Anna Kournikova: The most famous tennis player to have never won a singles title
Anna Kournikova has been the most famous tennis player to have never won a Grand Slam title. Her off-court exploits though made her the most famous female athlete of the last decade.
Tennis has seen many glamorous ladies adorn the centre stage, including the likes of Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova and Eugenie Bouchard in recent times. However, no one has ever caught media and public attention and stirred up the pots like Anna Kournikova.
One of the most searched athletes on the internet ever since her she took to the tennis court, Kournikova seems to always be in the news. She also adorned the covers of numerous magazines all over the world.
The rise and glory days
The Russian burst onto the tennis scene at a very young age. She was merely fourteen when she debuted for Russia in the Fed Cup, the youngest ever player to debut and win a match in the tournament.
She played her first Grand Slam as a 15-year old teenager at the US Open 1996 and reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, where she was defeated by Steffi Graf, who was the top-ranked player at the time.
The peak of her career was from 1997 to 2001 when she reached her top singles ranking of 8. She reached the semi-finals of the 1997 Wimbledon and also won the Australian Open Doubles title with Martina Hingis in 1999, a feat which was repeated three years later.
On-court success also coincided with off-court fame and publicity. In 2000, Kournikova became the face of Berlei’s shock absorber sports bras and appeared in the "only the ball should bounce" billboard campaign.
She went on to endorse Omega, Lycos internet search engine & web portal, Yonex tennis racquets, and K-Swiss sports apparel and made several appearances in various publications including men’s magazines such as Sports Illustrated, usually posing in swimwear.
Kournikova was is the list of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1998 and was also voted "hottest female athlete" on ESPN.com. She was a darling of all the top tabloids, who tried to cash in on her fame.
Decline in tennis, but not in fame
Injury issues in 2001 meant that the Russian beauty was forced to withdraw from quite a few Grand Slam tournaments although she did participate in 2001 Australian Open, where she succumbed to a defeat in the quarter-finals. She didn’t achieve much success in the following years either, with the exception of her second Australian Open double titles win in 2002.
Recurring back and spinal problems caused her to not play any professional tennis since 2004, only occasionally turning up for exhibition matches and invitationals. However, there was still no signs of decline in her fame.
Anna Kournikova was still the most searched athlete on the internet in 2008, long after her retirement from tennis. In 2011, Men's Health magazine named her one of the "100 Hottest Women of All-Time", placing her at No. 29, showing that her popularity has not waned one bit since her retirement from the sport that brought her to the limelight.
Her net worth is pegged at a massive $50 million these days, which shows the current status of the Russian despite her struggling competitive tennis career.
Influence on popular culture
In the language of the poker variation Texas Hold 'em, the hole cards Ace–King (unsuited) are sometimes referred to as an "Anna Kournikova", a term introduced by the poker commentator Vince van Patten during a WPT tournament who commented "it looks great but never wins".
A computer virus which arose in 2001 was named the Anna Kournikova Virus because it tricked email users into opening messages which appear to contain a picture of the Russian tennis star, before sending itself to every contact on the user’s address book.
Kournikova still continues to be ever-so-popular these days, judging by the constant appearances of her relationship with long-time boyfriend Enrique Iglesias in the news, magazines and social media.
She has undoubtedly been the most popular tennis athlete on the planet to neither a WTA title nor a Grand Slam title in the women’s singles arena. But no one can deny her fame and the response she continues to generate in media circles and common folks alike.
Kournikova herself has been quoted as saying, “I’m like a menu at an expensive restaurant. You can look at me, but you can’t afford me.”
Love her or hate her, you just cannot ignore her.