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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Christmas was not a big diversion for Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova as she chases the first tournament win of her career. <br />"She is a professional, Christmas is no big deal," her father Sergei said as he watched his daughter going through her paces under the watchful eye of her mother and coach Alla at the Stanley Street courts in Auckland on Wednesday.

Kournikova arrived on Monday morning, a week ahead of the ASB Bank Classic, and had her first session on court within hours of arriving. She was back twice Tuesday and again Wednesday, and will repeat that routine on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Kournikova, who has never won a WTA tournament title, has supplemented her court work with running in Auckland's Domain.

After a brisk warm-up Wednesday, in which she was on one side of the net and New Zealand top-10 players Jacob Olsen and Mark Thompson on the other, she played two full sets with the pair alternating every two points.

"She hits the ball harder and flatter than I had imagined," said Olsen, the New Zealand 18s champion. "I thought it was going to be easier than it was out there."

Kournikova opted for Auckland ahead of Australia's Gold Coast - the only other tournament on the WTA Tour next week - because she has played the Australian tournament in the past.

The tournament's other big drawcard, Spain's Conchita Martinez, is due in Auckland on Friday.
 

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When Anna finally does win her first WTA title, I think she will loosen up, play her best tennis, and enjoy herself. The pressure on Anna is tremendous. I just hope she can stay healthy in 2002. Because injuries have slowed her progress.
 
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