June 30, 2008
|LIFE WITHOUT A NET
Despite leaving Grand Slam Tennis behind, Anna Kournikova remains unrivaled as the hottest queen of the court.
By Spencer Morgan
Photographs by Stephan W?rth
The phenomenon that is Anna Kournikova got its start at the 1996 U.S. Open. Recall that fabled moment when a young blonde with a hard-to-pronounce last name appeared out of nowhere, and with a combination of stunning beauty and a fierce forehand that made jaws drop first and ask her age later (she was only 15), Kournikova changed the face - and look - of women's tennis forever.
While she may not have collected many trophies during her active days on the court, with each grunt-filled match she made the game sexier, more stylish, more popular - and more Russian. You can't flip on a tournament these days without being hit with a "pova" or "kova" or, for that matter, running smack into a well-toned pair of barely covered buttocks. For all this we have Anna to thank.
Since her historic U.S. Open debut, Anna, now a buff 27, has scored countless cover shoots - this issue marks her hat trick for MAXIM - and product endorsements (she is currently the face of K-Swiss sportswear). Not to mention much publicized relationships with two NHL hockey stars and on-again, off-again love affair with Latin pop sensation Enrique Iglesias - to whom, she reveals here, she was never actually married. (So good news, fellas - she's single!)
We caught up with Anna at her home in Miami Beach as the final stages of Wimbledon were progressing at fever pitch and her own training was beginning. She continues to play the sport for the St. Louis Aces in the World TeamTennis league, a celebrity player circuit whose ranks have included tennis giants like Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, and Chris Evert. The sport that catapulted her to international stardom continues to be Anna's passion, and her phenomenal beauty and sex appeal continue to be ours.
The tabloids give conflicting reports about your availability. What's the deal?
Anna: "Marital status: Single! You know how they have those boxes you fill in on applications? Single, married, widowed? Yes, you can put me in the 'single' box."
You're NOT married to Enrique Iglesias?
Well, are you opposed to marriage?
Anna: "For some people it fits, for others it doesn't. In a perfect world, everybody who's in a relationship should be married. I mean, whatever. I guess that's the tradition."
What do you look for in a man?
Anna: "It's all about the connection. Sense of humour is key, because you've got to laugh about things in life whether they're bad or good. You've got to have fun together. Relationships are hard."
Anna: "Relationships are sacrifices. You have to know yourself in order to be in a healthy relationship. I don't think somebody can complete you. You have to be whole yourself."
In 1997 you moved to Miami Beach. Was that because you like to boogie?
Anna: "I go out maybe once every three months. I would much rather have friends over at my house for a barbecue. I do go to late dinners, but very rarely do I go to nightclubs. And when I was playing tennis, it was virtually impossible to stay out really late. We'd always go to sleep at 10 or 11 at night."
You still compete as a player in the World TeamTennis League. What's your routine?
Anna: "I play at least every other day, getting ready for the league. But normally I play about four times a week. I've always been an athlete. I'm always going to be an athlete."
Do you still follow Pro Women's Tennis?
Anna: "Yes. Now there are so many surprises and so many good players. I'm always rooting for my friends. I really get along great with Serena Williams. She's an amazing girl and a legend on the tennis court. I root for my Russian friends: Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. I love to see them do well. And a lot of Russians and Eastern Europeans."
Along with paving the way for russian players, you're also credited with heralding an era of sex sirens in Tennis. You became a Sex Symbol.
Anna: "All I knew was that I had to sleep, eat, train and do my best on the court. The way I dressed was completely natural. I wasn't saying to myself 'Tomorrow I'm going to dress like this to project a sexy image.' I was traveling the world and meeting amazing people."
What can you tell us about the behind-the-scenes world of Tennis?
Anna: "I never saw any drugs. There were people who liked each other and people who didn't. It's like any office environment - not every person is going to get along. Same with tennis. My confrontations were on the tennis court, where I'd put on my war face. Even if any of the players said anything bad about me - and I've had a million things said about me - I always preferred to take the high road. They can say whatever the hell they want to."
Just how "GAY" is Women's Tennis?
Anna: "It was very open. Obviously, there are lesbian players, and it's no secret. It's a personal choice about how you're going to live your life, and that's it. As long as somebody doesn't push their views on you? Cool, good luck. I came to America when I was nine and was always traveling with my mom and dad, so I was protected."
Retired Pro Singles Player Justin Gimelstob recently called you a "BITCH" on a radio show. Thoughts?
Anna: "That's not just disrespectful to me personally, or to the other girls he named: It's disrespectful to another human being. It's ridiculous and shows his class and frame of mind. You make an appropriate analysis of who that person is in your head and you act accordingly."
Do you think you'll ever settle down?
Anna: "Hopefully, of course. But it's not a thing for which I have a five- or 10-year-plan. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow."
Anna ranks her comrades' Serves and Style . . .ANA IVANOVIC:
Anna: "[ON THE COURT] I think that Ana is awesome. She's a very beautiful girl. And very talented. She's a strong player who has a very powerful game. And she's a hard hitter. [ON THE RUNWAY] She's very cute and into fashion; at the end of the day it's a personal expression."
. . .MARIA SHARAPOVA
Anna: "[ON THE COURT] She's been around much longer than the others. She has more experience. She's got a very strong game, obviously. She's been number one for a long time now. [ON THE RUNWAY] What, you mean how she wears her shorts? Not much to say."
. . .SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA
Anna: "[ON THE COURT] That's my friend! I've known her for years. We still play together. She's got a great sense of humour. Game strength is experience. She's got great hands. She's naturally talented. [ON THE RUNWAY] It's all about colors. It's all how you wear it. I think she wears it great."
Find out more at Anna's offical website: