On the Baseline Tennis News
February 25, 2009
Anna Kournikova? Is she back? Fans were buzzing when she arrived at Boston University’s Agganis Arena on Valentine’s weekend, with her bag of racquets in tow.
She came to play for Champions Cup Boston, the first of eight tournaments on the Outback Champions tour.
In recent years, Anna’s on-court appearances have been mostly limited to charity events, until now. Anna, along with Tracy Austin, took to the courts on Saturday, February 14 with tennis legends Mikael Pernfors and Mats Wilander, for two competitive, yet entertaining mixed doubles matches. Anna was also joined by other big-name players: Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, and Jimmy Arias. The crowd loved it, and Anna was right back in her element.
I remember Anna Kournikova as a tall blonde with a long braided ponytail, bursting onto the tennis scene in 1995, at a time when Russian tennis stars were relatively unheard of.
It didn’t take long for the glamour-girl to crack the top 20, landing at No. 16 in 1998. It’s been five years since she played her final WTA tour match. At 22, her career was cut short due to chronic injuries.
At the time, Anna was clearly at the peak of her tennis career. She was ranked as high as No. 8 in singles in 2000 and ranked No. 1 in doubles in 1999. She won 16 doubles titles, including two Australian Open doubles titles with Martina Hingis in 1999 and 2002. She claimed victories over Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, and Steffi Graf.
You can’t do that by just showing up and looking good. Despite her early success, Anna was not able to overcome her injuries, or silence her critics for never winning a singles title.
Now at 27, she can’t quite seem to hang up her racquet. Does she miss playing on the WTA tour? “Absolutely,” she says. “Once you experience something like that…the adrenaline rush in playing in front of 20,000 people in a night match…it’s very difficult to duplicate that feeling, or not miss it. It’s really incredible. But you find other passions in life, and other things that you enjoy.”
Anna has found her passion in supporting children’s causes. She has been an ambassador for the Boys & Girls Club of America for the past five years. “I travel around the country with the Boys and Girls Club. We go to schools, and I speak there, and raise money for them.” She also supports YouthAIDS, a global initiative for the prevention of AIDS in children.
Most recently, she traveled to Haiti on behalf of the Five & Alive program, which provides education, products, and services to children under the age of five who are dealing with AIDS, malnutrition, and malaria. During her recent press conference in Boston, she said “I am looking forward to that trip and to see how that part of the world lives, and try to learn something and hopefully bring awareness to the cause.”
Anna has also been keeping busy with other projects–designing clothes for K-Swiss, modeling, and playing World Team Tennis during the summer. She’s now in her 7th year playing on the WTT circuit, and her 2nd year playing with the St. Louis Aces.
Anna is still in great shape, and is looking forward to being a regular on the 2009 Outback Champions Tour. “It’s just a great tour and a great idea. Just like World Team Tennis, it brings tennis to areas where there are no professional tournaments. I think we have eight tournaments scheduled for this year, and I will be doing most of them. It’s also a great opportunity to be back on the court and to be in front of fans,” says Anna.
Kournikova On the Current State of Women’s Tennis
“It’s really an interesting time. There are so many good players. It’s also different because before, it was more like the top 10, and nobody could get in there. It was all about famous names: Graf, Seles, Davenport, Sanchez, Martinez, Williams, and Hingis. Now, a lot of tennis fans don’t even know the girls’ names. There are just so many great players, but not super stars who have been there for a long time. Thankfully there are still the Williams girls. I think they help tennis so much.”
Will Anna make a comeback? She hasn’t closed the door to the possibility. “Once in a while it crosses my mind,” she says, “but I don’t want to announce anything. Until I know for sure, I wouldn’t say anything.”
We’ll leave it as a definite maybe.