Myskina all praise for Kournikova's contribution
By Alaric Gomes, Staff Reporter
Dubai : Pin-up girl Anna Kournikova's presence on the tour has gone a long way in promoting tennis in soccer-mad Russia, according to Russian Grand Slam winner Anastasia Myskina.
"I think Anna [Kournikova] has played her part for the growth of the game in Russia," Myskina admitted.
"She has been a great ambassador for the sport and, if at all we see so much of added involvement and sponsorship for tennis in Russia, much of it has to do because of Anna," Myskina stated.
Myskina, 24, has been among the older breed of players coming out from Russia during recent years. "Of course, soccer remains a top priority for the sponsors and spectators. But I think tennis has managed to draw the attention during the past few years," she said.
Having three Grand Slam champions (Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova and herself) in one year has also helped.
"Three Russian girls winning three of the top tournaments also helps for sure," Myskina added.
Myskina capped her best season on the tour last year, winning at Roland Garros among other things. She currently has nine singles titles on the tour and a couple of doubles crowns.
"Soccer is still popular. But there are other sports like gymnastics that need more funding from the government," Myskina stated.
"We are lucky in tennis that we've managed to get so far," she added.
Much of this credit goes down to the backing from former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. "He [Yeltsin] is a tennis player and it's great to have someone of his stature back the game. His involvement has been among the great things for tennis in Russia," Myskina stated.
"At this point of time, I am really pleased for the game in Russia. And if we are going to win more, then people and the sponsors are going to back us even more," she stated.
Myskina has made a slow start to 2005, her best being a three-set semifinal showdown with Venus Williams in Antwerp last month. After winning two successive crowns in Doha, Myskina failed to defend her title there last week as she went down to experienced Spaniard Conchita Martinez.
"I need to work hard and get back to where I belong," she said.
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams