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anna kournikova

Anna Kournikova (née Anya Kournikova) was born on June 7, 1981, in Moscow, Russia, to Sergei and Alla. Her father, a lecturer at the sports university in Moscow and a part-time tennis coach, and mother, did not encourage Anna to play tennis for the fame, but rather for the health benefits of the sport.

Anna Kournikova's talent was first discovered when she played at a weekly children's sports program at the age of 5, thanks to the racket she received from her parents for Christmas. She started to play and practice more often, in places such as Moscow's Soklniki Park and the prestigious Spartak Tennis Club, despite the fact that her family was far from wealthy.

While still in Moscow, Anna's first tennis coach was Larissa Preobraschenskaja, from 1985 to 1989. The budding tennis player trained and practiced while studying at school. In 1992, 11-year-old Anna moved to Florida with her mother to attend Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Bradenton. The tennis facilities made it easier for Anna, who had to commute from the gym to the tennis court to school while in Moscow.

By the time she was 14, she had become the youngest player to win a Fed Cup match, and made sure people took notice of her when she won the European Championships and Italian Open juniors. When she turned pro in 1996, she stepped onto the scene as an ITF Junior World Champion.

Expectations were high and Kournikova delivered: she reached the fourth round in her first Grand Slam tournament, the 1996 U.S. Open and the semifinals in her first Wimbledon appearance in 1997.

1998 was a big year for the blonde beauty: Anna became the first Russian female to be seeded at the U.S. Open since 1976, reached the Top 10 of the singles rankings, and upset Martina Hingis in the quarterfinals at the 1998 German Open, becoming the ninth-youngest player to defeat a No. 1 tennis player before turning 17 (since 1968).

The following year, Kournikova won her first Grand Slam doubles title at the 1999 Australian Open, with partner Hingis. She managed to reach the fourth round in singles at all three Grand Slams, two Grand Slam doubles finals and one Grand Slam mixed doubles final.

In 2000, Kournikova and Hingis continued to do damage on the courts, and ended the season with a career ranking of No. 8. She even defeated Lindsay Davenport and Nathalie Tauziat on the way to the fifth semifinal of that year, in San Diego. She later moved down the rankings to No. 19 and beat Sandrine Testud before losing to Venus Williams. At the 2000 German Open in May, Anna experienced the first in what would become a string of injuries.

She continued to make appearances in high-profile tournaments, drawing in big crowds but unfortunately, not as many titles or wins. After 2003's Australian Open, she suffered a back injury that led to her withdrawal from that year's Wimbledon games. But even though Kournikova hasn't been on the tennis scene, she's still everywhere else.

In 2001, she had a bit part in the Jim Carrey comedy, Me, Myself & Irene, as a motel manager, and the following year, she starred opposite Enrique Iglesias in the pop singer's video for "Escape." FHM's "Sexiest Woman in the World" also made headlines thanks to her relationships with NHL players Pavel Bure and Sergei Fedorov (who she was allegedly married to), and her on-again, off-again romance with Iglesias (apparently, the two are engaged, as Anna's been sporting a fat diamond on her engagement finger since March 2004). The two are always spotted in South Beach, and even made the tabloids when they were apparently heard causing a ruckus in a hotel room.

Anna has also proven her earning power by being one of the richest women in sports, thanks to lucrative contracts with companies like Adidas, Yonex, Berlei (the famous sports bra), Omega (also the choice of Cindy Crawford and Pierce Brosnan), and Lycos (who once named Anna the most popular athlete on the Internet, moving Michael Jordan to the No. 2 spot).

By 2002, she was reportedly making $10 million a year, and she continues to be the most photographed woman in sports -- even though her ranking and stats are nothing to write Russia about.

Also stretching her modeling muscle, Kournikova graced the cover of Sports Illustrated's June 2000 edition, and was featured in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition in 2004.

Although she hasn't been a strong force on the courts, Anna still claims that her No. 1 dedication in life remains the sport that made her famous: tennis. Or was it Anna that made tennis famous?


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