A tennis player whose backside is much better than her backhand.

Anna Kournikova on the cover of Sports Illustrated

At Walgreens today, I was looking for a magazine to read, and I saw Anna Kournikova on the cover of Sports Illustrated. My immediate reaction: Why?

Let's analyze the "outstanding career" of Anna Kournikova. Kournikova has been on the tour for over five years now, and she has yet to win a WTA singles title. No, not a Grand Slam title. A singles title. She's been a finalist twice. So in the span of five years, she's been in two finals, and hasn't won either of them. And yet she's on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I guess we don't have to worry about the SI cover curse.

Putting Kournikova on the cover of Sports Illustrated is like putting the Montreal Expos on the cover of SI. Well, not exactly. Because adolescent teenagers aren't likely to keep a magazine featuring the Montreal Expos tucked underneath their mattresses. And I bet a magazine featuring the Montreal Expos isn't as likely to have sticky pages. And the cover doesn't feature Kournikova sliding across a clay court hitting a backhand, or in the middle of an overhead smash. No, this cover is just a head shot of Kournikova, lying prone and clutching a pillow. And it looks... airbrushed. Has SI lost that much readership to ESPN: The Magazine that they have to resort to this?

I might be able to understand this if both the NHL and NBA weren't in the midst of their playoffs, Barry Bonds wasn't on pace to break the home run record, and the Red Sox and Yankees weren't tied for first place. At least then they could argue that there was nothing else worthy of the cover. But SI has apparently decided that since their best selling issue every year is the Swimsuit Issue, they might as well abandon sports and go with what every marketing person knows all too well: Sex sells. I'm sure the article contains all the sordid details of her relationships with NHL stars Pavel Bure and Sergei Federov. And who knows... maybe they'll actually talk about tennis somewhere in there.

Transition

I wrote the above a few years ago in another node. Recently, the wise Lord Brawl suggested that perhaps it should be moved here. I agreed. However, now it is somewhat one-sided and topical, so I will do my best to supercede everything other writeup in this node.

Tennis

What a lot of people forget when they see Anna in the tabloids is that when she first started playing tennis, she was actually hyped for playing tennis. Her skill at the net got her compared to John McEnroe. In her first appearance in a major (the U.S. Open) she reached the fourth round before losing to Steffi Graf (then the #1 player in the world). By age 15 she was ranked 69 in the world, and became the youngest player ever to win a Federation Cup match, and only the second woman ever to reach the semifinals of her first Wimbledon. By 1998 she was regularly beating top 10 opponents, including a stretch where she defeated every player that had been #1 since 1987 in a span of three months. 1998 was also the first time she lost to anyone ranked lower than her (the streak had been an Open Era record). She finished the 2000 season ranked 8th in the world in singles, and earlier in the year she had been ranked #1 in doubles, having won the 1999 Australian Open titles with Martina Hingis.

A lot of jokes fly around about whether or not Anna will play in some upcoming tournament, and whether or not she'll make it out of the first round. The fact is, she's had a laundry list of injuries, from stress fractures to a torn ankle ligament to a dislocated thumb. She spent a lot of 2002 and almost all of 2003 rehabing from a bad back. There's speculation that her injuries are a result of poor conditioning, and that maybe Anna cares more about her modelling and endorsement deals, and her jet-set lifestyle more than she does about tennis. I'm not sure whether this is true or not, but I'm also not sure it's relevant. She's made just over three million dollars playing tennis, and she's easily made ten times that with her other contracts. I think I'd focus on the latter of those, too, and if I were good enough to play professional tennis on the side, I'd pick up a racquet now and then. Most sports fans are not as forgiving.

Short Bio

Born in Moscow on June 7, 1981, Anna began playing tennis at age 5 and moved to Bradenton, Florida to attend the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1992. She moved to Miami in 1997 where she currently resides. She was previously married to Sergei Federov and has also been linked to several other celebrities, including Pavel Bure and Enrique Inglesias.

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