Dinara Safina talks about Anna K., Russian women's tennis...
and she really sounds like a smart, mature girl...
Kournikova inspired new crop of stars
24 January 2004
By Julian Linden
MELBOURNE - She might have been lamthingyed for her lack of success on court but Anna Kournikova was no joke according to one of the wave of Russian women who followed her into the professional tennis ranks.
Kournikova did not win a WTA singles tournament during her eight years on the tour but Dinara Safina, whose brother Marat Safin won a U.S. Open title, said 22-year-old was the reason there are so many Russian girls playing tennis.
"A lot of players want to be like her," said Safina, one of 13 Russian women who were in the draw at the Australian Open. "Women's tennis, in Russia and around the world, is popular because of Kournikova."
Safina bristled at suggestions Kournikova did not fulfil her potential even though she made most of her fortune away from the court courtesy of being one of the most recognisable faces in the sport.
"She was in the semi-finals of Wimbledon and in the top 10," Safina growled. "So I think she did a lot for women's tennis.
"Now when there is a tournament on, people come to see women's matches when before they didn't come. It wasn't so popular, women's tennis."
Despite the huge Russian presence at Melbourne Park, just two made it to the fourth round and the country is still waiting for its first female grand slam champion.
Safina, who crashed out 6-2 6-1 to world number two Kim Clijsters on Saturday, however said it will eventually happen.
"We have good coaches now and they are helping us," she said "Every Russian girl is working so if she wins she really deserves it."
Vassilissa is my girl............