Although also successful in singles, reaching World No. 8 in the world in 2000, Kournikova's specialty has been doubles, where she has at times been the World No. 1 player. With Martina Hingis as her partner, she won Grand Slam titles in Australia in 1999 and 2002. Kournikova's professional tennis career has been curtailed for the past several years, and possibly ended, by serious back and spinal problems. She currently resides in Miami Beach, Florida, and plays in occasional exhibitions and in doubles for the St. Louis Aces of World Team Tennis.
Sergei said: "We were young and we liked the clean, physical life, so Anna was in a good environment for sport from the beginning." The family name is spelled in Russian without an "o", so a direct translation would be "Kurnikova", and it is sometimes written that way. But it is pronounced "Kournikova", so the family chose that as their English spelling.
Anna received her first tennis racquet as a Christmas gift in 1986 at age 5. Anna says: "I played two times a week from age five. It was a children's program. And it was just for fun; my parents didn't know I was going to play professionally, they just wanted me to do something because I had lots of energy. It was only when I started playing well at seven that I went to a professional academy. I would go to school, and then my parents would take me to the club, and I'd spend the rest of the day there just having fun with the kids." In 1986, Anna became a member of the prestigious Spartak Tennis Club, coached by Larissa Preobrazhenskaya. In 1989, at the tender age of eight, Anna began appearing in junior tournaments, and by the following year, was attracting attention from tennis scouts across the world. Anna signed a management deal at age ten and went to Bradenton, Florida to train at Nick Bollettieri's celebrated tennis academy.
1989–1997: Early years and breakthrough
Following her arrival in the
, Anna exploded onto the tennis scene, making her the internationally recognized tennis star she is today. At the age of 14, she went on to win the European Championships and the Italian Open Junior tournament. Anna also beat out the competition to win the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl, becoming the youngest player ever to win the 18 and under division at that tournament. By the end of the year, Anna was crowned the ITF Junior World Champion U-18 and Junior European Champion U-18. United States
In 1994, Anna Kournikova received a wild card into ITF tournament in
qualifications, but lost to the third seed Sabine Appelmans. She debuted in professional tennis at age 14 in the Fed Cup for Russia, the youngest player ever to participate and win. In 1995, she turned pro, and won two ITF titles, in Midland, Michigan and Rockford, Illinois. The same year Kournikova reached her first WTA Tour doubles final at the Kremlin Cup. Partnering with 1995 Wimbledon girls' champion in both singles and doubles Aleksandra Olsza, she lost to Meredith McGrath and Larisa Neiland with 6–0, 6–1. Moscow
At age 15, she made her grand slam debut, when she reached the fourth round of the 1996 U.S. Open, only to be stopped by then-top ranked player, Steffi Graf, eventual champion. After this tournament, her ranking jumped from No. 144 to debut in Top 100 at No. 69. Kournikova was a member of the Russian delegation to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1996, she was named WTA Newcomer of the Year, and she was ranked No. 57 in the end of the season.
Kournikova entered the 1997 Australian Open as World No. 67.However, she lost in the first round to World No. 12 Amanda Coetzer 6–2, 6–2. She also partnered with Russian fellow Elena Likhovtseva at women's doubles event, but also lost in the first round, to eight seeds Chanda Rubin and Brenda Schultz-McCarthy 6–2, 6–3. Kournikova reached the second round at the Pacific Life Open; after beating Patricia Hy-Boulais in the first round 1–6, 6–1, 6–4, she lost to World No. 3 Anke Huber in the second round 3–6, 6–2, 6–2. In doubles, Kournikova and Likhovtseva beat the second seeds Larisa Neiland and Helena Suková in the second 7–5, 4–6, 6–3, before losing to Mary Joe Fernández and Chanda Rubin in the quartefinals 2–6, 6–4, 7–5/ At Miami Open Kournikova defeated No. 12 Amanda Coetzer 6–1, 3–6, 6–3 in the second round, and No. 29 Katarina Studenikova 1–6, 6–4, 6–0 in the third, and then lost to No. 3 Jana Novotná 6–3, 6–4 in the fourth. She and Likhovtseva were beaten 6–4, 6–3 by Dominique Monami and Barbara Rittner in the first round of
Kournikova then lost to Anke Huber 6–0, 6–1 in the first round of the Los Angeles Open, also reaching the doubles semifinals with Ai Sugiyama. At the 1997 US Open she lost in the second round to the eleventh seed Irina Spîrlea 6–1, 3–6, 6–3. Partnering with Likhovtseva, she reached the third round of women's doubles event, losing 6–4, 6–4 to the second seeds Hingis and Sánchez Vicario. Kournikova played her last WTA Tour event in 1997 at Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Filderstadt, losing to Amanda Coetzer 3–6 6–3 6–4 in the second round of singles, and 6–2, 6–4 in the first round of doubles to Lindsay Davenport and Jana Novotná with Likhovtseva. She broke into the top 50 on 19 May, and was ranked No. 32 in singles and No. 41 in doubles at the end of the season.
