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Small change

By Michael Winkler

Anna Kournikova needs a change-up.

IF you type "Anna Kournikova" into your favourite web search, you'll get around 219,000 results. Type in that name plus "photos" and you get 56,200 options. "Sexy" garners 52,800; "blonde" will give you 41,100 matches. On the other hand, type in "Anna Kournikova" plus "backhand" and you'll only get 3,450, while "tournament winner" registers a paltry 4,370 listings, most of which list her as the runner-up.

The Russian überbabe is the first superstar athlete of the cyber age. She is the most searched-for athlete on the web, and one of the most searched-for individuals full stop. This is her domain. She is at her best in photographs, advertisements, and posters. She is pretty good on a tennis court too - but that's more of a second string to her bow.

The fact that curmudgeons keep pointing to her modest record and counting the number of tournaments she has entered without winning a single title seems, increasingly, beside the point.

It is time that we started to see Kournikova for what she is - a model who also plays tennis. She is a businesswoman who purveys her pulchritude for rich remuneration, and uses her reasonable tennis game as a marketing driver. She is enormously rich, and getting ever richer, but that has only a little to do with her on-court ability.

What Kournikova and her business entourage understand is that she needs to continue to play tennis at some level in order to maintain maximal exposure for her sponsors. Although, six months before her 21st birthday, she could very easily retire and enjoy her wealth, if she is to continue to make money at her present level she needs to be on court at high-profile events. This means exhibition matches, grand slams, and big-ticket tournaments.

The irony here is that she could easily have chalked up a tournament win or two if she chose to play in Reindeer's Backside, Norway, or Sandy Wastes, Qatar. But because her marketing strategy requires the biggest possible stage, she has to battle against better players all the time and thus her results suffer.

Does she care? Who knows. Martina Hingis is on record as saying that, "If you gave Anna the choice between her [endorsements] or my grand slams and the No1 ranking, I think I know what she'd say . . . You have to make money somehow and she's not going to do it with prize money, but I don't think she's happy. I'm sure she wants to be more successful."

Contrary to the expectations of most, Kournikova is actually one of the hardest workers on the women's tour in terms of fitness and time spent on the practice court. She certainly doesn't seem to be ready to give the game away. On the other hand, what if the Anna bubble bursts, and she's usurped in the public consciousness by the next teenage girl who can hit a slice backhand and looks nice in short dresses? If that happened and she was no longer the epicentre of drooling adulation, would there still be the motivation - emotional or financial - to keep plugging away on the backcourts?

It shouldn't be forgotten that four or five years ago she looked a potential top-three player. In her first senior slam she went through to the fourth round of the 1996 US Open. The next year (just weeks after turning 16) she rampaged through Wimbledon, knocking out Anke Huber and Iva Majoli on her way to the semi-finals. From January 1997 until October 1998 she didn't lose to a player ranked below her, while taking some handy scalps such as Steffi Graf on the grass of Eastbourne. She was the first player younger than Hingis to ever beat the Swiss Miss. In 1999 she was the world's top-ranked doubles player and a top 10 singles practitioner.

And yet, the big wins wouldn't come. She continued to struggle against other top-tenners. Her serve went to pot. Although she remained one of the four or five best athletes on the WTA Tour, her reputation for mental fragility meant she couldn't intimidate opponents. Her dynamic forehand return became unreliable. In 1999 she suffered a stress fracture in her right foot. In 2000 she tore a ligament in her left ankle. In 2001 she was pretty good at the Australian Open, losing to Lindsay Davenport in the quarter-finals. However, the year was ruined when she suffered torn stomach muscles, then stress fractures in her left foot that kept her off the circuit for eight months.

Her ranking plummeted from No8 to No74 in the world, but she finished 2001 beating world No2 Jennifer Capriati in a pretty meaningless exhibition match, then started 2002 with a reasonable showing in New Zealand's ASB Bank Classic, making the semi-finals before being routed by Anna Smashnova.

Is this year make or break for her? In tennis terms hey, maybe. But does it really matter? Money can't buy you happiness, and it can't buy you grand slam tennis trophies. It's pretty handy for purchasing most other things, though, and Anna, the businesswoman, has plenty of it.


