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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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By Richard Pagliaro - While her ranking plummets to new depths, Anna Kournikova's popularity remains on the rise. The 74th-ranked Russian has committed to playing the Auckland Classic — the first tournament on the 2002 WTA Tour.

The event will be held in Auckland, New Zealand, December 31-January 5th as a tune-up tournament to the Australian Open. Kournikova's commitment is a sign she is eager to improve her results and regain her ranking. The 20-year-old Kournikova finished last year ranked a career-high No. 8, but fractured her left foot in February and missed most of the season. She suffered five straight first-round setbacks at the start of her comeback before finally winning a match.

"This is a huge day for the tournament and the sporting public of New Zealand," tournament director Richard Palmer said. "Anna has been ranked as high as number eight in the world and has appeared in three women's tour singles finals and 16 semifinals, including Wimbledon."

Though she is still seeking the first singles title, Kournikova has won 13 career doubles titles including the 1999 Australian Open and Chase Championships doubles crowns with Martina Hingis. The pair plan to play together during 2002.
 
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