In 1998 Kournikova broke into the WTA's top 20 rankings for the first time, when she was ranked No. 16. She also scored impressive victories over Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. Kournikova began her 1998 season in Hannover, where she lost to the first seed Jana Novotná in the semifinals with 6–3, 6–3. She also partnered Larisa Neiland in doubles, and lost to Elena Likhovtseva and Caroline Vis in the quarterfinals 3–6, 6–2, 7–5.She then reached the second round of both singles and doubles at the Medibank International in Sidney, losing to Lindsay Davenport in the second round of singles with 6–2, 6(4)–7, 6–3. At the 1998 Australian Open Kournikova lost in the third round to World No. 1 player Martina Hingis 6–4, 4–6, 6–4. She also partnered with Larisa Neiland in women's doubles, and they lost to eventual champions Hingis and Mirjana Lučić 7–5, 6–2 in the second round.Although she lost in the second round of Paris Open to Anke Huber in singles, Kournikova reached the her second doubles WTA Tour final partnering with Larisa Neiland. They lost to Sabine Appelmans and Miriam Oremans 1–6, 6–3, 7–6(3). Kournikova and Neiland reached their second consecutive final at Linz Open, losing to Alexandra Fusai and Nathalie Tauziat 6–3, 3–6, 6–4. In singles, Kournikova reached the third round. At the Pacific Life Open, she reached the third round and lost to 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martínez 6–3, 6–4, and also reached the doubles quarterfinals with Neiland. Although she reached the doubles quarterfinals with Neiland, Kournikova made a greater success in singles at the Miami Open, reaching her first WTA Tour singles final. After beating Mirjana Lučić 6–4, 6–2 in the first round, former World No. 1 Monica Seles 7–5, 6–4 in the second, Conchita Martínez 6–3, 6–0 in the third, Lindsay Davenport 6–4, 2–6, 6–2 in the quarterfinals, and former No. 1 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario 3–6, 6–1, 6–3 in the semifinals, and then lost to Venus Williams in the final with 2–6, 6–4, 6–1.Kournikova then reached two consecutive quarterfinals, at Amelia Island and Italian Open, losing, respectively, 7–5, 6–3 to Lindsay Davenport, and 6–2, 6–4 to Martina Hingis. At the German Open, she reached the semifinals in both singles and doubles, with Larisa Neiland, losing 6–0, 6–1 to Conchita Martínez and 6–1, 6–4 to Alexandra Fusai and Nathalie Tauziat, respectively. At the 1998 French Open Kournikova reached her best result at this tournament, losing to Jana Novotná 6(2)–7, 6–3, 6–3 in the fourth round. She also reached her first grand slam doubles semifinals, losing with Neiland to Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva 6–3, 6–2. During her quarterfinals match at the Eastbourne Open versus Steffi Graf, Kournikova injured her thumb, which would eventually force her to withdraw from the 1998 Wimbledon Championships.However, she won that match 6(4)–7, 6–3, 6–4, but then withdraw from her semifinals match against Arantxa Sánchez Vicario.Kournikova returned for the Du Maurier Open, defeating Alexandra Fusai and Ruxandra Dragomir before losing to Conchita Martínez in the third round 6–0, 6–3. At the Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven she lost to Amanda Coetzer 1–6, 6–4, 7–5 in the second round. At the 1998 US Open Kournikova reached the fourth round and lost to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. She then made a series of low results at Toyota Princess Cup, Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Zürich Open and Kremlin Cup, but due to good results during the year, she qualified for the 1998 WTA Tour Championships. She lost to Monica Seles in the first round 6–4, 6–3. However, with Seles, she won her first doubles title, in
At the end of the 1999 season, Anna Kournikova was ranked No. 12 in singles and World No. 1 in doubles. Also at times during 1999, she was the most searched athlete in the world on Yahoo!, the premier search engine of the day.
