The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anna all over the place
- Russian sensation will decide on her tennis future in January

London: Whether she wins tennis matches or not is no longer of any consequence. What really matters, where the buck stops with a grinding, shuddering halt, is that Anna Kournikova sells.

She sells everything from sports clothes to sponsors slots, seats to sports bras. It is a phenomenon known as the Kournikova Factor.

And right now she is selling newspapers.

Rarely since bursting onto the global stage as a fresh-faced teenager has the Russian commanded more space in newsprint and glossy magazines.

That it was an ambiguous comment which sparked so many headlines and stirred such a photographic feeding frenzy is neither here nor there.

That she did not categorically say she was going to retire from sport did not get in the way of the “Anna to quit” headlines.

“It’s all Ova,” British tabloid The Sun, said, before opining “Tennis won’t be the same without her — Miss Sex On Legs is hanging up her racket.”

“Anna will not return” was the less salacious verdict of Australian newspaper the Courier-Mail, although the Brisbane mouthpiece echoed The Sun’s

sentiments when it said: “Tennis won’t have the same appeal this summer after one of the game’s sexiest players announced she is quitting.”

In fact, the 22-year-old has not yet decided to walk away from the game, despite the fact she has ceased to be a credible contender at the highest level.

Not since reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon on her senior debut there in 1997 has the Russian scaled those heights of success on the tennis court.

A suspect temperament has played its part in the glass ceiling preventing her from reaching the top, but an increasingly-frail body has also pitched in.

What Kournikova did say at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo at the weekend was that she was undecided about her future and would wait for a verdict from doctors treating her back.

“I hate not knowing what is going on,” she said. “Tennis is my life but I want to take my time and make the right decision.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen but we will see in January if I can carry on with the sport.

“I have been playing tennis since I was five... that’s 17 years of hard training, every day.

“I do not want to start playing unless I can participate 100 percent as I don’t like pulling out of tournaments at the last minute.”

The 22-year-old has won just one match all year — back in January in the first round of the Australian Open. She has not been seen on court since April when she retired hurt from her first round match in Charleston.

That feeble record does suggest the decision to quit may be taken out of her hands, although she is keen to stay in the game.

“I am still working out regularly and doing exercises for my back,” she said. “I can play occasional exhibition games — in November I will be playing in Thailand and America.”

Nonetheless she is already thinking of a future career in television.

“I’d love to appear in something like Sex And The City or Friends. I get offered a lot of those sorts of jobs but I have never had the time to pursue them because of my tennis.”

Certainly the sitcoms offer a better prospect than television reporting.

In August, after days as “entertainment reporter” for USA Network’s coverage of the US Open, Kournikova quit her behind-the-microphone gig.

She felt uncomfortable interviewing fellow players, she said.

Media coverage of her stint was less than complimentary.

“Anna’s TV gig makes her tennis look good,” was the New York Post's verdict.

There must be times when the Russian must think whatever she does, on court or off it, she simply cannot win.

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