Russian beauty Anna Kournikova has hit back at criticism from other players and the media which she claims has tarnished her reputation.
The Russian, a Wimbledon semifinalist on her first visit as a 16-year-old in 1997 and a former world doubles champion, insisted Wednesday that she was “not always given a fair crack of the whip” by the media.
Speaking for the first time since throwing a tantrum on television following her first round exit last week, the 55th world-ranked player said that she was on her guard in formal interviews because of past experiences.
“My only mistake was in thinking it wasn’t live,” she told Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “Often when you’re recording an interview they stop and then start again. I think the whole issue was overblown.
“The only thing I wasn’t thrilled about was the comments from former players. Obviously they’ve never been in my situation. That’s something I have to deal with.”
Kournikova was quick to defend herself when she was criticized for still not having won a singles title after more than 100 tournaments on the WTA Tour.
“If I weren’t committed why would I be putting myself through so much by playing badly?” she asked.
“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I don’t have to convince anyone that I’m working hard or that I’m paying 100 percent attention to my tennis.”
By contrast Kournikova has won 14 doubles titles and advanced to the the quarterfinals with American partner Chandra Rubin when they crushed 11th seeds Janet Lee of Taipei and Wynne Prakusya of Indonesia in straight sets.
Kournikova said that at a time when “several changes are taking place in my life — turning 21, growing up and starting to think about things”, making headway again in her tennis was a clear priority.
“Now all my thoughts are of winning and getting better,” she continued.
And the Moscow-born player, who is based in Florida, said that it was not her fault if she was filling the pages of the newspapers and glamour magazines.
“I’ve not done anything on purpose to create the publicity,” she said. “It’s not as if when I was 10 I said I was going to be a famous tennis player. I think I’m the same as everybody else.”
Inevitably now whenever another attractive, blonde Russian girl begins to make an impact on the circuit they are being dubbed “the next Anna Kournikova.”
Maria Sharapova, seeded seven in the junior girls, is the latest to be given the title. But Kournikova merely smiled when asked about attempts at comparison, saying “a copy is never as good as the original.”