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Anna Kournikova bio
Anna Kournikova (born 7 June 1981) is a Russian former professional tennis player. Her appearance and celebrity status made her one of the best known tennis stars worldwide. At the peak of her fame, fans looking for images of Kournikova made her name one of the most common search strings on Google Search.
Despite never winning a singles title, she reached No. 8 in the world in 2000. She achieved greater success playing doubles, where she was at times the World No. 1 player. With Martina Hingis as her partner, she won Grand Slam titles in Australia in 1999 and 2002. They referred to themselves as the “Spice Girls of Tennis”.
Kournikova’s professional tennis career ended prematurely at the age of 21 due to serious back and spinal problems, including a herniated disk. She lives in Miami Beach, Florida, and plays in occasional exhibitions and in doubles for the St. Louis Aces of World Team Tennis. She was a new trainer for season 12 of the television show The Biggest Loser, replacing Jillian Michaels, but did not return for season 13. In addition to her tennis and television work, Kournikova serves as a Global Ambassador for Population Services International‘s “Five & Alive” program, which addresses health crises facing children under the age of five and their families.
1989–1997: Early years and breakthrough
Following her arrival in the United States, Kournikova became prominent on the tennis scene. At 14, she won the European Championships and the Italian Open Junior tournament. She became the youngest player to win the 18-and-under division of the Junior Orange Bowl tennis tournament. By the end of the year, Kournikova was crowned the ITF Junior World Champion U-18 and Junior European Champion U-18.
In 1994, Kournikova received a wild card into ITF tournament in Moscow qualifications, but lost to third seeded Sabine Appelmans. She debuted in professional tennis at 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, they lost to Meredith McGrath and Larisa Neiland.
In 1996, she started playing under a new coach, Ed Nagel. Her six-year tenure with Ed would produce terrific results. At 15, she made her grand slam debut, when she reached the fourth round of the 1996 US Open, only to be stopped by then-top ranked player Steffi Graf, the eventual champion. After this tournament, Kournikova’s ranking jumped from No. 144 to debut in the 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, where she lost in the first round to World No. 12 Amanda Coetzer. At the Italian Open, Kournikova lost to Amanda Coetzer in the second round. However, she reached the semifinals in the doubles partnering with Elena Likhovtseva, before losing to the sixth seeds Mary Joe Fernández and Patricia Tarabini.
At the 1997 French Open, Kournikova made it to the third round before losing to World No. 1 Martina Hingis. She also reached the third round in doubles with Likhovtseva. At the 1997 Wimbledon Championships, Kournikova became only the second woman in the open era to reach the semifinals in her Wimbledon debut, the first being Chris Evert in 1972; she still holds the record for being the youngest Wimbledon semifinalist in history (15 years of age). There she lost to eventual champion Martina Hingis.
At the 1997 US Open, she lost in the second round to the eleventh seed Irina Spîrlea. Partnering with Likhovtseva, she reached the third round of the women’s doubles event. Kournikova played her last WTA Tour event of 1997 at Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Filderstadt, losing to Amanda Coetzer in the second round of singles, and in the first round of doubles to Lindsay Davenport and Jana Novotná partnering 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.
1998–2000: Success and stardom
In 1998, Kournikova broke into the WTA’s top 20 rankings for the first time, when she was ranked No. 16. At the 1998 Australian Open, Kournikova lost in the third round to World No. 1 player Martina Hingis. She also partnered with Larisa Neiland in women’s doubles, and they lost to eventual champions Hingis and Mirjana Lučić in the second round. Although she lost in the second round of the Paris Open to Anke Huber in singles, Kournikova reached her second doubles WTA Tour final, partnering with Larisa Neiland. They lost to Sabine Appelmans and Miriam Oremans. Kournikova and Neiland reached their second consecutive final at the Linz Open, losing to Alexandra Fusai and Nathalie Tauziat. At the Miami Open, Kournikova reached her first WTA Tour singles final, before losing to Venus Williams in the final.