On January 31, Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis won a grand slam title in women's doubles. They defeated Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva at the finals of the Australian Open.
Kournikova played the finals at Hilton Head, where she lost to Hingis. She also played the semifinals in Oklahoma City (lost to Amanda Coetzer), Amelia Island (lost to Ruxandra Dragomir) and Eastbourne (lost to Nathalie Tauziat).
She was more successful in doubles. Partnering Martina Hingis, she won the titles in Indian Wells, the Rome, Eastbourne and the WTA Championships, and played the finals of the French Open and Stanford (partnering with Elena Likhovtseva). At the end of the year, Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis were presented with the WTA Award for Doubles Team of the Year. She lost in the final of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon, partnering Jonas Björkman.
In 2000, Anna Kournikova broke into the top 10, reaching No. 8 in singles.She was also ranked #4 in doubles at the end of the season.
In singles she reached the finals of the Kremlin Cup, where she lost to Martina Hingis. She also reached eight semifinals and seven quarter finals. She was again more successful in doubles. She played the finals of the mixed doubles at the US Open, partnering with Max Mirnyi.
With Julie Halard-Decugis, she won the tournament in Gold Coast, Australia. Partnering with Barbara Schett, she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open. With Natasha Zvereva, she lost in the finals at Indian Wells. They also won at Hamburg. She lost in the finals at San Diego, partnering with Lindsay Davenport. With Martina Hingis, she won at Zürich, the Kremlin Cup, and at Philadelphia and the WTA Championships.2001–2003: Injuries and final years
This season was dominated by injury, including a left foot stress fracture which forced her withdrawal from twelve tournaments, including the French Open and Wimbledon. She underwent surgery in April. She reached her second career grand slam quarter finals, at the Australian Open. Kournikova then withdrew from several events due to continuing problems with her left foot and did not return until Leipzig.
With Barbara Schett, she won the doubles title in Sydney. She then lost in the finals in
At the end of the 2001 season, she was ranked #74 in singles and #26 in doubles.
In this season, Anna Kournikova was quite successful. She reached the semifinals of Auckland,
At the end of 2002 season, she was ranked #35 in singles and #11 in doubles.
In 2003, Anna Kournikova collected her first grand slam match victory in two years at the Australian Open. She defeated Henrieta Nagyová in the 1st round, and then lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the 2nd round. She withdrew from
Kournikova's two Grand Slam doubles titles came in 1999 and 2002, both at the Australian Open in the Women's Doubles event with partner Martina Hingis, with whom she played frequently starting in 1999. Kournikova proved a successful doubles player on the professional circuit, winning 16 tournament doubles titles, including two Australian Opens and being a finalist in mixed doubles at the U.S. Open and at Wimbledon, and reaching the No.1 ranking in doubles in the Women's Tennis Association tour rankings. Her pro career doubles record was 200–71. However, her singles career plateaued after 1999. For the most part, she managed to retain her ranking between 10 and 15 (her career high singles ranking was No.8), but her expected finals breakthrough failed to occur; she only reached four finals out of 130 singles tournaments, never in a Grand Slam event, and never won one.
Her singles record is 209–129. Her final playing years were marred by a string of injuries, especially back injuries, which caused her ranking to erode gradually.As a personality Kournikova was among the most common search strings for both articles and images in her prime. She continues to be the most searched athlete in the world.
Kournikova has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, but still plays exhibition matches for charitable causes. In late 2004, she participated in three events organized by Elton John and by fellow tennis players Serena Williams and Andy Roddick. In January 2005, she played in a doubles charity event for the Indian Ocean tsunami with John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, and Chris Evert. In November 2005, she teamed up with Martina Hingis, playing against Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur in the WTT finals for charity. Kournikova is also a member of the St. Louis Aces in the World Team Tennis (WTT), playing doubles only.
