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NTV Interview: "So far and so close"

April 2008



Anna Dmitrieva: Before her 18th birthday her name was already well-known all over the world - even non-tennis world. Her name was hard to pronounce and instead of KOUrnikova people were saying - Anna KournikOva. Elegant and charming Russian blonde with her pigtail became a trademark and some kind of a brand. Without any doubt Anna and her family and relatives were not ready to such a fame and publicity that came so suddenly. And the only decision in such a difficult situation was not hiding - it was impossible – but to keep silence and let them talk whatever they want to and wherever they want, but it wouldn't be your real words. Possibly that's why Anya Kournikova avoided interviews - especially with Russian journalists and most of all TV-ones. Her crazy popularity in an instant become bigger than her rather modest - in comparision with that fame - sport results. And it's usual thing to point out the fact Anya never won a single title and to avoid mentioning her sport results are more than just good for every other tennis player. Her Wimbledon semis when she was just 16 or more than 10 wins in doubles. The fact that she was partner in doubles of Martina Hingis herself.
It's a history now. But Anna Kournikova's name is still famous, and her interview is still interesting and claimed by public. But it still could be just a cherished dream if there wasn't one thing - Victoria Milvidskaya, our commentator, one of the best tennis players of our country in past - she, just like Anna is the student of Larissa Dmitrievna Preobrajenskaya – made a phone call to Anna and asked for a friend's favor. It's usual thing in life when sincere bonds have more power then official ones.

Anya, first of all I want to thank you for saying yes when we asked about interview! Let's talk because for a very long time your Russian fans didn't hear something from you directly. From other sources ? yes, but not from you. So thank you very much! And my first question is about your nowadays life. What are your interests, what are your hobbies, and if there's some business that you consider your own?
Anna: "Well first of all - thank you, I'm very glad too to talk to you today, and I'm happy to be here! I have a lot of different projects now, I work with kids here, in America, it's about their after-school activities, it's like some clubs all over America. Children attend it after school to spend time there instead of streets. I design clothes for KSwiss. This January we presented the new line of clothes in which you can go to gym or just to drink a cup of coffee. It's kind a life-style use both for everyday life and for the workouts. I have a lot of exhibition tennis games still, I enjoy being on court in front of my fans and feeling myself great there. Sometimes I play matches to collect money for charity. And there are a lot of little projects like modeling and so on, you know. I do a lot of other different things. I also spend a lot of time at home, I'm trying to spend more time with my friends and relatives, with my family, because I didn't have enough time for this before, I mean to see them, to enjoy their company. It's the main task of my life nowadays."

It sounds like you're still very busy and don't have much of a spare time.
Anna: "I rather enjoy being busy, you know, I'm used to have a full schedule as a professional sportsman. And for now when I have a vacant day with no meetings or appointments I still feel nervous! I like being busy, it's in my character; I'm so very active ? run-run-run, hurry-hurry-hurry! [laughs] That's why I like to feel busy."

Anya Kournikova, the tennis star. Anya Kournikova today. If there's any difference between this people, what is your opinion?
Anna: "My opinion is yes, by all means, there is a difference, but for me being tennis player or just a girl?The difference would be in any case! I don't mean that I was bad person and now I'm better, or whatever. Person just grows up, you know. The world knew me as a?how old I was, from 14 to 16, 17, 18 years. What grown-up people would listen the kid who's 15-16 years old and take serious all his words, his answers?! I had to answer all these journalists with all the world listening to me. And you're judged by the answers you gave when you were from 16 to 18 years old. So everything that changed in me is natural. I grow up. I understand much more. I become an adult person. Everyone changes a lot in a period from 18. I'm 26 now and I guess I'm kind a different person. It wasn't something that I realized in a process. It's not because I wanted to change for I didn't like myself! It's a progress. You progress, you learn, you grow up by moving forward. You become wiser, and I have a lot of things to learn! I guess when I'll be 30, I will also keep changing! I just move forward."

