|Catching Up With Kournikova
By DAVE HOLLANDER, AOL
Anna Kournikova: SWF, 26
Loves travel, time with good friends and living by the beach. Athletic, financially self-supporting, speaks several languages. Enjoys working with children. Hobbies: tennis, film and modeling. Any takers?
What's Anna Up to Now?
Retired from the pro tennis tour in 2003, Anna Kournikova continues to play exhibition matches. She says she still misses the pro circuit.
This February was your first trip to Carnival in Rio. So tell me, what did you see?
Anna: "Oh my god! I've never seen so many naked people! Seriously, like it was really cool. It was raining and you felt a little bad for the parade going by because they were getting poured on but they still performed and acted and danced. It was quite an amazing experience. It's amazing how people there keep up that tradition and they're so happy because they know how to have a great time. They relax and disconnect and celebrate. It's really cool. But they're definitely much more relaxed in terms of their bodies and being naked."
Were you tempted to join in - put on a costume or something like that?
Anna: "[laughing] Uh, no I don't think so! I mean, you should've seen the costumes - very feathery, very show-girl style. It was very interesting. I loved having that experience. I've been to Brazil a million times before but I've never been to the Carnival."
How hard is it to go from Carnival to playing World team Tennis in Schenectady (vs. New York Buzz, July 22)?
Anna: "[laughs] Yeah that's pretty interesting. But you know, I'm one of those people. I adjust. I can really mold to any situation. I'm so used to traveling as a pro player. Back then we'd be in a different city every single week. I'd be on the road for 10-11 months straight, coming home just for a couple days every two months just to change your bags. I'm very adjustable. I could wake up in Brazil on day and the next in Schenectady. I'm very unaffected by surroundings or travel. I get affected in a good way. I love the experience of the contrasts and living through everything around me."
Last week, you were traded from the Sacramento Capitals to the St. Louis Aces. The Capitals were WTT champs last year.
Anna: "They've won it like three or four times in the last five or six years. They're pretty consistent."
What sad words of farewell would like to tell the good people of Sacramento?
Anna: "I've had a great time playing in Sacramento. You know, I don't play the full season. I just play like three or four matches. But I've had a wonderful time with the people there. Sacramento is great town. They're so supportive of the team. Also, I loved being on that team because a lot of my friends I grew up with on the tour are on [the Capitals], like Elena Likhovtseva, a Russian tennis player. Also, Mark Knowles, who I used to play mixed doubles on the tour with. Of course, there's coach (Wayne) Bryan. He's amazing. He's the father of the Bryan brothers. So that team was really awesome and the owner Lonnie (Nielson), he's so hands on. He travels with the tour. He's completely into it. It was a great family affair and I wish them the best of luck. Hopefully they'll play just as good as they've been playing."
Where you shocked by the trade?
Anna: "Not really. It's a team tennis thing. Everybody gets traded. I'm quite used to it from all the other sports - NBA, NHL where everybody is traded all the time. It's no big deal. For me, it's fun to go play for a new team in a new area. That's the fun of WTT. It's really diverse. It brings tennis to towns and cities where there are not big tennis tournaments but there are tons of fans. So it's great for those fans to see great tennis."
Do you consider yourself retired?
Anna: "Kind of, right? In June, it's going to be five years that I haven't played a professional tournament."
How much do you miss it?
Anna: "I miss it. Obviously, it's been the biggest part of life to date. But I'm still involved enough with tennis, especially with WTT and playing exhibition matches and charity matches where I still completely connect with tennis every single day. I'm always going to be a tennis player. It still feels completely normal for me to be involved with tennis every single day. But of course, it's completely different when you're playing in front of 20,000 people at the U.S. Open. So, I miss it but it's already kind of passed that time where I'm very adjusted to my life now already."
One good thing about your new life is that your birthday (June 7, 1981) usually fell on the French Open while you were busy playing serious tennis. Now what do you do for it?