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Well I guess this confirmed my deepest thoughts!!!
:(
 

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He pretty much sums her up. By now Anna has played enough "Reindeer Open" and lower tier's, so that was off, but everything else was spot on, including how promising she was in 1998. Anyone remember an exciting final that year in the Lipton vs. Venus Williams? When they started set 3 no one would have believed that 4 years later one of them would have 4 slams and 22 titles while the other stil chased a first.
 

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Rollo said:
He pretty much sums her up. By now Anna has played enough "Reindeer Open" and lower tier's, so that was off,.
How do you come up with this conclusion??

Yeah I mean she played her first tier 4 event ever last week in Auckland, so I guess she has had her chance in one of those tournaments :rolleyes:

As for her career, she has now played 91 main Draw events if you want to include 3 events she did not qualify for in 95 and 96 that would make 94 WTA events, but if you are not in the main draw you cannot win it, so she has played 91 events..

Here is the break down on the tier levels she has played (BTW these are the level they were when she played them)

Grand Slams - 16
Chase Champ - 3
Tier 1 - 33
Teir 2 - 34
Tier 3 - 4
Tier 4 - 1

Yeah, so it looks like she has played so many of these lower teir events??.. So do you really think it is still off the mark ??.. perhaps you should actually know what you are talking about, before making comment, because more times than not, when you do not know what you are on about, you are made to look to silly..

BTW this last comment is not aimed just at you, it is just in general..
 

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Anna had bad luck in tenniscareer, everytime when it seems that she is ready to make the next step she gets a bad injury and that turns her off again. what she needs is a year where she stays totally healthy and then she will do fine but that also means she should stop playing to much exhibitions,one is a while is okee but she exaggerates it.
 

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I feel sorry for Anna. She's got more than enough money to retire on but yet she still plays despite all the constant scrutiny she's under by the media. I have to wonder why and can only come up with one answer - playing tennis means more to her than others seem to make out.
 

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I do feel sorry for her too.
She's a good player, still young, and all she gets is criticism. That's not fair imo.
 

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Ajayares-

You failed to mention that the majority of those lower tier events came in the last couple of years. I'll grant you 5 lower tiers isn't a lot, but its ENOUGH as far as I'm concerned, I didn't attach a number to it. Don't worry though, I suspect Anna will be playing enough "Reindeer" events to double her 5 lower tiers by years end.

I'll gladly admit an error when I make one, which is often enough.
 

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"constant scrutiny by the media" ?! PAALEEEZZ!

She puts it all on herself. She needs to spend more time training and concentrating on her tennis game, then on her photo shoots, commercials, etc....

I like Anna, and would love to see her win something! But, it is hard to empathize for her, when she seems to concentrate on all the fluff than in her actual game...
 

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That's the point though - she can have all the photo shoots and commercials she likes now that she's so famous.

So why does she step on court to get all the constant comments about her never winning a title - because she must want on some level to prove that she can, and I respect her for that.
 

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Interesting article.

KindaNice, you don't sound KindaNice! Anna is known as one of the hardest workers in tennis. She trains very hard. Monica Seles, among others, says so. And I believe Monica. Anna's main problems have been inconsistency and injuries. She can become more consistent. She has to if she wants to become an elite player. But my main worry are the injuries. Anna has suffered a foot fracture or torn ligament every year since 1997. I don't think I've ever seen such an injury prone young player. If Anna can have a healthy 2002, I would expect her to make a push for the top ten, win her first title, and be comeback player of the year.

By the way, I think Anna has a real chance to upset a very rusty Serena Williams in the second round at Sydney. If Anna can avoid being blown away, she should have her chance to cause the upset. This is Serena's first match of 2002, and I think that increases Anna's chances for an upset. Udachi Anna!
 

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I have to say its sorta hard to feel sorry for someone who earns over $20 million a year but hopefully for her she can get that first tournament win!!!
 

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I can't say I feel sorry for Anna, except that she's injured a lot and I know that sucks.

As for this author, with friends like that, who needs enemies?

His opinion seems to be that Anna isn't a very accomplished player, but it doesn't matter since she's only using tennis to make money as a model.

To quote the author

Is this year make or break for her? In tennis terms hey, maybe. But does it really matter?
Well, it's wierd, but I'm a tennis fan. Anna's modeling career doesn't matter. Anna's bank account doesn't matter. Anna's double career doesn't mean much (until she wins a bunch w/o The World's Best Doubles Player as her partner.)

Richard Williams could probably do something with her.
 

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Oh Janie!
 