Do you have any advice to the girls who's 14,15,16 years now, who dreams about fame and on their way to get it in tennis? Can you give them your advice? Maybe to make them avoid something on their way?
Anna: "Well I could say something but when I was 14,15,16 years old I didn't take anyone advices except my mom and Larissa Dmitrievna, who was my coach, so? I guess the main thing is to feel the present moment, to concentrate on it, to live in a present day. To enjoy what's happening with you right now. Of course some moments are good, some are bad, but not to hurry. And you're to hear what elder people tell you! [laughs] I sound like an old lady, am I not? *laughs* But it comes with age, all this comprehension, you know. The main thing is of course to love what you're doing, to love your job. To work hard, both physically and morally. And always try to learn something new. As for me - I'm always trying! Every day I even remind myself about it ? to learn at least one thing in a day. Today, or tomorrow. Even if it's just a new word or whatever. I always want to move forward. I keep talking to myself ? you are to progress with every step. And I hope our girls will enjoy with every moment of their success and from time to time stop for a moment to smell the aroma of the flowers. To take a deep breath and to realize what's happening. Because you'll never get back this particular moment or day back. Time will run, and it runs quicker with years."

You mentioned that when you was a child the people whom you're listened were your mother and Larissa Dmitrievna Preobrajenskaya.
Anna: "Yes."

So what about relationships with your mom? It's not a secret that you had some problems?
Anna: "Who hadn't? [laughs]"

Yes but because you're famous it was widely discussed. Would you tell us about this entire situation? What happened and what relationships do you have now?
Anna: "The first thing I want to say is that my mom is just a hero. She sacrificed everything to me. Without her I wouldn't? We were a team. We achieved everything together. She's a really great person. She can be impulsive or emotional sometimes but it's just because she always wants to help, and because she truly loves me. She's my mom. She did so much to me, both right and wrong, and by all means it was terribly hard for her too ? she was very young. We were among the first ones in 1990s who came into this world, and it was really hard. She didn't know about business, she didn't speak English. Everything was tested by our own. And she helped me a lot. We got that we have together. But it's usual thing in every family's life that when the child grows up, when he's 18, 19, and 20 ? every family has its own problems. It's normal. It's kind a "Fathers and sons". It was and it always will happen in this world. As for us ? we didn't have anything that big, we quarreled once or twice just like brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers in every family usually do. Nothing special and outstanding, you know. Everyone grows up, everyone changes. I was like a child, I wanted some freedom or something, but now our relationships are great , I have a little step brother, he's 3,5 years old now, he's incredibly cool, he's absolutely perfect! His name is Alan, he already plays tennis too and also golf, and enjoys riding horses ? we definitely will have one more sportsman in our family soon! [laughs]"

I've just wanted to ask ? do you play tennis with him?
Anna: "No, I didn't play with him yet, because I was trying to give him his childhood. [laughs] I didn't because I know that in a couple of years he'll be playing tennis all the time, I think!"

So there is such an idea for him to follow his sister?
Anna: "Yes, from my mom's side there's such an idea! [laughs]"

And your mom's plans hadn't changed.
Anna: "[laughs] I guess so! But I want to be for him just an elder sister and to spend the time with that child just for pleasure. To give him an opportunity to be a child! My mom is doing great rising him up; everything is fine in her life. My father and grandmother are with me right now, they came to visit me! My grandma is with me for a month, we live together in our house, and everything is perfect!"

Is your house far from your mother's one?
Anna: "She lives in an hour from Miami, something like that."

