CARLSBAD, Calif. — Who isn't a tennis coach these days?
Mothers are coaches. So are fathers. Self-styled gurus and husbands have popped up as coaches. And, brace yourself, even journalists have been spotted on the tour with credentials identifying them as a "coach."
Which brings us to Anna Kournikova of Russia. She politely declined to name the identity of her coach after losing to seventh-seeded Amanda Coetzer of South Africa in the second round of the TIG Tennis Classic on Wednesday at the La Costa Resort and Spa.
"I don't want to name names, but I have a whole team who helps me," she said.
Kournikova's reluctance was understandable because the most visible presence on the court, in training, lately has been her constant and longtime companion, Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings. At times, even her mother, Alla, has been listed as the "coach."
Then again, it's difficult to fire your mother or boyfriend. In any other sport, Alla or Sergei might be on thin ice these days. Coetzer won the curious roller-coaster match, 6-0, 1-6, 6-1, continuing Kournikova's recent run of mediocrity.
The 18-year-old has not advanced past the quarterfinals in her last three events, since reaching the semifinals of the Wimbledon tuneup at Eastbourne, England, in June. She has not had a professional coach, at least in the traditional sense, traveling with her since she split with Pavel Slozil in March.
This occurred after her bout of service yips, a truly strange spell lasting from the fall of 1998 to last winter. She double-faulted 31 times in a match at the Australian Open in January but still managed to win.
That wasn't the problem against Coetzer. Kournikova double-faulted four times, but her serve was hardly overwhelming, as Coetzer converted five of six break points.
Still, Kournikova insists she has plenty of help from her "team."
But it's interesting to compare the progress of Kournikova and one of her peers, 19-year-old Venus Williams. At the 1998 Lipton event, Williams defeated Kournikova in a tight three-set match in the final.
This year, Williams, who defeated Natasha Zvereva of Belarus, 7-5, 6-1, in the second round, has won four tournaments and reached two other finals, attaining a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world. Kournikova has reached one final and one semifinal in 1999 and hovers below the top 10, at No. 12. She has yet to win a WTA event in 57 tournaments.
She lacks the confidence she displayed last year, and lost 12 of the final 13 points against Coetzer in the 1-hour 28-minute match.
Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport of Newport Beach noted that the competition has become increasingly tougher. One example of the depth here is that 29th-ranked Anke Huber, a former Australian Open finalist, had to qualify.
"These tournaments are so tough. You are going to play good players off the bat, if not the second round," Davenport said. "I think Anna wants it so bad and she tries so hard. Sometimes that can hurt you more than it can help you. She's obviously very talented and she's still young, so she has a lot going for her."
Unlike Coetzer, Davenport had a much faster route to the quarterfinals, defeating Irina Spirlea of Romania, 6-0, 6-2, in the second round in 51 minutes.
Davenport is on a 12-match winning streak, with her last loss coming against Steffi Graf in the quarterfinals of the French Open. Over a longer stretch, she has lost only once in her last 21 matches. In that span, Davenport has won tournaments on clay (Madrid), grass (Wimbledon) and hardcourt (Palo Alto).
TIG Tennis Classic
Barbara Schett vs. Anke Huber
Dominique Van Roost vs. Martina Hingis (2)
Beginning 7 p.m.
Sandrine Testud vs. Arantxa