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As a tennis player, Anna K definitely has talent. I mean how can you be a top ten player without having talent? By the same token however, you can't be a top ten player while being injured all the time. At some point she has to face it that its not only because of the injuries. She's entered tournaments where she wasn't injured and still failed to win.

Also, how many other players have been injured and still win tournaments? A lot. Mary Pierce, Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, the list goes on and on with the number of players who have suffered injuries yet still manage to win in their career.

I think she is good for the game because of the attention she brings. She adds a different element I call the a** factor. :angel:
I don't think she should retire because her career is still in full swing, besides I think her endorsements would dry up if she quit tennis and I think she really is a competitor who wants to win.

Eventually she will win a tournament maybe not this one, but it will happen. I also think she has a chance against Serena, but in all likeliehood will not win that match. But you never know, she could play the match of her life, who knows? I wouldn't bet my paycheck on it though.
 

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I wonder when we'll ever get a positive article about Anna, there are just so many printed and they are all as negative as usual, I'm getting fed up with it, although I should be used to it by now. Ok fair enough she has money, and plenty of it, she obviously also has the endorsements too, but I bet if anyone got offered the type of money that she does, then they would take it just the same.
The fact is Anna is a top 10 player, ok she hasn't won a tournament yet, but it will come, she needs a bit of luck, because nobody can say she's had that in her tennis career, what with draws and also injuries, that have all happened when she's been playing extremely well.
 

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I don't feel sorry for Anna at all. How many 20 year olds are multimillionaires, play @ a sport they love, have contract endorsement deals that pay them millions of dollars, has an adoring boyfriend and even more adoring fans? :) She has a life that almost any person would envy.

Having said that, because of her fame Anna will always be a target of the media. However, it should be pointed out that Anna is not the only female tennis player who comes under such intense scrutiny. The Williams sisters also receive constant criticism for everything they do. Hingis has faced criticism for not being a legitimate no. 1 and every media conference she has held for the last two years bears this out. Davenport has faced criticism for her weight and attitude over the years. Criticism is the price a person pays for fame and unfortunately, Anna is going to face it no matter what she does.

I have to agree with cybelledarkholmexx's excellent post that Anna is definantly a legitimate top ten player who should have won something by now. Yes, Anna has had many severe injuries, but so have many other players. It doesn't stop them from winning. While I agree with most of Martin's post, I have to disagree with him that Anna's lack of tournament titles is down to bad luck. Yes, she has had injuries and faced top players, but if Anna ever hopes to break through she is going to have to beat a top player and to do that she is going to have to overcome her problems with mental fragility. In 91 tournaments and counting, someone of her talent should have won something by now. Unfortunately, it is not going to get any easier for Anna as time goes along. The game continues to get tougher, the players better trained and more ambitious and Anna's fame is going to continue to make her a target for a potential upset.

All in all, I would ignore articles such as these. As long as Anna is happy that is all that matters. After all, how many of us can have the luck she has had?

BTW, Janie, you are a riot!
 

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Criticism is the price a person pays for fame
Its always very easy to criticize everyone. Its easy to come to this conclusion. Try to close your eyes and think about 10 positive things about a player and then do the same with the negatives. The second will be easier. Its gonna be a lot easier to remember Hingis' behavior at the French finals vs Graf then the way she came to the sport winning everything. It will be a lot easier to remember of Anna for her weak and shaky serve than for her powerful flat forehand winners. Thats the way it works. And thats why, because I dont at all agree with this behavior, anybody will see open repeated criticism to a player for several different reasons. Thats lame! I wanna know who would care to talk about Anna's talent if she had won Auckland. When you have to say good things, its gonna need you to make it come out of your mind. The criticism comes fluently, free and easy. The praise will be tough, unnatural and inconsistent.
Anna is a good player, but the media will ALWAYS need to criticize someone. Anna for the attention she gets, Hingis for not being a real number one, Serena and Venus for playing less than they "should", Lindsay for not having sex-appeal, Capriati for being just a result of some "blessed moments"....... and there it goes forever. The only exception are the NEWCOMERS, that will be "perfect" in the eyes of the media, untill they find someone else for that row. Examples? Andy Roddick, anyone? He is perfect right now, but just wait some more... Even Sampras gets criticism now!!! Geesh, take a look at the guy's numbers!

Im sorry, I went rambling for long. I hope I didnt get out of the original topic, and that you understand what I meant. Peace everyone!
:wavey: :bounce:
 
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