And how often are your contacts with her? Is it everyday, or...
Anna: "Yes, sure, we call each other all the time, to visit her means to drive for an 1,5 hour so we see each other every couple of weeks, once a month ? it's for sure, and if there are any holidays we're together. We have our own lives but we always are in contact, so as with my dad. He's here now, half a year he spends here and the rest he's in Moscow. Now he helped my grandma to visit me! We are cooking with her every day ? borshch for dinner, and cutlets! Yesterday we were shopping and cooking Russian cabbage soup for dinner! I didn't eat a soup for dinner for such a long time. So everything is perfect! Grandma enjoys my swimming pool. [laughs]"

So you're always in touch with your family.
Anna: "Sure. My family is rather small, I mean ? mom, dad, I'm the only child, and my cousins ? Evgeny Korolev who plays tennis too. My family is small, but I want to say that in any family there always will be some confrontations from time to time. That's life! But it doesn't mean that we're not a family, it doesn't mean that we don't love each other. But we're people, like everyone else. Everyone has his own opinion and there's no need to persuade others and to make them to take your side. The discussion is reasonable. And the compromises and then life goes on. The main thing is always to know that family is family, and these are people who love you very much."

It's great that you have a little brother now! I'd love to see his picture!
Anna: "I have it with me, I'll show you later! And there are tons of them on Internet!"

And does he know about Moscow?
Anna: "Yes, he even was there already! Yes, of course! Yes, and mom wants to take him there again soon ? for a summer. Here, in Miami, summer is very hot, so he'll come to Russia for a summer, and mom wants Larissa Dmitrievna to see him."

By the way, Larissa Dmitrievna sends you a hug!
Anna: "Thank you! I've just called her, yes!"

She will be watching this interview.
Anna: "Larissa Dmitrievna, I love you very-very much!"

I'll tell her not to miss our program! So you're still in touch with her.
Anna: "Yes, sure. She's the person who? I don't want to say ? like mother or something, but she's just saint to me."

She feels the same way about you. It's great to see it. And what about Nick who helped you in your career so much ? do you have any contacts now?
Anna: "Absolutely. I've just talked with him when I was driving here on this court. He's here too right now, I'm going to meet him today. I respect Nick so much, he did a lot to me, and he always treated me like his own daughter, he cared about me so much, like a chicken with her egg. [laughs] He's incredibly great, he's so excited and funny, and I feel so thankful to him. I want to say thanks for everything that he did me personally. He could treat me like to usual student of his academy, who pays money for studying there but he didn't. I paid money like everyone else, for courts, for room, for nutrition and his time as a coach ? but he always treated me specially, he helped me a lot. But it was another phase ? the one when I was traveling. Larissa Dmitrievna is the one who raised me up. Without her I wouldn't exist. And then, on next step when I started playing on higher level Nick helped me more with opportunities ? with courts, with organization. He helped me with professional tournaments, and most of all in some business things ? how to create your team and things like this."

Your friends ? who are they?
Anna: "I still have friend's relationships with Nastya Myskina ? she was my best friend since childhood when we're 8 and played on Shiryaevka. She's great girl. And I still close with Alyonka Likhovtseva ? in my life she was very important too. When I started as a pro she already was in WTA so she helped and explained me so much. We were playing doubles with her, and she's so great and has a very kind heart. So my friends are Nastya and Alyona. And I have a couple of friends who also played tennis before, like my friend Natella ? she played tennis in Larissa Dmitrievna's group but then she left tennis for higher education. I also have a couple of friends who grown up with me here, in States. My friends are all over the world, but all my closest and best friends are people who are with me since I was a kid, absolutely. People whom I meet now ? they're more like just acquaintances, not friends. It could happen when you become close to somebody but I'm the one who prefers to look on the other person steadfastly first. Life made me do this! [laughs] If this person wants to be your friend for real or not for real. So I'm trying to examine the person, to understand his motives and character. That's why all my real friends are from my childhood."

Then you know that Nastya works with our channel, NTV+, now ?as a journalist. So I guess you'll have an opportunity to talk.
Anna: "Yes, I saw her when I was in Moscow this November!"

I hope there'll be a lot of interesting interviews that she'll ask you about.
Anna: "Of course."

And the question that is interesting for all your fans and supporters. Your private life. And Enrique. I understand it's a difficult question [relationship with Enrique]! But if you don't want to discuss it?
Anna: "I'm just trying to find the words! [laughs]"

All these gossips, you know...
Anna: "Sure, yes! I'm sorry!"

