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Wow. 16-year-old Russian woman defeated 4 top-ranked opponents to reach the 1997 Wimbledon semifinals

Date: April 19, 2024 Time: 03:16:02

Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova’s best result in Grand Slam tournaments is reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon 1997.

The very young Kournikova caused a sensation by knocking out several eminent rivals. Only future champion Martina Hingis could stop her.

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June 7, 1997 Anna Kournikova celebrated her 16th birthday. Two and a half weeks later, she attended her Wimbledon debut. Anna has already played on the other TBSH once. She performed best at the 1996 US Open, reaching the fourth round. She also had eliminations in the first round of the Australian Open and in the third round of Roland Garros in 1997.

At Wimbledon, the young Kournikova was not expected to achieve great things. Many did not believe that Anna would pass at least the initial stage of the tournament. As a rival she had the American Chanda Rubin, who in the 1996 season showed the best tennis of her career and ranked sixth in the WTA ranking. However, Kournikova defeated the more experienced Rubin with surprising ease: 6:1, 6:1.

Anna Kournikova at Wimbledon 1997

Photo: Gary M. Prior/Allsport

The Russian’s advantage was so total that one of the journalists at a post-match press conference asked if she was going to reach the final. Kournikova modestly refused to answer. She had never been asked such a question before. Anna herself has been drawn to the media from a young age, mainly for nonfiction reasons. Slender, pretty, fashion savvy, Ella Kournikova once said that she wouldn’t mind trying herself out as a model. Since then, the media have been telling her about her prospects in the modeling business and have also tried to find out the details of her personal life. After defeating Rubin, to a cheeky question about whether she had a boyfriend, she Anna replied: “I don’t have one. And in general, now I only think about tennis.

In the second round, Kournikova had a nominally weaker opponent compared to Rubin – the German Barbara Rittner, who lost the stars from the sky. Anna was on the verge of defeat, but still achieved victory in three sets: 4: 6, 7: 6 (9: 7), 6: 3. In the third round match, the Russian woman defeated another finalist Australian Open German: 1996 Anke Huber. She took three sets again to win, but this time she wasn’t so nervous: 3:6, 6:4, 6:4.

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Getting into the fourth round is already a good result for Kournikova. Anna really focused exclusively on tennis, although the media continued to focus on aspects related to the sport. The Russian woman looked very good, journalists paid a lot of attention to her precisely because of her bright appearance, with this she attracted the public to her fights. All the London newspapers regularly published pictures of her during the tournament.

At the same time, Kournikova played solidly, but some maximalists demanded more. The prospects of a rivalry between Switzerland’s Martina Hingis and Kournikova have been seen by several pundits as a reincarnation of the rivalry between Chris Evert and Martin Navratilov, who each earned 18 TBSH in the 1970s and 1980s. In particular, Evert saw shortcomings in both in the game of 16-year-old Hingis, who had already become the first racket in the world and won her first Slam at the Australian Open in 1997, as in the performances of Kournikova, who is generally considered more of a model than a tennis player.

“I think five years ago Steffi Graf was the best number one in the world than Martina Hingis is now, and 10 years ago Martina Navratilova was even better Graf. Anna Kournikova did not convince me with her clever play. She has the face of a fashion model, a magnificent figure, it is easy to “unravel” her. But this is not all a tennis player needs,” Evert said after Kournikova’s success in the first week of Wimbledon.

Chris Evert was not impressed by the performance of the young Anna Kournikova

Photo: Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

It is important that Kournikova did not pay attention to criticism. In the 1/8 final match, Anna met former fourth racket in the world and multiple Czech TBSH finals entrant Helena Sukova, who was twice her age. Sukova, 32, first played at Wimbledon 15 years ago, when Kournikova was just 1 year old. Helena’s career peak came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but she can’t take the tremendous experience out of it. It was this aspect of her that was her main advantage over Kournikova. However, the young Russian coped with the pressure and moved on to another eminent opponent. Anna, by tradition, lost the first set, after which she turned the tide of the meeting – 2: 6, 6: 2, 6: 3.

In the quarterfinals, Anna’s rival was the fourth racket in the world and current Roland Garros champion, the Croatian Iva Majoli. Here, almost no one believed in a 16-year-old Russian woman. However, Kournikova once again disappointed the skeptics. This time Anna managed in two sets: 7: 6 (7: 1), 6: 4, the tiebreaker of the first was won extremely convincingly. Perhaps Kournikova was helped by the warm support of British fans. The stands at Anna’s matches were constantly filled, as for the sympathy of the public, only the British Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman could compete with her at Wimbledon.

Chanda Rubin, Anke Huber, Helena Sukova and Yva Majoli are four eminent tennis players Kournikova knocked out en route to the semifinals. And yet, every fairy tale comes to an end.

The fans rooted for Kournikova, but most of them certainly had no doubt that the Russian would lose the semifinal match against world number 1 Hingis. The paths of the tennis players had previously crossed three times on the court: twice at the junior level and once at Roland Garros – 1997. In all cases, Martina celebrated victory. The trend has not changed. Hingis looked much stronger on the court and won with a convincing score of 6:2, 6:3.

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis at Wimbledon 1997

Photo: Images via Getty Images

Hingis, 16, finally won the title by beating Czech Jana Novotna 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final. For the first time at Wimbledon 1997, Martina dropped a set, but pulled herself together and won a spectacular and determined victory. At the time of the triumph, the Swiss was 16 years and 279 days old. She became the youngest champion in the history of the Open Era tournament. Although in the age of amateur tennis, the youngest singles winner might be England’s Charlotte Dod: she won the cup at the age of 15 years and 285 days back in 1887.

As for Kournikova, reaching the 1997 Wimbledon semifinals is a phenomenal result for a 16-year-old athlete personally and for all of Russian tennis as a whole. Olga Morozova last reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 1974. She then reached the final, where she lost to Chris Evert.

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Kournikova is a student of the Spartak tennis school and a student of the famous Nick Bollettieri Academy. Specifically, Larisa Preobrazhenskaya is implicated in the success of Wimbledon. The specialists who worked with Anna noted that the young tennis player in her early years showed a solid result due to her outstanding performance. She just couldn’t be thrown off the court.

Unfortunately, Kournikova, at a more mature age, did not achieve significant singles success. In the late 1990s, Anna focused on doubles, and Martina Hingis won the Australian Open twice (1999, 2002). And already in 2003, Kournikova ended her career, entered the modeling business and entered into a relationship with the Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias. Anna hardly regrets anything. Her current net worth is estimated at $67 million and she has three children with Iglesias. Unrealized potential in tennis? It’s a shame, but probably more so for the fans of the sport and not for Kournikova herself.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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