Kournikova then reached two consecutive quarterfinals, at Amelia Island and the Italian Open, losing respectively to Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis. At the German Open, she reached the semifinals in both singles and doubles, partnering with Larisa Neiland. At the 1998 French Open Kournikova had her best result at this tournament, making it to the fourth round before losing to Jana Novotná. She also reached her first Grand Slam doubles semifinals, losing with Neiland to Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva. During her quarterfinals match at the grass-court 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, but then withdraw from her semifinals match against Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Kournikova returned for the Du Maurier Open and made it to the third round, before losing to Conchita Martínez. At the 1998 US Open Kournikova reached the fourth round before losing to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Her strong year qualified her for the year-end 1998 WTA Tour Championships, but she lost to Monica Seles in the first round. However, with Seles, she won her first WTA doubles title, in Tokyo, beating Mary Joe Fernández and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the final. At the end of the season, she was ranked No. 10 in doubles.At the start of the 1999 season, Kournikova advanced to the fourth round in singles before losing to Mary Pierce. However, Kournikova won her first doubles Grand Slam title, partnering Martina Hingis. The two defeated Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva in the final. At the Tier I Family Circle Cup, Kournikova reached her second WTA Tour final, but lost to Martina Hingis. She then defeated Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport and Patty Schnyder on her route to the Bausch & Lomb Championships semifinals, losing to Ruxandra Dragomir. At The French Open, Kournikova reached the fourth round before losing to eventual champion Steffi Graf. Once the grass-court season commenced in England, Kournikova lost to Nathalie Tauziat in the semifinals in Eastbourne. At Wimbledon, Kournikova lost to Venus Williams in the fourth round. She also reached the final in mixed doubles, partnering with Jonas Björkman, but they lost to Leander Paes and Lisa Raymond. Kournikova again qualified for year-end WTA Tour Championships, but lost to Mary Pierce in the first round, and ended the season as World No. 12.
While Kournikova had a successful singles season, she was even more successful in doubles. After their victory at the Australian Open, she and Martina Hingis won tournaments in Indian Wells, Rome, Eastbourne and the WTA Tour Championshiops, and reached the final of The French Open where they lost to Serena and Venus Williams. Partnering with Elena Likhovtseva, Kournikova also reached the final in Stanford. On 22 November 1999 she reached the World No. 1 ranking in doubles, and ended the season at this ranking. Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis were presented with the WTA Award for Doubles Team of the Year.Kournikova opened her 2000 season winning the Gold Coast Open doubles tournament partnering with Julie Halard. She then reached the singles semifinals at the Medibank International Sydney, losing to Lindsay Davenport. At the 2000 Australian Open, she reached the fourth round in singles and the semifinals in doubles. That season, Kournikova reached eight semifinals (Sydney, Scottsdale, Stanford, San Diego, Luxembourg, Leipzig and 2000 WTA Tour Championships), seven quarterfinals (Gold Coast, Tokyo, Amelia Island, Hamburg, Eastbourne, Zürich and Philadelphia) and one final. On 20 November 2000 she broke into top 10 for the first time, reaching No. 8. She was also ranked No. 4 in doubles at the end of the season. Kournikova was once again, more successful in doubles. She reached the final of the 2000 US Open in mixed doubles, partnering with Max Mirnyi, but they lost to Jared Palmer and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. She also won six doubles titles – Gold Coast (with Julie Halard), Hamburg (with Natasha Zvereva), Filderstadt, Zürich, Philadelphia and the 2000 WTA Tour Championships (with Martina Hingis).
2001–2003: Injuries and final years
Her 2001 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 quarterfinals, 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 Tokyo, partnering with Iroda Tulyaganova, and at San Diego, partnering with Martina Hingis. Hingis and Kournikova also won the Kremlin Cup. At the end of the 2001 season, she was ranked No. 74 in singles and No. 26 in doubles.
