Kournikova everywhere at US Open except on court
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Kournikova everywhere at US Open except on court

She can be seen pouting out from magazine stands, including one cover that salaciously teases "In Bed with Anna".

india Updated: Aug 30, 2003 10:05 IST

She can be seen pouting out from magazine stands, including one cover that salaciously teases "In Bed with Anna".

She has been spotted this week throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a New York Yankees game, doing the late night talk show circuit and walking the red carpet at an MTV awards party.

To the delight of many testosterone charged Kournikova addicts, the seductive Russian has even taken on the role of "entertainment reporter" for an American television network at this year's final grand slam.

In fact, tennis diva Anna Kournikova has been spotted nearly everywhere in New York this week except the one place you would expect to find her -- on court at the US Open with a racket in her hand.

While the injured Kournikova has not given up the idea of returning to the courts to end one of the sporting world's most celebrated winless streaks, her absence at Flushing Meadows has left a gaping hole.

With the headline hogging Williams sisters also absent with injuries, the US Open this year has provided fertile ground for the newest, hottest tennis blonde to take root.

In a "Pop Idol" type search, the waif-like Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, the "American Anna" Ashley Harkleroad and the latest Russian "Siberian Siren" Maria Sharapova have all been trotted out in an attempt to fill the glamour void left by Kournikova.

But finding the next Kournikova is proving to be a tougher task than unearthing the next Pete Sampras.

The media, agents, marketing experts and to a certain extent the WTA, have all pushed, promoted and prodded their idea of the next tennis diva on to Anna's throne with limited success.


It seems, for now, there is only one Kournikova.

"I think she was great for the game," said 1998 Open champion Lindsay Davenport. "I'd never seen anyone sell out first-round matches in tournaments but Anna.

"The amount of fans she alone would bring in was huge.

"But we've gone through years and years of players being injured, she's another one.

"I have no idea if she plans on playing again or coming back. I think she's been battling a lot of injuries the last couple of years."

Around Flushing Meadows there was no question who was going to be missed more -- Sampras or Kournikova.

Although Sampras retired on Monday with 14 grand slam wins and 64 singles titles on his resume and Kournikova has yet to claim her first trophy in eight years as a professional, it was the Russian pin-up a group of New York fire-fighters said they were missing most.

But not many have embraced Kournikova's new role as reporter, the New York Post summing up her performance in a single headline, "Anna's TV gig makes her tennis look good".

For her new assignment Kournikova, microphone in hand, prowled the players lounge in a micro-mini, red bra and fur-trimmed boots giving viewers an insight at what goes on.

"It's her first time on TV and she's working hard," said USA Network spokesman Tom Caraccioli, when asked about Kournikova's performance.

"She is generating loads of excitement around the grounds, it's rock star like proportions."

First Published: Aug 30, 2003 10:05 IST