I just want people to know truth from you directly.
Anna: "For me it's always embarrassing and awkward to talk about my private live. It's always strange and new for me. There are enough of different discussions, but private life ? is the only thing you can keep in private. We're together for 6 years already. It's a very long time. But we're together because we like to spend the time together. Each one has his job and kind of business but we always have time for us. We're working with our schedules for that all the time. And he's really cool. He's good for me, we both like it! Everything is great, and?Oh I just don't know how to talk about all these details! [laughs]"

But I'm thinking ? you two are very famous all over the world.
Anna: "Yes."

So you two are great and leading personalities ? but in every couple there's...
Anna: "There's a male partner! [laughs]"

Yes, but I mean...
Anna: "And a female partner! [laughs]"

I'm talking about leader and the one who follows the leader. What is it like in your couple where you both are the leaders? What is your opinion?
Anna: "I guess?I think - I'd love to think he's the leader, of course. I prefer to know that I'm the woman and I like my man to be a man. I want him to make all these serious decisions, and...As you've just said I always was the leader in my professional life. That's why I want the man to lead when I'm at home. And that's the way it is in our relationships. He has my full confidence, I totally trust him. The fact I'm with him means I respect his opinion, and for me he's the leader in our couple, by all means."

It's great to hear it, because, perhaps it's the way it is to be.
Anna: "Yes, I have kind a traditional point of view. Man is a man, woman is a woman. I like to cook, clean, organize different things. I mean ? to take care of someone!"

As far as I know you live as neighbors though...
Anna: "The place where we live is not for discussion! [laughs]"

No, but I mean that?You're together, right?
Anna: "Yes, we are together!"

You're together but how...
Anna: "We're together all over the world! 90% of our time we spend in hotels because he has his tours, and I have my work, so we travel together, or we organize our meetings. For now we both have no home which means Home. Or kind of base. We just have a place for us to come back, to take new travel bags ? and here we are, on the road again!"

So I guess you respect each other's professional aspects of life. But it's got to be very hard to live that way.
Anna: "Of course, yes, I think, not every man would understand my situation, and not every woman would understand his situation, but we both realize that we have fans, we have our work, we must do some things, there's such a word as discipline, you know. I feel myself more comfortable being with the man who wants to achieve something in his life and career, with the man who won't spend his time just sitting on the couch doing nothing but spitting at the ceiling. I mean the man who has some purpose in his life, it's very attractive, it's very cool. I also think he's very talented and I wish, and hope, and want him to get everything he wants to achieve. I always will support him just like he'll be supporting me. He knows what I want and he'll always support me. It's so great to have that mutual respect in your relationships ? respect of your work, and your purposes, and, you know, even it happens that we don't see each other for some time, for two weeks, for example, - there's no reason for a scandal and there's no need for two of us to quarrel. It's obviously because of work, and you just got to understand it ? it's necessary, and it's very good for every man. I mean having a job that he enjoys and to believe in himself. Also he loves his work and career deeply, and I respect it so much!"

It's great but I guess it's not easy.
Anna: "It's not easy, yes, - for the one who doesn't wish to try. But if you have wish, if you believe in your relationships, if you believe in that person, if you fully trust that person, if you believe in his decisions and in his intellect ? than, I guess, it's easy to organize your life together. Schedules and mode of life is less important than having the same life priorities and life purposes. That's the start point."

So let's come back to tennis then...
Anna: "aahh, I'm talking too much!"

I wanted to ask you - you finished your career rather early because of trauma. I wasn't accidentally but it also wasn't something you expected.
Anna: "Yes, I wasn't prepared. It was kinda accident, yes."

