Btw - it looks as if Venus is starting a new fashion at the BOTW tourney. It appears she is wearing a body shirt under her shorts. It seems to be tucked tightly underneath the waistband of her skirt.
Anna hung in there - and IMO - her coach is helping her tremendously.
"WAY TO GO - VENUS" "CONGRATULATIONS ON REACHING THE FINAL" "NOW - BRING IT ON HOME TO MAMA AND DADDY"
ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW WITH TENNIS’ MOST MISUNDERSTOOD PLAYER
Kournikova says she's maturing, outgrown teenage years
By Matthew Cronin
Camerawork USA, Inc.
FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC – There is a perception about the wildly popular and controversial Anna Kournikova that she says is false: that she's not committed, that she's not nice and that she would be just as happy leaving the tour without a title and pursuing a career in acting, singing or modeling. But the 21-year-old says she's all tennis, all the time, and has no desire to do anything but paint balls on the lines.
"A lot of people are misunderstood by the public," Kournikova told ******************** in an exclusive interview at the Bank of the West Classic. "Sometimes the press creates an image of somebody and the public believes it because they have no other source [who] know that person."
Kournikova readily admits that she is willing to doll herself up for commercials, but says that it doesn't distract and she doesn't go overboard with her off-court activities.
"It's just a relationship with my sponsors," she said. "It's not like I'm walking on a catwalk. People say I can be an actress, but what kind of an actress would I be? There are people who do it professionally. And I definitely can't sing. Let other people sing, I'll just appear in the videos."
Few people recall this now, but Kournikova was once the top-ranked junior in the world, the queen of the Orange Bowl and was virtually unbeatable despite her slight frame. There were few reasons to not expect that when she turned pro in 1995, that she wouldn't be a top-five pro for a long time.
HER FUTURE LOOKED BRIGHT
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"I felt like everybody expected me to" reach the top five, Kournikova said. "But at that time Martina [Hingis] was playing amazing and was pretty much untouchable, Steffi [Graf] and Monica [Seles] were still amazing. It was hard to come out at that time because I caught the old and new generation who were playing incredible."
More amazingly, Kournikova has no memory of not playing tennis, not being a beginner, nor losing much when she was young.
"I was always the best at every junior tournament," she said. "I never even really even had to dream of being the best because I was playing since I was five. It wasn't like I had any other thoughts. In Russia you have no other choice. I played six hours a day at the tennis club. I was really having fun. I love to play and I was winning. It was a pretty easy formula. It's been all tennis all my life. There have been times when it wasn't fun, but overall its been fun."
Kournikova is arguably the most popular women's athlete on the planet and her celebrated good looks have sold more than a few racks of tennis dresses. But deep down inside, the 21-year-old Russian says she's not the ultra-confident extrovert that some have made her out to be.
"I don't like to talk about myself that much," she said. "I get shy sometimes. People don't realize that. [In public] I'm kind of always on the defense because I'm used to people grabbing at me a little bit. But if I'm with my friends at my house, I can laugh and joke. With people I don't know well, I'm thinking maybe they want to take something from me. I'm not as comfortable."
NO LONGER A TEENAGER
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Today, Kournikova says she's a million miles away from the teenage hell raiser who used to make tour officials cringe with her icy stares. She is much more engaging and personable and wants the world to understand that she has grown up a ton.
"I was 14 when I started on tour, what did I know?," she said. "I can't even remember what I was thinking then. It's totally different now, my whole mentality. I take things differently. Before it was like, oh well, it's all fun. Now I actually think about things. That's part of growing up – but I'm doing it in front of everybody."
Since she arrived on the Sanex WTA Tour in 1995, Kournikova and her famed blonde ponytail have made by some estimates upwards of $75 million or more, mostly in off-court endorsements. But her enormous popularity has had its price, as she can go nary a moment without being stared at, having her picture taken, or like in Palo Alto after her first round victory in front of a packed house over Anna Smashnova, being hooted at from outside the press room by 50 or so Stanford fraternity brothers. Privacy remains elusive.
"I'm not going to say it's easy, but I'm used to it," Kournikova said. "I just go about my things and not get too worried about it. If I get worried about what people are saying, thinking or writing, I'd go insane. I can go out sometimes, but I have to be pretty sneaky. Even if I really wanted a private life, it's not going to happen as long as I'm playing, which I understand, because fans want to know something and others want to write something about me. But there are some things that I do keep keep to myself."
Despite the fact that she has yet to win a singles title and hasn't gone deep in any tournament since February, Kournikova still attracts as much attention as top-ranked Serena Williams or number two-ranked Venus Williams. Her every move is noted, every outfit changed is discussed, every loss is put under the microscope.
