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Kournikova likes look of career

She is content with her accomplishments in tennis, despite not winning a singles title.

June 27, 2008|Chris Hine | Times Staff Writer

Anna Kournikova has heard it all before.

In her career, she was a punching bag for critics who pointed to her having never won a singles title on the WTA Tour as they decried the attention she received for her looks.

Now, with her peak professional days behind her, and despite a dearth of victories, Kournikova's name still is mentioned whenever a female athlete attempts to parlay her good looks into a lucrative off-the-field career -- and that keeps the punches coming.

It happened again this week, when golfer and part-time model Kim Hall talked about her dual career and told The Times, "But in the end, it's about golf. Nobody . . . wants to be a Kournikova."

Comments like this are nothing new, Kournikova, 27, said in a conference call promoting her arrival with the St. Louis Aces, part of the World Team Tennis circuit.

"It's not something that I worry about," she said of Hall's remarks. "Everybody's got their own life and too bad, whoever said that, especially if a woman said that, it's even sadder. I've had so many things said about me."

Justin Gimelstob, a former ATP player and now a Tennis Channel reporter, threw some haymakers of his own in a radio interview last week, calling Kournikova nasty names and threatening to physically harm her.

Gimelstob, a member of the Washington Kastles, was suspended by the WTT for one match without pay, and he has since issued an apology to the league and Kournikova.

Kournikova, who will play with the Aces against the Newport Beach Breakers on July 16, said she deals with such comments by "taking the high road," not dwelling on them.

"I know what I've achieved," said Kournikova, who won two Australian Open doubles titles (16 doubles titles in all), and once ranked No. 8 in the world.

"The tennis fans that really know tennis, that have followed and really know tennis, they know what I've achieved and that's most important for me. People who kind of just throw in a name or a phrase, I really don't pay attention to that."

Kournikova, who spoke no English when she immigrated to America from the then-Soviet Union as a 9-year-old, said she hopes her tennis legacy is more a story of inspiration than of scorn for her success.

"We had nothing, literally nothing," Kournikova said. "Tennis gave me a life, tennis gave me opportunities."

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chris.hine@latimes.com

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