Do you have nostalgia? Or the wish of comeback like Martina did?
Anna: "Yes?Well, of course I finished when I was 21?Yes, it happened three days after June 7, when I came to decision that I can not play with all the traumas I got, it was 10th of June. Originally it was like to have a break for 3 or 4 months to recover my body, to become healthy. And then it came that it's not so easy, I mean recovering, and I began to realize that perhaps?I mean - do I have all that powers, both moral and emotional, to come back into that river which is so fast and into that life? I didn't have plans to finish my career. Sometimes I wanted to come back, I was thinking about that. Two years after I finished I still wasn't 100% physically prepared, so?I'm kind of person who won't try if there's no 100%. Because it would be in my head - all these things that I'm not ready. I'm the person who suppose to be sure in the things I do. When I look back - I took the decision that was optimal. I'm also the person who doesn't like to feel sorry about something that happened. I don't like to regret, I can make conclusions, I can learn, and the responsibility is all mine. Anyway I guess I chose correctly. So there's no such a nostalgia. Nostalgia is about the things like you're on the court, and the audience is 20000 people, and it's 7-6 in the third set - these are the things nostalgia is about. The risk, the adventure and that special feeling when you're in the court playing your night match under that evening lights and 20 000 people watching. But not the thoughts that I made wrong decision - no."

Evgeny Korolev, your cousin, is a pro too. He plays well right now, he had some physical problems but now he's coming back - so you have a lot to talk about. What about your contacts with him?
Anna: "It's perfect - I always support him. We were grown up like brother and sister, me and also his elder brother - three of us were always together because I'm the only child of my parents, so we spent a lot of time together, even on trainings. Evgeny (Женька ) was training with Larissa Dmitrievna too. We always were in good relationships. I support him, we talk a lot. But, you know, it's rather family talks: how are you, how do you feel, how's your back. It's not about tennis, and, of course, he's a man so he can handle all the things by himself. He's grown up, and as I said it's better to do everything in your own way. So you understand everything much better. You're to learn on your own mistakes no matter what they say."

Do you watch tennis matches today, do you follow someone's career - I mean do you have any favorite players?
Anna: "Well I watch tennis on TV, the matches that they show us, you know, I don't look forward some matches or channels. I watch Grand Slams, and big tournaments. I watch it mostly because of some interest, you know - for some news to see. To know what happens and who's the winner of semis and finals. I don't have any particular favorite to follow. Talking about girls I'd say I like Ivanovic, and Masha Sharapova - she plays great physical tennis. Oh, I had a favorite - Klijsters! Now she's not playing anymore but that was someone who was my favorite! She's my friend and favorite tennis player - I enjoyed, you know, the way of her play. What about now - I don't see anyone particular to like that way. What about atp?it's hard to say too. I care mostly about my friends and people that I know. The same thing is about wta. When our girls are playing I'm their fan just like when our boys are playing. So it's more about my relationships with people not about the game of tennis."

I see. Tell me please about Moscow.
Anna: "Yes!"

So you visit us from time to time...
Anna: "I was there in November, yes."

For few days not for long...
Anna: "Ten days, I was there for ten days."

And what are your impressions? Any changes? What is your opinion about Moscow - I don't say Russia I say Moscow because it's the place of your visit. So your feelings are about the city of your childhood?
Anna: "I'm just, you know, I'm very excited every time I come there. It's such a good surprise every time how everything becomes more clean and beautiful and regenerated. I noticed that in Russia a lot of ancient customs and traditions came back, and I like it so much that people are warmer now. They smile more than usual and I see that everything is brighter now. Yes, brighter. There's no more of all this total grayness - maybe the weather is better now, or something, I don't know. But every time I'm very surprised - and by our youth! They're really cool!"

Yes, a little bit, I guess.
Anna: "They're great, I mean it! I see no difference between Moscow and Western Europe or America, in some things it even leads - I don't know, maybe technique or something, but talking about culture - that's for sure. We always have great theaters, artists, actors, music - everything, so I enjoy Russian art and the way it is right now."

So you come here with pleasure?
Anna: "Yes, absolutely!"

If you had an opportunity to turn the time back, what would you like to change in your past?
Anna: "I don't know I guess. Cause if I changed something I wouldn't become the person who I am now. So I wouldn't learn some things that I know now after my own mistakes or some wrong?steps. The only thing - but I cannot change it - I'd like to have more health, to be healthy, to be stronger in physical way. I guess it would help me a lot in sport. In other ways - I have no regrets, I'm very proud of what I got, of where I came from. I had an opportunity to realize my abilities, and I'm very glad that my life was connected with tennis. It gave me a lot! Tennis gave me all my life, it made my life, I mean. No, I wouldn't change a thing in my past. I'm happy for every day that I had, good or bad. I guess I appreciate much more all the bad things cause it helps me to realize the value of all the good things that I got!"