In September 2008, Kournikova showed up for the 2008 Nautica Malibu Triathlon held at Zuma Beach in Malibu, California. The Race raised funds for children's Hospital Los Angeles. She won that race for women's K-Swiss team. On September 27, 2008, Kournikova played exhibition matches in Charlotte, North Carolina; she played two mixed doubles matches.She partnered Tim Wilkison and Karel Novacek. Kournikova and Wilkinson defeated Jimmy Arias and Chanda Rubin, and then Kournikova and Novacek defeated Chanda Rubin and Tim Wilkison.
On October 12, 2008, Anna Kournikova played one exhibitional match for the annual charity event, hosted by Billie Jean King and Sir Elton John, raised more than $400,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Atlanta AIDS Partnership Fund. She played doubles with Andy Roddick (they were coached by Sir Elton John) versus Martina Navratilova and Jesse Levine (coached by Billie Jean King); Kournikova and Roddick won 5–4(3).
Kournikova competed alongside John McEnroe, Tracy Austin and Jim Courier at the Legendary Night, which was held on May 2, 2009, at the Turning Stone Event Center, Verona, NY. The legendary night of tennis consisted of a grudge match between McEnroe and Courier in singles followed by a mixed doubles match of McEnroe and Austin against Courier and Kournikova.
She is the current K-Swiss spokesperson. In a feature for ELLE magazine's July 2005 issue, Kournikova stated that if she were 100% fit, she would like to come back and compete again.
As a player, Kournikova was noted for her footspeed and aggressive baseline play, and excellent angles and dropshots; however, her relatively flat, high-risk groundstrokes tended to produce frequent errors, and her serve was sometimes unreliable in singles.
Kournikova holds her racket in her right hand but uses both hands when she plays backhand shots. She is a good player at the net. She can hit forceful groundstrokes and also drop shots.
Her playing style fits the profile for a doubles player, and is complemented by her height. She has been compared to such doubles specialists as Pam Shriver and Peter Fleming.
Kournikova's marital status has been an issue on several occasions. There were conflicting rumors about whether she was engaged to ice hockey player Pavel Bure. There were reports that she married NHL ice hockey star Sergei Fedorov in 2001. Kournikova's representatives have denied this, but Fedorov stated in 2003 that the couple had married and since divorced.
Kournikova started dating pop star Enrique Iglesias in late 2001 (she appeared in his video, "Escape"), and rumors that the couple had secretly married circulated in 2003 and again in 2005. Kournikova herself has consistently refused to directly confirm or deny the status of her personal relationships. But in May 2007, Enrique Iglesias was (mistakenly, as he would clarify later) quoted in the New York Sun that he had no intention of marrying Kournikova and settling down because they had split up. The singer would later deny these rumors of "divorce" or simply separation. In June 2008, Iglesias told the Daily Star that he had married Kournikova the previous year and that they are currently separated. Enrique has stated in interviews after that it was simply a joke, and they are still very much together.
Most of Kournikova's fame has come from the publicity surrounding her personal life, as well as numerous modeling shoots. During Kournikova's debut at the 1996 U.S. Open at the age of 15, the world noticed her beauty, and soon pictures of her appeared in numerous magazines worldwide.
In 2000, Kournikova became the new face for Berlei's shock absorber sports bras, and appeared in the highly successful "only the ball should bounce" billboard campaign. Photographs of her scantily-clad form have appeared in various men's magazines, including one in the much-publicized 2004 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, where she posed in bikinis and swimsuits, and in other popular men's publications such as FHM and Maxim. Kournikova was named one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2003 and was voted "hottest female athlete" and "hottest couple" (with Iglesias) on ESPN.com. In 2002 she also placed first in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World in
U.S. and editions. By contrast, ESPN—citing the degree of hype as compared to actual accomplishments as a singles player—ranked Kournikova in its "25 Biggest Sports Flops of the Past 25 Years". Kournikova was also ranked #1 in the ESPN Classic series "Who's number 1?" when the series featured sport's most overrated athletes. UK
Anna's popularity has transcended Texas Hold 'em lingo, where the hole cards Ace-King are sometimes referred to as an "Anna Kournikova," not only because the hand shares the AK initials with the tennis star, but also because the hand has the reputation of not playing well. It is said that a Kournikova hand "looks really good, but rarely wins."