At the height of her fame, Anna Kournikova was more than just a tennis player –– she was the most famous woman in the world.
Indeed, for much of the 2000s, the Russian-American was one of Google’s most-searched figures, alongside the likes of Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez.
Much of this stemmed from the media’s obsession with her appearance. Newspapers and magazines published new photos incessantly and the Sun once promised to include an image of the tennis star every day of the week.
But a career that attracted so much fame and attention off the court, did not translate into individual success on it.
Some have claimed Kournikova prioritised the celebrity lifestyle, including modelling and television appearances, above tennis itself. Yet others feel more sympathetic towards the Russian-American –– citing her multiple injuries as the reason for her underwhelming career.
What is clear is that Kournikova was an incredibly talented tennis player in her prime and looked destined to be a major champion when she first broke onto the scene.
In 1995, Kournikova made her WTA tour debut in Moscow, aged just 14. Two years later, she became a teenage sensation as she made the semi-finals of Wimbledon –– becoming only the second woman in the Open Era, after Chris Evert, to reach the last four on debut.
By 2000, she had cracked the world’s top 10 and it appeared her breakthrough win was only a matter of time. During a period when legends of the game such as Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Lindsey Davenport and Serena Williams were all established names on tour –– to be challenging these names at the top of the rankings was no mean feat.
While Kournikova reached as high as eighth in the world and remained in the top 15 for some time, tournament success never materialised.
And so, having suffered a string of back-related injuries, she was forced to retire in 2003, having won no WTA titles and never reached a major singles final.
Yet, still she continued to dominate the headlines. Even in 2008, Kournikova was the most searched athlete on Google as the endorsement deals continued to flood in.
The tennis star became the face of sports bras, starred in Hollywood films and featured on the cover of various publications.
Kournikova also started a public relationship with Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias, with whom she now has three children.
Fast forward a decade and it’s clear that family has taken priority for the former Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Those who follow her Instagram account, which boasts more than 1.7 million followers, will know she regularly posts adorable snapshots of her children alongside her and Iglesias.
Ultimately, though it appears she has finally escaped the unrelenting media attention, she will forever be renowned as one of the most iconic sportswomen ever.
And from a tennis standpoint, her lasting legacy will be as the most famous player to have never won a Grand Slam singles title.News Now - Sport News