You were the first one. It's hard, of course. Everyone talks about Anna Kournikova's revolution...
Anna: "Oh, come on..."

Well, I'm, as a tennis player of the generation that was right before you, very interested - what is your own characteristic of that explosion that you made in tennis all over the world?
Anna: "I think it's a combination of different parts. It's not enough to have something without another. I think it's an amount, you know. Right time, right place! Talent - there was a talent, yes, or why in the world would Larissa Dmitrievna spend all these hours with me when I was 7! So I had it. And my character is very interesting, I guess, it's a good luck too, cause some people are too boring, and some are too interesting. There must be everything in a bit, you know. We worked terribly hard, for 8 hours a day, with Larissa Dmitrievna, and my mom spent a lot of time with me. I ,mean everything that happened to me - it's not just a heaven's gift. There was a sum of luck, and talent, and tons of very-very-very hard work. And it wasn't only my work - but all the people who was around. My mother, my father, Larissa Dmitrievna, grandmother and grandfather - they cooked for me and provided me with tasty and warm home chops and different soups while I was training?Everyone worked, everyone helped, and it's everyone's achievement, so I respect and love all of them. And people here, in America - they helped me a lot too when I just came. Luck is important but you can't get anything without working hard. If you're lazy person and prefer do nothing but sitting on your couch?Look, we're always talking about that couch! [laughs] Well I mean you must have something special."

So you think that all that happened is not your own achievement?
Anna: "Absolutely no!!! Who can say that a person who's 15 or 14, 13 or even 18 years old would do everything all by himself? Everyone I talk about had given me their love, their time, their brains?I mean everyone worked in a team that was rising up a sportsman. Everyone knew that it's a professional tennis player in the future, so since I was 8, I knew, and Larissa Dmitrievna, and mother, father, grandmothers and grandfathers - everyone knew I'm to be a professional sportsman and tennis player. It was the target."

I guess your brother will be raised in a same way?
Anna: "I guess so! [laughs] I don't know, don't ask me! It's not my business, all that I'll give him is love!"

So you're to be just a sister?
Anna: "Yes, it's the most important thing, yes. There's no need to forget that children who is to be a professional sportsmen, or artists, whatever, - that children need love. You should praise them and love them, and to keep in their minds that they love him not for winning something today after losing yesterday, but because you're part of a family."

And the last question is - what is Anna Kournikova's dream?
Anna: "Oh?I dream about having a good sleep today. [laughs] No, being serious, I'm the person who requires a lot from my own. I don't want money or fame. I want to become better person that I am now. I always enjoy learning something new. I want to discover, to learn, to know something new - I want to grow up every day. That's the most important thing for me. The wisdom - that's what I seek and collect. I'd love to hear other people's opinions. I want to understand more, to understand other people, to build relationships with people around. Because for all my life there was a competition, rivalry, sport, "you-got-to-win", you know. And now I want to be more positive. To enjoy by every day of my life. To spend time with the people that I love, with my family. To do things that I like to do. To work with kids. To promote tennis for children to start playing. To help children to discover sport. Sport means a lot, you know. It teaches a lot of useful things, even without becoming pro. My dreams are?very impressive, and great, and all I have to do is follow them. Learning. Living every day with joy, and calm, and fun. [laughs]"

Thank you very much again from all our NTV+Tennis audience and from all the numerous fans in Russia. It's so nice that now you have an opportunity now to tell us about what happened to you with your own words!
Anna: "Thank you! And I want to say thanks to all my fans, to everyone who followed my career and life, to all my fans in Russia. I love you very much, thank you for your support."


Thanx very very much for "Nica" (member of Official Messageboard) for providing us fans with this great translation




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