Anna Kournikova - Biography & Career
Sergei and Alla Kournikova knew that their lives would change when they brought daughter Anna into the world on June 7, 1981. They just didn't know the entire tennis world would soon be turned upside down as well.
Both Alla and Sergei, a natural athlete who wrestled professionally and coached tennis part-time, encouraged their daughter to take part in physical activity at an early age. When she turned five, Anna received a Christmas gift that would change her life.
"I found my first racquets under the Christmas tree," Anna recalls, "but I found out later that my parents sold one of their TVs to get me those racquets."
From that moment, Anna has rarely put down her racquet. She began hitting at Moscow's Soklniki Park and soon was a member of the prestigious Spartak Tennis Club, coached by the husband of Russian pro Olga Morozova. At eight, Anna began appearing in junior clinics and quickly caught the eye of local tennis scouts. Still, she says, her childhood was "regular, average" as she spent a lot of time shopping, going to amusement parks and spending time with friends.
When the ATP Tour established a major tournament in Moscow in 1990, Anna would have the opportunity to show off her skills for the international tennis community. The nine-year-old prodigy competed in the juniors and soon signed a management deal. Within two years, Anna was headed to Bradenton, Fla., where she would train at coach Nick Bolletierri's famed tennis academy.
Bolletieri instantly recognized her potential.
"Anna is a shotmaker," he said. "She has the ability to create situations on the court that very few people can create. And at the net she's brilliant. She hits volleys from all angles. The only person I could compare her to is John McEnroe."
Anna Kournikova was on the professional track, and everyone knew it. At 14, she become the youngest player ever to win a Fed Cup match and captured the European Championships and Italian Open juniors. At the close of 1995, she was ranked No. 1 and crowned as ITF Junior World Champion. She was ready to hit the professional circuit.
Shortly after turning 15, Anna burst onto the pro scene after much media fanfare by reaching the fourth round in her first Grand Slam tournament, the '96 U.S. Open, and the semifinals of her debut at Wimbledon in '97.
In the subsequent years, she has maintained a consistent presence in the top ten singles rankings and captured a Grand Slam doubles title with Martina Hingis at the '99 Australian Open. Most recently, she tore through the competition en route to a semifinal appearance at the 2001 Australian Open in Melbourne.
The 19-year-old Russian has beaten virtually every top player in the women's field and is the only player in the past 15 years to have defeated four consecutive top ten players in a single tournament, which she did on her way to the '98 final in Key Biscayne, Fla.
Perhaps the most heavily sponsored and marketed female athlete in sport today, Anna also ranks as one of the biggest draws on the entire tennis tour, commanding Standing-Room-Only crowds for her Grand Slam appearances and often selling out exhibitions from Mahwah, N.J. to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The game's most respected veterans seem to agree that Anna is destined for superstardom.
"She's a gorgeous young woman who's very fit and works hard at her profession and is in the top ten in the world," says 18-time-Grand-Slam winner Chris Evert. "I think she's good for tennis."
Tennis legend Billie Jean King echoes those sentiments.
"Anna is the real thing," says King. "She's great off the ground and quick. Most of all, she loves the limelight and loves the show courts. She's having a good time out here and is poised for the big time."