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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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By Richard Pagliaro - In an effort to fix the flaws in her game, Anna Kournikova has turned to a familiar face for help — Martina Hingis' mother, Melanie Molitor. The 20-year-old Russian has reportedly hired the mother of her doubles partner to assume the coaching role which has been held by her parents, Alla and Sergei.

The former Wimbledon semifinalist sustained a fractured left foot in February and has been sidelined for most of the year. Kournikova has suffered three straight first-round setbacks since her return to tennis. Her most recent defeat degenerated into a double-fault debacle. Kournikova committed an astounding 25 doubles faults today — more than a set of points lost on double faults — in falling to Luxembourg's Anne Kremer 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the opening round of the Porsche Grand Prix.

Prior to that loss, Kournikova teamed with Hingis to capture the Kremlin Cup doubles championship and apparently made the decision to work with Molitor while in Moscow, according to a published report in The Australian.

"Anna and Martina have practiced together at Saddlebrook in Florida, and they plan to do so in the winter," said Phil de Picciotto, who heads the tennis division of Kournikova's management company, Octagon, in an interview with The Australian. "Anna is happy for Melanie to oversee her game, so is Alla. Anna and Martina get along great as doubles partners. You must realize, Anna had a big injury. She had a choice. She could delay her comeback until next year, or return to playing with no expectations after being out of the game so long. We are satisfied with her progress and ask that she should not be judged on this year."

The Molitor-Kournikova pairing comes nearly a year after Hingis and Kournikova had a major falling out following an exhibition singles match in Chile. Angry that a line call went against her, Hingis questioned the call to Kournikova, who sided with the line judge. An irate Hingis verbally blasted Kournikova during the ensuing changeover, screaming: "Do you think you are the queen? Because I am the real queen." The tirade caused Kournikova to cry, and though she went on to win the match 6-4, 6-4, the on-court argument erupted into a locker room fight that escalated into a melee of WWF-proportions. The doubles partners threw insults, ashtrays, glasses and bouquets at each other during the locker room battle. "It was so bad," event organizer Jaime Fillol told tennis writer Jon Wertheim, who chronicled a blow-by-blow account of the battled in his book Venus Envy. "I thought they were going to beat each other up."

Since then, they've made up and plan to continue their partnership in 2002.

"In Chile, Anna thought Martina said something and there was a misunderstanding that admittedly involved them shouting at one another," said Micky Lawler, Octagon vice president, in an interview with The Australian. "Anna went to her mother, Alla, and she went to Melanie. There was a whirlwind explosion. Everyone was exhausted at the end of a trip that was exhausting and earlier in the day, we had been to a hospital to see some kids with spinal injuries. This was emotionally taxing and these factors undeniably contributed to the conflict. But a week later, I was in Ecuador with Anna and her parents and she was in contact again with Martina."

With Hingis sidelined for six to eight weeks while recovering from surgery to repair torn ligaments in her right ankle, Molitor will be able to work exclusively with Kournikova.
 
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