Disclaimer note: This little piece is an example of what Malaysian editors make lowly writers do. Despite the fact that I am fairly indifferent to tennis, and have never met Kournikova in person, this article (gathered from other news sources and subjected to my own difficult impression of tennis prodigies through TV and mags) made it into the magazine following a 3-day deadline. Don't read if you can't stand wall-writing (ie when a writer stares at a blank wall and writes).
On the court Anna Kournikova doesn't flirt with the cameras or play to the crowd. She just plays her game, and plays it with a deadly accuracy - determined to volley down the pesky nuisance across the court. And while she keeps her massive blonde braid whipping in the winds and her Adidas tog straining against a muscle-bound torso, male fans fight for a touch of her discarded towels or hold up banners asking for her hand in marriage.
At 17, teenage Russian star Kournikova is the one of the most beautiful women to ever play tennis. She's incredibly different from the other hot-seeded girls. Champions like Martina Hingis, Mary Pierce and Lindsay Davenport are pretty. But they're better stories than pictures, usually. Kournikova, on the other hand, brings fresh air to the sport. She's one of the youngest players ever to have defeated a reigning world No. 1 before her 17th birthday, upsetting close friend and doubles partner Hingis in the quarterfinals of the 1998 German Open. And she's definitely the sexiest thing for photography scouts. Check out her action shots, because those match pictures always get the colour in the morning papers, don't they?
Never mind that when off the court Kournikova is said to be pouty and positively virulent. She may be lippy to the media (Kournikova recently bragged to a Wimbledon press conference about the lack of fat on her behind, and shouted down a man who inquired about her relationship with ice hockey player Sergei Fedorov), but she's still very much the cool poster girl. And good timing, for the world is obsessed with sporty, healthy babes who still wear white undies. Kournikova is a Russian dream, witness the ease in which her face and her attitude have made it into magazines; in Rolling Stone she wears a panty-showing tubeskirt and high heels, and in People magazine she's voted as one of '50 Most Beautiful People', one of only two athletes to make the list.
Having left socialist Moscow at the age of 10, Kournikova now commands a £6 million purse accumulated from rich deals with Adidas, Yonex and Rolex. Currently ranked 12th in the world, she comes from a long line of prodigies churned out by the Nick Bollettieri tennis academy, a training camp which once saw the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Pete Sampras. In an interview with AFP, her coach and "second father" Bollettieri recalls the confidence of a young and rising star who couldn't speak a word of English when she arrived: "But Anna knew who she was, and wanted everyone to know who she was too. She thought she was Queen Tut." He adds that the teenaged Kournikova is now an even stronger player who wants to hold top dog position. And soon. Although she's not won a single tournament or cracked the Top 5 yet, she's got all the attitude and the looks a sensation needs to get there. The best part of all? She's already got our attentions.
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