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Kournikova insists tennis is her focus

May 28, 1999


FREE PRESS NEWS SERVICES



PARIS -- Despite what she says, there are times when Anna Kournikova seems
more at ease flirting with the crowd than with hitting winners.


Playing Rochester Hills' Amy Frazier in the second round of the French Open
on Thursday, tennis's pin-up queen was certainly at her flirtatious best.


The 17-year-old Russian, voted one of the world's 50 most beautiful women,
teased the Court One crowd with an occasional booming ace, then a delicate
drop shot, every so often a pinpoint return, and an always reliable
coquettish smile on the way to a not-so-comfortable 6-4, 6-1 victory.


At the same time, outside the court, hundreds of the young Russian's fans --
mostly teen-age boys -- indulged their fantasies, snapping up posters of "The
Golden Girl," as Kournikova is being billed in Paris.


Like most flirtations, Kournikova and her game have proved to be relatively
harmless.


In the nearly four years since turning professional, she has not won a
tournament.


Her nearly $1 million in career prize earnings is small in comparison to the
money she earns in endorsements, including a new line of revealing tennis
wear she designed.


Kournikova might not be in the top 10, but she is No. 1 among the paparazzi.


"I don't think about it, I'm here just because of tennis," said Kournikova,
downplaying her glamorous image. "If I wasn't a tennis player and I was
walking down the street, nobody would notice."


But plenty of people do.


Her lithe image peers from magazines and newspapers, posing in the cockpit of
Indy race cars, partying with the Spice Girls or boyfriend Sergei Fedorov of
the Red Wings.


Changing that image might be difficult.


"All I think about is why I'm


here. And why I'm here is to play tennis," she said.
 

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