By Craig Filazzola, WSOE Sports Director
The former WTA player never achieved a Grand Slam victory but has made an upset off the court. Anna Kournikova has spent the last few years reaching out in charitable events, gradually changing her image from a bikini model to a motivational speaker.
Over the years, Kournikova drew a lot of attention with her various bikini photo shoots. Many people considered her as one of the hottest female athletes in recent years. In 2002, she received ESPN’s award for Hottest Female Athlete. From 2003 to 2008, she did photo shoots for Maxim and was on the magazine’s cover three times. She was also in Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Swimsuit Issue.
Kournikova made her WTA Tour debut in October of 1995. The following year was special for her. At the age of 15, Kournikova won two professional titles in the ITF Women’s Circuit: Midland-USA and Rockford-USA. Later that year she made her first Grand Slam appearance in the U.S. Open and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year. She had potential to be a very good tennis player, but it wouldn’t end up that way.
She never managed to win another title, losing four singles finals. She always came up empty in the Sony Ericssion WTA Tour. The best grand slam finish she had was in 1997 where she advanced to the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Her highest career ranking was eighth in November of 2000. The 2001 Australian Open saw her second best grand slam tournament, reaching the quarterfinals.
The only tennis success Kournikova found was in doubles with Martina Hingis. Their best year was 1999. They won the Australian Open, were ranked number one and named the WTA Doubles Team of the Year. The duo also won the 2002 Australian Open.
For Kournikova’s doubles career, she posted a 200-71 record with a .738 winning percentage and brought home 16 titles. This was much better than her 209-129 singles record, a .618 winning percentage without a title. Her WTA Tour career ended in 2003.
In 2004, Kournikova learned about the Boys and Girls Club of America, never mentioned it publicly and has been working for them since. As the years progressed, she made more contributions to its numerous events. The 28-year-old also works for the Cartoon Network. Her goal is to educate and motivate kids to participate in sports exercise.
She still does modeling but not as much as she used to. She even plays tennis with former greats on the World Team Tennis.
It has been a steady transition for Kournikova to become someone kids can learn from. Time will tell if this changes her reputation, but for now, she will continue to encourage kids to get involved in activities, exercise and healthy lifestyles.
WSOE Sports Director