Anna: "Last year I was on the Today Show for my birthday with the Boys and Girls Clubs. So I had to celebrate it a few days later. I'm used to celebrating a few days after because of before it used to be during the French Open. Now, I celebrate by going to dinner at a restaurant or my house. I have all my friends, 10-20 people getting together. As long as I can get my friends and people close to me together in one room, that's a celebration for me. A lot of times what happens, because my friends are so spread out all over the world - some are in Russia, some are in Spain, some are in London, Miami, California - so we just celebrate when I see them, whenever and wherever that is. In November, we'll celebrate somebody's October birthday or something like that because it's hard to coordinate everybody in one place. At least three out of the last four birthdays I spent in Miami."
What would you say to an invitation for 'Dancing with the Stars'?
Anna: "Oh my god. I've actually been invited, I think, a few years back but I don't think I'm ready for that. I think it's a great show and all but I don't think it's something that I could do now. I have no ear at all. I'm quite bad actually with music and dancing."
What do you think about all the gambling accusations in tennis?
Anna: "That's pretty sad. This kind of accusation started since the last few years when I wasn't on the tour, so I don't know any of the inside stories or what really is gong on in the players' lounge. I just kind of hear about it whenever I read it in the press, but a lot of times it's exaggerated and not all the facts are correct. So I really don't know what to make of it, but it is quite sad that it is tarnishing a great sport and the players who do work so hard. It's always bad when great people or a great sport gets a bad rap because one or two people doing those things."
What's a typical day like for you?
Anna: "That's the cool thing. There is no typical day. One day I'll wake up at 6 in the morning. One day I'll wake up at 2 in the afternoon. It all depends if I'm traveling, if I'm coming off a red eye, if I have interviews, or appearances. Normally if I'm home and it's a quiet couple of days, I like to wake up, work out, go into the office, do some paper work. I'm also very involved in traveling to Boys & Girls Clubs. That's a great outlet for me - to be their ambassador. I go to the Boys & Girls Clubs a lot to hang out there with the kids. That's something that gives me pleasure."
I used to coach basketball at a Boys Club in Waltham, Massachusetts. It's one of the best things I've ever done.
Anna: "It's really an awesome experience to see the curiosity in kids eyes to really just be there for them. You don't even have to try to teach them something. All kids need is attention and spending time. I really enjoy that."
Your lucky number is 81. How come?
Anna: "Eighty one and seven, because 81 is the year I was born and seven is the day."
Do you believe in luck?
Anna: "Yeah I think so. I think there's luck. I think you work hard to create luck. You got be somewhat lucky but at the end of the day it's all about how hard you work and how much effort you put into stuff. But there's definitely something to be said about luck."
What would be the luckiest moment for Anna Kournikova?
Anna: "I guess meeting certain people and being in certain situations. I don't know if I could point out one or two luckiest moments. I mean, I was lucky enough to travel the world. I was lucky enough to experience all the things I've experienced through tennis. I was lucky enough to have such colorful life. If you look at it, I was born in communist Russia and we didn't have that many opportunities to travel - to see the world and meet all these different people and experience all these cultures. Our world was small and only our dreams were big. So I consider myself lucky to have seen al the different perspectives gained from traveling. Being a worldly person - that, for me, is really cool."
Is there another big career move coming soon for you?
Anna: "I've been taking it really slow since professional tennis. I don't want to do something I'm just doing for money or just to be famous. That's not something that ever really motivated me. I really want to do what I enjoy and love because I only think you can do a good job at something when you're in it with your heart. So I've really been taking time, exploring different options to get to know myself other than being a tennis player and a professional athlete. Because once you do it for 20 years of your life, it's hard to identify as anything else. You already look at yourself a certain way. So, I don't know about next career move. I'm still 26 years old. I'm kind of still feeling stuff out, seeing whether and if there would, in fact, and should, in fact, be some kind of big career move. I'm very careful with that."
Simple question then: What will you do right after our conversation?
Anna: "I'm going to go to the gym! I'm already wearing my sports outfit, so I'm going to finish my coffee, hop in the car, go to the gym and get it over with. I get it over with in the morning and then I can go on about my day."
Find out more at Anna's offical website: