum Alla, a former 400-metre runner and father Sergei, a former Greco-Roman wrestling champion who earned his PhD and is now professor at the University of Moscow for Physical Culture and Sport.
The couple have travelled with Anna all over the world as she has chased tennis success. And last August they took over full coaching responsibility for their only child. Since then, Anna has showed a sharp upturn in form, but a stress fracture has kept her off the courts in recent weeks.
Away from tennis, Anna is private and prefers not to talk about her personal life.
Anna, tell us about your injury:
Anna: "I've got a stress fracture to my left foot. It was caused by intensive pressure and playing on too many hard courts. I've played a lot of games this year. It doesn't need to be in plaster, but I just have to rest it. I had a similar injury in the other foot a couple of years back but it was nothing really."
The injury must have come at a very frustrating time for you, because your form has been great lately:
Anna: "Yes, I was really playing well and had some good results - I got to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open at the start of the year. I guess it's the way my body let's me know I need some time off. I've been working out at the gym and hopefully when I come back, I'll be stronger."
When do you think you will be playing again?:
Anna: "Hopefully in two or three weeks, I don't know yet. I get the X-rays back this week, then after we'll have to see. It shouldn't stop me from being at Wimbledon this year - not unless I'm injured again."
Are you looking forward to playing at Wimbledon again?:
Anna: "Definitely. It's very different from all the other tournaments. There's a different energy and excitement about it: not just because it's played on grass but because of the atmosphere, the tradition - even the press who are usually difficult are different. British people know tennis very well. That makes it so good because they really know their game, they really get into it."
Where do you think you have the best chance of tournament success this year?:
Anna: "I can pretty much play on all surfaces. I was in the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and I've done well in the French and US Opens. My game is very versatile, so I go into every tournament confident that I can do well."
Your parents now look after all your tennis coaching. How have they helped to improve your game?
Anna: "I've been working with them since last August, and since then I've had great results - I've improved a lot both physically and mentally, and my game has got much better. They know me the best. They've been with me to every tournament I've ever played in. They know my routine and it's very good to have people who understand you. They push me as hard as any other coach. We always have discussions. It's not like everything is always perfect or everything is always bad. It's a normal relationship where you have your discussions, your arguments and your good times, but it's perfectly normal, I think, to raise your opinions."
You must have a very good relationship with your parents.
Anna: "It would be very difficult to do all of this on my own. In tennis, you have to travel 11 months of the year, so you have to have somebody close with you. There are good days, there are bad days - you need someone to talk to. It's great to have my parents with me, otherwise, it would get very difficult and lonely."
Newspapers stories say that you're dating Russian ice hockey player Sergei Federov. What's the truth?
Anna: "All I will say is that there are two Sergei's in my life. There is one area of my life that I want to keep to myself and this is that thing."
What do you find most attractive in a man?
Anna: "He has to be sensitive, kind, generous and big-hearted. Looks don't matter."
Are there any tennis players you have a secret crush on?
Anna: "Maybe! There are a few players who are really good friends of mine and they think that they are the cutest in tennis so we have a great friendship."
Have any of the male players asked you out?
Anna: "Yes, sometimes. Most of them are just colleagues and we have fun hanging out at the tournaments in the player's lounge."
Are men always asking you out on dates?
Anna: "Yes, but I am very busy and just concentrating on tennis right now."
You endorse a lot of products. Do you sometimes turn up at an event for a sponsor and forget what you're endorsing?
Anna: "No, that's not true. That never happens to me. I have a very, very good relationship with all my sponsors. It's really a lot of fun when I go to events for them. I have a great time meeting all the people from the companies."
You've earned a lot of money already. Do you ever go really wild with it?
Anna: "I never buy something crazy or expensive. I always buy something I can use. I'm quite sensible with my money, but I'm not going to tell you what I do with it!"
Have you ever thought about pursuing a movie career?
Anna: "I was in 'Me, myself and Irene'. It was just a funny little role. Going into movies doesn't interest me right now, but maybe it's something that would in the future."
When you're not travelling, do you consider Miami to be your main home?
Anna: "It's the base where I come, change my clothes, get my new sets bags and leave. The time I spend here is that short. I have a house in Miami and I also have a home in Moscow."
Do you go back to Moscow often?
Anna: "Yes. My grandparents are there. They come and visit sometimes, and sometimes I go there. I also have two cousins. One of them is just 12 and I think he's going to be a very good tennis player. Our family is a very small and my parents and I have always travelled."
You came back to Florida when you were nine. Was it very different from Moscow?
Anna: "Definitely. I couldn't believe Disneyland was so near to where I lived. It was good because there were so many facilities - swimming pools, tennis courts, everything I needed. I loved going to school."
And you're still studying?
Anna: "I am in the University of Physical Culture in Moscow. It's just for athletes. You get a degree and at the end you can be a coach of anything you want in sport. Most of it is done from studying books - it's for people like me who live a long way from Moscow. It's too early yet to say weather I'll go into tennis coaching when I finish playing."
You've already achieved a lot and you're only 19. Can you see yourself still playing tennis when you're 30?
Anna: "Anything can happen. If you're healthy and still enjoying it, you can go on for a long time. There's a long way to go. Right now I'm just starting to play well, starting to feel good, starting to find my game. I've matured a lot and my game has matured and I like it more and more."
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Anna: "I like to lay by the pool and relax a little bit, maybe go to the beach and go jet-skiing or read a book. I like Russian classics, such as Chekhov and Tolstoy, which I read in Russian. And there are a few tennis players living in Florida who I like to hang out with."
What kind of music and TV do you like?
Anna: "I like Russian music, or just whatever's on the radio. I watch mainly sports programmes on the TV. I'm not a particular big fan of other sports, but I will watch baseball, basketball and ice hockey. I don't go to the cinema. I'd rather spend my time curled up on my couch watching a movie in my house. And when I'm in Moscow, I like to go to the Bolshoi ballet."
I hear that when you're not playing tennis, you can't wait to go to bed...
Anna: "I like to take afternoon naps whenever I can and I'm in bed by 10PM most nights. I chronically need sleep. I can sleep 12 hours a day, and I would sleep all day if I could."
Isn't it trempting occasionally to go out in the first round of a tournament so that you can get a few days off?
Anna: "No, because you'd just have to get ready for another tournament and be practising. I'd rather be playing."
Tell us about your new fitness video...
Anna: "It's a workout video featuring all the exercises I do. Fitness is a huge part of my life and I just wanted to share it with everybody. The video should be coming out in England just before Wimbledon."
Do you have to watch what you eat?
Anna: "My dad takes care of that. He knows what I have to eat. I have to eat pretty healthily - high-energy foods, like pasta and rice. I have to eat a lot of high-energy food to give me the power to run on the tennis court. But I also like sweets and, like anyone else, sometimes I'll eat fat food or something, but very rarely."
You're noted for your fashion style. What kind of clothes do you like the best?
Anna: "In Miami, I just wear tank tops and shorts during the day because it's so hot. I really like to mix fun clothes with classy clothes, but everywhere I go I always like to take black trousers and shirts with me. I like to have classic stuff and make it fun by mixing it up."
Do you ever wish you weren't so famous?
Anna: "I really never had the choice. I'm fine with it and used to it. I don't really know anything else. I get noticed, but it's not that bad. I never wear dark glasses or a disguise when I go out so that people don't notice me. Sometimes I'll wear a cap, but that's only when my hair is dirty."
Find out more at Anna's offical website: