“Who is this Russian girl with a braid?” How 14-year-old Anna Kournikova began to conquer Moscow
Now, when tennis players make their tour debut at the age of 17-18, they are considered young, promising, promising. And two or three decades ago, at this age, such athletes as Martina Hingis and Monica Seles had several “Helmets” each. Jennifer Capriati started her professional career at the age of 13 and 11 months. Anna Kournikova also entered the adult court very early – at the age of 14. It happened in Moscow. But not at the VTB Kremlin Cup tournament. Where is it? Now we will tell you how young Anna began to conquer the Russian capital and the entire tennis world.
A lot for Anna Kournikova began at the Kremlin Cup. But not even for women, but for men. As you know, the first draw of the Moscow tournament for men under the loud name of the Kremlin Cup took place in the cold slushy autumn of 1990, when the USSR was living out its last, not even years, but months. Not only real men’s tennis stars came to Moscow, but also representatives of the world tennis industry. It was there that 9-year-old Anya was noticed by Poppy Vinti, the owner of the Italian outfit company “Elesse”, while the nimble little girl was training on the courts of the “Olympic”. Anya was offered a contract that had never been seen before for a Soviet girl – Elesse undertook to pay the Kournikov family an average of $ 15,000 each year for the development of a tennis player for 5 years, plus free full equipment with expenses for some trips.
At the invitation of the same Italian businessman, Anna soon went to Italy for the prestigious children’s Lemon Ball tournament. There she made a splash! “Who is this Russian girl with a braid?” – coaches, players, agents, managers asked each other. Kournikova won all her matches in two sets, although her rivals were much older. In the same place, in Rome, Anya was noticed by the owner of the famous American Academy, Nick Bollettieri . He invited the young tennis player to go to see him in Florida. In 1992, Kournikova was given a place at this prestigious academy.
The academy and Nick Bollettieri himself, of course, did a lot for Anna, although the first and favorite coach of tennis player Larisa Dmitrievna Preobrazhenskaya believed that very monotonous power tennis was practiced at the academy: “It is important for me that tactics and game patterns are present. And Anya began to beat them on all the fences according to the principle – the stronger the better. And she also started screaming like Monica Seles, who was her idol. “
But in any case, Kournikova churned out victories in junior tournaments one after another. In 1994, for example, she won the prestigious Les Petits As children’s tournament in France and the Eddie Herr competition in the United States. So it is not surprising that in 1995, at the age of 14, Kournikova got the opportunity to compete in the qualifications of the Moscow Ladies Open. This Moscow women’s tournament at that time had nothing to do with the men’s Kremlin Cup and was held separately from it at other times. Kournikova’s debut on the professional tour was very successful. She qualified and passed the first round of the main draw. Only in the second round, Anya was able to stop the 3rd racket of the tournament, Sabina Appelmans from Belgium.
In 1996, this tournament became part of the Kremlin Cup, and Anna in this first drawing was not just a participant, but one of the main stars. Two months earlier, at the US Open, 15-year-old Kournikova created a sensation – she made her way through the qualification to the main draw, reached the 4th circle and lost only to the first racket of the world, Steffi Graf . Incredibly, Anna managed to take revenge at the Kremlin Cup. Graf was supposed to compete in the main draw, but due to injury, she refused to participate in the competition. Nevertheless, she flew to Moscow at the end of the tournament and spent two days in the Russian capital. First, Steffi presented commemorative prizes to the winner, Conchite Martinez, and the next day before the start of the men’s tournament she took part in a big tennis festival on the center court. Together with Anna Kournikovashe gave a master class to young tennis players, and then held an exhibition match from one set with the 15-year-old Russian woman herself. To the delight of the Moscow audience gathered in the stands, Anna managed to defeat the best tennis player in the world – 7: 6 (7: 3). It is important to note that once again Kournikova managed to beat Graf at the 1998 Eastbourne tournament.
Steffi Graf and Anna Kournikova
In 1998, Kournikova created another sensation at the Kremlin Cup, but with a minus sign. In a match with Italian Sylvia Farina-Elia, the Russian tennis player made 20 double mistakes, setting a kind of anti-record. As it turned out, this was not the limit for Anna. After just three months at the 1999 Australian Open, Kournikova somehow incredibly managed to win the match, making 31 double faults!
But in 2000, Anna managed to please the Russian public, reaching the final in singles at the Kremlin Cup, beating the Russians Vera Zvonareva, Tatyana Panova and the Frenchwoman Natalie Tozya . In the decisive match, Kournikova lost to first seed Martina Hingis from Switzerland, but nevertheless went down in history as the first representative of Russia in the Kremlin Cup final. But a year later, Anna still won the main prize of the competition. True, not alone, but paired with the same Martina Hingis .
Martina Khingis, Yuri Luzhkov and Anna Kournikova
I must say that Martina Hingis came to Moscow with pleasure. According to the Swiss woman, Anna, with whom Martina won many doubles tournaments, helped her fall in love with Russia and its capital: “Once I played in Moscow with the incomparable beauty Anna Kournikova. She taught me some Russian words. No, not abusive, do not think! I know the most basic phrases so as not to get lost in the city. Kournikova also instilled in me a love for Russia. She talked a lot about the history of the country, took her to museums and theaters. ” Anna even introduced Martina to her first coach, Larisa Preobrazhenskaya. And, as Martina and Anna told reporters at a press conference, they even had to break a strict diet because of Larisa Dmitrievna – she bought them a favorite delicacy of Soviet children in the buffet – a potato cake. And Martina ate as many as three.
The last Moscow tournament for Kournikova was the Kremlin Cup – 2002. It all started merrily – together with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Kafelnikov, Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Anna took part in an exhibition match on Red Square. Near the Mausoleum, a kind of tennis court was laid right on the cobblestone pavement. This exhibition match lasted only 20 minutes in cold and windy conditions. Kournikova took to the court in fashionable shoes with a pointed toe and heels. But, of course, the result of the match did not matter to anyone.
Anna Kournikova on Red Square
And then, during the very first doubles match, Kournikova injured her leg and refused to continue the fight. The reason is a sprain on the left ankle. As a result, Anna withdrew from the singles tournament and did not come to the Kremlin Cup as a participant again.
After the injury received at the Kremlin Cup, Kournikova’s career began to come to an end. In 2003, she played only a few tournaments.