As a male and avid tennis fan proud of my Anna Kournikova wallpaper, I feel compelled to respond to the Oct. 21 sports commentary article "She is Not Just a Pretty Face, She Has a Great Body Too." Victoria Corder asks male readers "Why are you all so obsessed with her [Kournikova]?"
The author discredits Kournikova over three faults, one blatantly stated as "Can she even play tennis? Um, no." Obviously the author has not properly done her homework on this subject. Anna is admittedly still searching for that first singles title of her young career after losing in four tournament finals. Yet, Kournikova has reached a career high singles ranking of number eight in the world and has attained the number-one ranking in doubles on the Women's Tennis Association computer rankings. In addition, she reached the semi-finals of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships as a 16-year-old and owns career wins over Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Martina Hingis (when Hingis was the number-one player in the world). Not bad.
Double fault: Anna had an "affair" with Sergei Federov when she was 14. Despite links to Pavel Bure (another hockey player) and recent engagement rumors to Enrique Iglesias, Anna was and still is a single woman, so why this was an affair is simply beyond me. More importantly, should the fact that she matured early and dated a hockey player make her any less desirable to her admirers? The author also asks Anna to "at least take all your clothes off and show us your true colors." She already has; Anna sued "Penthouse" magazine in April 2002 for publishing nude photos of another woman and alleging that the photos were of Kournikova.
The third and final dismissal is that Kournikova is "not even cute." If she weren't a tennis player, Anna surely wouldn't make it as a runway supermodel, but most males and females will agree that she certainly is at least cute. What makes her even sexier is the way she struts her 5-foot 8-inch athletic frame onto the court in her stylish Adidas custom-designed outfits, the way she whacks blistering forehand after forehand with blond ponytail trailing her every move. She packs fans by the hoards into the seats of tournaments. Tournament directors and television networks drool over her appearances because it means record attendance and higher ratings. No wonder corporate sponsors such as Omega, Yonex, Adidas, Pegasus, Lycos and Berlei bras (with the slogan "Only the ball should bounce") shell out millions of dollars to have this intelligent, business-savvy and attractive woman pitch their products. In short, Kournikova plays tennis and looks good while doing it. Not only is she good for the sport of tennis, she is a good role model for women in sports.
Martina Navratilova made headlines by saying that public interest in professional tennis waned in the mid-1990s during the era of "Steffi Graf and the seven dwarfs." Along with Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, Kournikova is part of a generation of brash teenagers that brought tennis back onto the sporting radar in 1996-1997 with their spectacular play, trash-talking and spotlight-loving tactics. Kournikova is not the only player guilty of leveraging a little bit of sex appeal along the way. Hingis posed as a vamp for "Gentleman's Quarterly;" Venus and Serena as alluring beauties for "Elle." Venus designs her own fashion line with Wilson's Leather and sports revealing tennis halters courtesy of her $40 million Reebok contract. Serena won the 2002 U.S. Open wearing a controversial catsuit that left nothing to the imagination. In case you are worried about successors, a new generation is waiting in the wings with the same approach. The October 2002 issue of "Gentleman's Quarterly" featured pinups of three up-and-coming players in Elena Dementieva (21), Daniela Hantuchova (19) and Anastasia Myskina (21). The already-infamous photo set features the trio scantily clad and posed in suggestive positions. The stark naked Myskina is prominently perched on top of a horse that supposedly became aroused during the photo shoot.
Without tennis stars like Kournikova, female athletes are hardly given major television or press coverage at all. There was Brandi Chastain stripping down to her sportsbra after winning the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup. Oh yeah, there are also prepubescent figure skaters waltzing into Olympic glory in a subjective sport that may as well be a beauty pageant. Unfortunately, both these events occur only once every four years. When women watch sports, som e do so only to see men suited up in baseball uniforms, basketball shorts and football gear. Why should there be a double standard when men watch a woman excel in her game?