During the time tennis was still considered a male dominated sport, a young girl with incredible talent started winning this sport’s courts and people’s hearts.
Anna Kournikova, born in Moscow on June 7, 1981, fell in love with tennis when she was still just a little girl. It was around the age of five when she first held a tennis racket in her hand and felt that was it.
As years went by, the entire world learned of this blonde prodigy who won every single junior tournament there was to be won. Not only that, but Anna became the prime interest of a number of sport companies who wanted a piece of her and were eager to be part of her successful story.
In the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens: Personal Stories and Advice from Today’s Most Inspiring Youth, Anna wrote: “I played well and I enjoyed the sport so my parents challenged me some more. Two years later, I began taking lessons at a professional tennis club where a lot of the current Russian tennis players were trained.
“Sure enough, tennis quickly became my life, my outlet, my circle of friends and my community. My coach was basically my second mother,” she continued.
“Everything in my life was about tennis and training. Somehow I knew, even though I was just a kid, that I didn’t really have many other options. At the time, life in Russia was tough – there weren’t that many opportunities there like there are in the Untied States.”
The word of Anna’s talent spread all the way to the most prominent tennis coaches on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. IMG Tennis, a global tennis management company, were among the first who reached Anna’s family and offered them to move to their Lord Tennis Academy. At the time, Anna was 10, and by the age of 13, IMG helped her become a millionaire.
Anna moved to Florida and started playing at the legendary Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy and at the age of just 14, she became a pro.
“For a lot of sports, most people don’t start playing professionally at fourteen, but tennis is one of those sports where rigorous training starts at a very young age,” she explained.
“In fact, as I remember it, it wasn’t even a question of turning pro or not. I was groomed for so many years in preparation for this opportunity that I never even questioned it, I was both eager and hungry to prove myself on the WTA tour…. I had won everything I could win on the Junior Circuit so I was really excited to move on to the next level.”
All of a sudden, Anna Kournikova became a global phenomenon adored by millions. The list of sponsors willing to work with her was getting longer and money wouldn’t stop pouring in. She lived her dream.
At the age of 18, Anna was considered a “sex symbol” who was on the covers of many prestigious magazines.
Her career blossomed. She won the Wimbledon double title together with Martina Hingis in 1999 and 2002, and things couldn’t have been better from a commercial standpoint. At the peak of her fame, fans looking for images of Anna Kournikova made her name one of the most common search strings on Google Search.
But then, in 2003, at the age of just 22, Anna was forced to retire from tennis due to injuries.
“You know, the fame and everything, I guess most of it was created by you guys, by the media a lot of times, most of the time the yellow press,” she said on the evening she announced her retirement, as per AU Sports.
“[I] never tried to pay attention. I mean, obviously, it was a little hard times dealing with it being 16, 17 years old, reading some kind of c**p about yourself, you know. Most of it was made up.”
Despite ending her tennis career, Anna Kournikova remained under the limelight. She turned to modeling and appeared in a number of commercials. She also appeared in the music video Escape, by Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias, and that’s when the two started dating.