Anna Kournikova is everything good, beautiful, and bright there ever was about modern Russia
I was 17, when Kournikova, just a year younger than me, had her fairytale run at Wimbledon 1997, reaching the semifinals.
The whole world watching and cheering, it felt, admiring her looks and tennis alike.
I was then in the middle of my four-year stretch at a British boarding school. My mates and I salivated watching Anna play. Sorry for being so vulgar. We were teenage boys! At a boarding school!
I remember continuing to watch her back in Moscow — the school year ended and I traveled home for the summer vacation.
I cheered for her wholeheartedly, praying at times!
Kurnikova didn’t end up having a successful singles career but she was very successful at doubles, playing with famous Martina Hingis, one of the biggest legends in the sport of tennis.
I’ve always felt Kournikova’s legacy is huge, even now, quarter of a century, later.
Maybe I am biased in my assessment of her legend — I’m Russian and my family is a “tennis family”. My wife used to play in her younger years and our dear daughter is an aspiring tennis player; my other kids play too.
Maybe I’m sentimental about the era, when the violence with which Russia is associated today was unimaginable.
For one thing, Kournikova popularized tennis in Russia and paved the way for an entire generation of Russia tennis players, both on the men's and women’s side.
But it’s not just about tennis.
She had her share of struggles and injuries but went on to have a successful career as a doubles player and commentator. For many years she’s been together with Enrique Iglesias, some of who songs (Escape! Bailamos!) I love by the way and never fast forward. Despite their celebrity status, they are not public about their private lives. A couple of years ago they had twin babies.
No scandals, no politics, no drama.