Kournikova not worth all the hype

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com
  
   She's beautiful, that's for sure.
   But she can't play tennis.
   This describes Russian women's tennis player Anna Kournikova -- a gorgeous young lady off the court, a loser most of the time on it.
   Over the last few years, the tennis headlines should have been about Andre Agassi's endurance, Jennifer Capriati's amazing comeback and Serena Williams' dominance.
   Instead, the main story in the media has been the Kournikova circus.
   All I have to say is, why?
   I mean at first, Kournikova was a good tennis player and I personally thought she was going to pose a threat for the No. 1 ranking eventually.
   Kournikova reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 1997 as a teenager, and looked like she was about to do some great things.
   She's never been to the semifinals of a Grand Slam event since.
   So what happened? Kournikova got caught up in her own celebrity.
   Her endorsement deals seemed to take precedence over her tennis career. As a result, her tennis suffered.
   After the Wimbledon heroics, Kournikova seemed to always lose in the fourth round of Grand Slams. That's not bad, but she still was not living up to the potential she showed during her early teenage years.
   But it's a lot better than what she's doing now.
   Over the last couple of years, Kournikova's ranking has taken a major nose dive. She's now a usual first and second round loser in Grand Slams.
   As of this week, eight Russian women were ranked in the top 50. Kournikova wasn't even close to being one of them.
   Yes, Kournikova has been hampered with injures throughout her career. But the biggest problem is her lack of commitment to tennis.
   Kournikova's infatuation with hockey players has overshadowed her love for tennis. Remember when she dated Sergi Federov, then got engaged to Pavel Bure, then went back to Federov.
   Kournikova recently married Federov and nobody knew about it. Once the news linked out about Kournikova's marriage, the couple had already split.
   When asked about what went wrong at a recent press conference, Federov said: Ask her.
   The main thing that bothers me about Kournikova is that she has ruined the image of the WTA Tour. If you don't believe me, try having a conversation about tennis with a male that doesn't share the same interest in the sport.
   It seems like every time I try to talk about tennis with somebody in this area, I hear 'how did Kournikova do?'
   It's a shame that somebody who has never won a tennis tournament as a professional can get better ratings than people like the Williams' sisters and Jennifer Capriati. It just shows what kind of a society we live in.
   The men's game had a player a few years ago named Patrick Rafter that was just about the equivalent to Kournikova as far as type of celebrity. The women absolutely were in love with him.
   There was one difference between Rafter and Kournikova, with the fact being that Rafter had success.
   Rafter didn't let his celebrity get in the way of his tennis play. Rafter won two U.S. Open Championships and made the Wimbledon final twice as well.
   Tennis is a great sport, and the publicity should go to the winners, not the losers.
   We've had so many great stories in the game over the last five or six years that basically seemed like a sideshow in the media compared to the Kournikova stuff.
   As we are getting ready to finish the second Grand Slam of the year, there will be many story lines that should dominate the headlines this summer.
   Kournikova losing in the first round of some challenger event I hope is not one of them.