ANNA KOURNIKOVA Russian Sexy Tennis Diva by Kaya Morgan
As the world's most famous and highest paid female athlete, Anna Kournikova is way more than a tennis player, or a pretty blonde. Anna has become an icon symbolizing how modern society has come to find the sport more intriguing simply by its players. In this hip-hop, dare-to-be-different age, Anna has brought a completely new, and otherwise indifferent, audience to the sport of women's tennis a lite version of the testosterone driven men's tennis tour. People long to see a glimpse of the girl whose striking beauty has her on the radar screen of both major corporations, and men from all over the world. So how did this Russian beauty, who is clearly not, by ranking, at the top of her field, but rather by her other qualities, turn herself into the athletic diva she is today?
Little Anna Kournikova was born in 1981 in Moscow. Although her father, Sergei, was a wrestling athlete and lecturer at a sports university, it was her mother, Alla, who first introduced her to the game. At 5, she began playing weekly at a popular children's sports program. While not financially well off, her parents had so much belief in her that they sold their TV set to buy Anna her own racket for Christmas. Her first experiences were at the Tennis Club Soklniki Park and the Spartak Club. Of course it helped that she was lucky enough to be coached by the husband of Olga Morozova, a famous Russian professional tennis player.
It didn't take long before she was spotted by IMG Agents that took her, at age 11, and her mother, to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Although Anna didn't win her first tournament play, the Rolex Orange Bowl, she won her revenge the following year. In 1995, she made it all the way to the finals, where she defeated Sandra Nacuk of Yugoslavia. That same year, Anna also won the European Championships, and the Italian Open Juniors, made it to the semi final in the Juniors Wimbledon, and was the French Open Juniors quarter finalist. She ended 1995 as the ITF Junior World Champion, ranked No. 1. In 1966, Anna turned professional, and it wasn't long before she stood as the champion of her first tournament over Lindsay Lee at the ITF Women's Circuit Satellite event in Midland, Michigan. And, so began her tennis career.
Women athletes have always had to deal with the negative image of being too mannish. Men, jealous of athletic women, have often denied them their femininity, forcing them to compete on a man's scale. But, Anna broke the mold by adding a sorely needed pizzazz to women's tennis starving for attractive females. Not only does she have tennis' best body, but she is also the sport's best dresser. No one looks better in tennis shorts than Anna. Both on and off the court, she's a walking fashion statement with impeccable taste. Even when she showed up at the Women's Tennis Association Award banquet in six-inch heels, wearing a form-fitting, see-through knit mini-dress showing off a leopard-skin bra underneath with a bare midriff, on her, it worked. Now, although in some places, this might seem like streetwalker attire, with Anna's God-given beauty, beguiling presence and captivating aura, she exudes the confidence to carry anything off.
Although Billie Jean King made women's tennis, she gained almost no endorsements. Anna has taken female athlete endorsements to its highest level. Currently collecting checks from Adidas, Shock Absorber, Yonex, Omega and Lycos (who has named Anna as the most popular athlete on the Internet, moving Michael Jordan to the number 2 spot), she reportedly made in excess of $15 million last year in endorsements alone, compared to a paltry $750,000 in tennis earnings certainly a long way from the days when her parents could barely afford to buy her a tennis racket.
Having been romantically linked to a number of male hockey and tennis athletes much her senior, Anna has successfully kept us all guessing. Little boys chase after her. Big boys leer after her. She may well be the most photographed woman on the face of the earth, having graced the covers of a diverse collection of U.S. magazines from Forbes to Sports Illustrated for Women, as well as various international versions of Esquire, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, and many we never heard of from Europe to Asia to Africa that include men's magazines, women's magazines, general interest, sports, fashion, finance and travel.
To many, tennis is Anna Kournikova. To others, she's a Lolita, put on earth to tease men, and break their hearts. To many of us, she's a little bit of everything part tennis star, part celebrity, part model, and definitely all woman. True enough. It's almost been forgotten how the child jumped from the despair of Moscow to a sweet spot in the Florida sun. After all, Anna is awfully good at what she does, which is why she commands a grudging respect. Although she has never won a major singles tournament, and it's been said that her attitude is sometimes arrogant and self-centered, her fame is incredible. Tournaments that don't feature her have 30% less attendance. Her matches are always sold-out, and hands-down, she's still considered one of the best in the world. As her off-the-charts celebrity status has proven, a little sex appeal doesn't exactly hurt the on-court product.
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