SOLOMON SEES THE MATURATION PROCESS
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"She's growing up in front of the world at age 21 while most girls of her age are allowed to make mistakes in the privacy of their own home," said her coach, Harold Solomon. "She has a very public persona and it makes it very difficult. Now she's thinking, learning, questioning, making plans about how she wants to go about her life. It's not haphazard or random; it's all thought out in her head."
After her game began to fall apart in the early spring, she hired the well-respected Solomon (Jennifer Capriati and Mary Joe Fernandez's former tutor) to retool her game and has been putting in a huge amount of hours on the practice court to regain the elite game that brought her to a year-end ranking of No. 8 in 2000.
But despite her efforts, she still has a hard time convincing skeptics that she's serious about her oncourt career. After her first round loss to Tatiana Panova at Wimbledon, Kournikova got into an argument with a BBC television personality that was broadcast around the world and led to serious criticism of her behavior. While Kournikova doesn't excuse her outburst, she doesn't believe she was treated fairly.
"I come out after losing 6-4 in the third set and I'm beyond disappointed and he's throwing all these things at me, like, am I committed? It gets tiring to be asked the same things millions of times. Of course I'm committed. There are sometimes like anyone else, that I'm in a bad mood. It doesn't mean that I have to be mean, though. There are other times like now when I'm very happy. Just like anyone, I have bad days."
Solomon says the the pressure of being Anna Kournikova day in, day out would get to anyone.
"Sooner or later, its going to get to you," he said. "You wake up, you haven't had enough sleep and it's one of those days where person after person is hounding you and it gets to you. Human beings are going to have those kind of days. It's natural. And there are people looking for a story and if they can get under her skin, it's all the better."
BUILDING BRIDGES WITH THE MEDIA
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Last year, Kournikova's agency, Octagon, convinced her that building a better relationship with the press would only make it easier for her to accomplish her oncourt goals, because she wouldn't be grilled as severely as she was before it she made an effort to be pleasant. While coverage of her has improved in some circles, she still makes the airwaves when things aren't going well. The sportscasters count every title she hasn't won.
"I'm on TV only when I lose, right?" she laughed. "That's not very good, but at least I'm not forgotten. It's not just that I'm tired of hearing that I haven't won a title, it's kind of old for people now. I've been really close. Sometimes I was unlucky, sometimes I played bad and there have been times when I lost to great players. They always say I should go and play a smaller tournament and win, but it's not going to make me feel good if I go and beat the No. 1,000-ranked player in the final. It is about winning a tournament, but it's more about how I feel on court and my ranking."
Kournikova, who reached three semifinals earlier this year, still believes she's an elite player and says she would get more satisfaction out of beating the likes of her hero, Seles, than she would beating a no-name player in some backwater city.
"There's no comparison," she said.
If she plays like she did in routing 18th-ranked Smashnova, it's easy to see the now 55th-ranked Kournikova climbing her way back to the top 10. She's still a tremendous athlete with terrific instincts at the net and can hit winners off both wings from the baseline. The '97 Wimbledon semifinalist's serve is still a liability, but if she plays smart and doesn't lose her patience, another trip to a Grand Slam semifinal or beyond isn't out of the question.
Kournikova says that people forget that she spent eight months off the circuit last year with a foot injury and ended up coming back too soon. They forget she has beaten – the likes of former No. 1s Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Seles, among others.
RANKED NO. 8 WHEN INJURED
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"People tend to forget when I did stop playing last year I was ranked No. 8," she said. " It's not like I started playing bad and I fell to number 50. I got injured and had surgery when I was No. 8. Not playing for eight months, of course, I was going to go down. Today, I read that I 'sunk down the rankings.' That only happened because I wasn't physically capable of playing. I think I can do better. Beating Smashnova was a great step for me, regardless of what happens in my next match because it showed me that I can play the way we've been practicing and I can execute."
What the world continues to wonder is how committed Kournikova really is. Even Solomon – who had to bring Capriati back up from the depths of burnout – needed to be convinced.
"Harold asked me like a billion, gazillion times, 'I want to make sure you are committed,' and I said, 'Why would I go waste yours and my time doing all the things we are doing, if I wasn't?' I could be on the beach instead of doing all this work. If I was doing this halfway, I could be at my beautiful house, getting a suntan and having fun instead of wasting somebody's time. I could be just enjoying everything I've done already. There's a lot of things I still want to accomplish in tennis. I just want to play."