Kournikova was quite successful in 2002. She reached the semifinals of Auckland, Tokyo, Acapulco and San Diego, and the final of the China Open, losing to Anna Smashnova. This was Kournikova’s last singles final. With Martina Hingis, she lost in the final at Sydney, but they won their second grand slam title together, the Australian Open. They also lost in the quarterfinals of the US Open. With Chanda Rubin, Kournikova played the semifinals of Wimbledon, but they lost to Serena and Venus Williams. Partnering Janet Lee, she won the Shanghai title. At the end of 2002 season, she was ranked No. 35 in singles and No. 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 Tokyo due to a sprained back suffered at the Australian Open and did not return to Tour until Miami. On 9 April, in what would be the final WTA match of her career, Kournikova retired in the 1st round of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, due to a left adductor strain. Her singles world ranking was 67. She reached the semifinals at the ITF tournament in Sea Island, before withdrawing from a match versus Maria Sharapova due to the adductor injury. She lost in the 1st round of the ITF tournament in Charlottesville. She did not compete for the rest of the season due to a continuing back injury. At the end of the 2003 season and her professional career, she was ranked No. 305 in singles and No. 176 in doubles.
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. 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 US 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.
2004–present: Exhibitions and World Team Tennis
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 27 September 2008, Kournikova played exhibition mixed doubles matches in Charlotte, North Carolina, partnering with Tim Wilkison and Karel Nováček. Kournikova and Wilkison defeated Jimmy Arias and Chanda Rubin, and then Kournikova and Novacek defeated Rubin and Wilkison.
On 12 October 2008, Anna Kournikova played one exhibition match for the annual charity event, hosted by Billie Jean King and Elton John, and 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 David Chang) versus Martina Navratilova and Jesse Levine (coached by Billie Jean King); Kournikova and Roddick won.
Kournikova competed alongside John McEnroe, Tracy Austin and Jim Courier at the “Legendary Night”, which was held on 2 May 2009, at the Turning Stone Event Center in Verona, New York. The exhibition included a mixed doubles match of McEnroe and Austin against Courier and Kournikova.
In 2008, she was named a spokesperson for K-Swiss. In 2005, Kournikova stated that if she were 100% fit, she would like to come back and compete again.
In June 2010, Kournikova reunited with her doubles partner Martina Hingis to participate in competitive tennis for the first time in seven years in the Invitational Ladies Doubles event at Wimbledon. On 29 June 2010 they defeated the British pair Samantha Smith and Anne Hobbs.
Most of Kournikova’s fame has come from the publicity surrounding her looks and her personal life. During her debut at the 1996 US Open at the age of 15, the western 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 “only the ball should bounce” billboard campaign. Following that, she was cast by the Farrelly brothers for a minor role in the 2000 film Me, Myself & Irene starring Jim Carrey and Renée Zellweger. Photographs of her have appeared on covers of various publications, including men’s magazines, such as one in the much-publicized 2004 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, where she posed in bikinis and swimsuits, as well as in FHM and Maxim. Kournikova was named one of People‘s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1998 and was voted “hottest female athlete” on ESPN.com. In 2002 she also placed first in FHM‘s 100 Sexiest Women in the World in US and UK editions. By contrast, ESPN—citing the degree of hype as compared to actual accomplishments as a singles player—ranked Kournikova 18th in its “25 Biggest Sports Flops of the Past 25 Years”. Kournikova was also ranked No. 1 in the ESPN Classic series “Who’s number 1?” when the series featured sport’s most overrated athletes.
She continued to be the most searched athlete on the Internet through 2008 even though she had retired from the professional tennis circuit years earlier. After slipping from first to sixth among athletes in 2009, she moved back up to third place among athletes in terms of search popularity in 2010.
In October 2010, Kournikova headed to NBC’s The Biggest Loser where she led the contestants in a tennis-workout challenge. In May 2011, it was announced that Kournikova would join The Biggest Loser as a regular celebrity trainer in season 12. She did not return for season 13.
In November 2010, she became an American citizen. In 2011, Men’s Health named her one of the “100 Hottest Women of All-Time”, ranking her at No. 29.
Influences on popular culture
A variation of a White Russian made with skim milk is known as an Anna Kournikova. In the lingo of the poker variation Texas Hold ’em, the hole cards Ace–King (unsuited) are sometimes referred to as an “Anna Kournikova”, a term introduced by the poker commentator Vince van Patten during a WPT tournament because it “looks great but never wins”. A video game featuring Kournikova’s licensed appearance, titled Anna Kournikova’s Smash Court Tennis, was developed by Namco and released for the PlayStation in Japan and Europe in November 1998. A computer virus named the Anna Kournikova virus arose on 12 February 2001.