Chat with Anna Kournikova
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming out tonight. This is Anna's first night playing World TeamTennis this summer so far, the first of four dates. We welcome Anna Kournikova. I'll throw it out to you guys for questions.
Q. This being your first date for World TeamTennis this year, how do you prepare for that? Is it something that you really look forward to? ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I definitely look forward to it, starting my season. I've been looking forward to playing again. I've been practicing. I played actually a match last week in Germany. It was on red clay. That was a lot of fun. Yeah, every season I love coming back and playing World TeamTennis. It's a great opportunity for me to be back on the court, to be in front of the fans. It's such a perfect format, especially for me. It's singles, mixed and doubles, everything, men and women together. It's really short, so that's pretty easy and comfortable. We have a lot of fun. It's some great tennis. This year I'm with a new team which will be different and interesting and a new experience. So we'll see how it goes. But I'm very, very excited and definitely looking forward to it.
Q. What has it been like being here in Newport Beach? ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I got in really, really late because my flight got delayed. I got in about 2:00 in the morning. I just slept this morning. But unfortunately I woke up because of the time difference. I worked out a little bit, had lunch. I've been here since about 4:30. So didn't go to the mall yet. Well, I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to go at all. We're leaving first thing in the morning tomorrow.
Q. Where are you going? ANNA KOURNIKOVA: We're going to St. Louis. We're playing there Friday.
Q. Are you pretty tired? How do you feel? ANNA KOURNIKOVA: No, not at all. I'm fine. You know, I'm used to traveling. As long as I get my sleep, I'm cool, I'm great. Ready to work, ready to play.
Q. Seems like there are a lot of Russian tennis players doing really well. Do you take pride in that maybe you might have helped that process along a little bit? ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Not really. I mean, I'm really happy, and it's great that so many Russian girls are playing well. They definitely deserve to be able to play and showcase their talents. I think in general, eastern Europe, whether it's Serbia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Russia, anywhere from eastern Europe, I think there's a lot more players now because there's so many more opportunities in terms of you are able to travel now. Before it was the Soviet Union, Communism, or even financial situations in those places are just a bit better. Players and people now have more opportunities to travel and to participate in international events. Before you weren't really allowed to participate in international events. People from there have always been talented in sports, Olympics, gymnastics, athletics. I think in those countries in eastern Europe, athletes are a lot more hungrier, people are a lot more hungrier for success, to achieve stuff. It's one of the few things that you can do to travel and see the world, I guess, is to become an athlete from those countries.
Q. When you were playing, there weren't as many players. ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Yeah, because there were not as many opportunities. I got lucky. I came to America in 1992. I was basically American. I signed a contract. I was able to go to Bollettieri's. Most people don't have those opportunities back there. Most people didn't get to travel really until '95, '96. I got really lucky. As an 8-year-old, IMG signed me, gave me an opportunity to get better and grow into a professional athlete.
Q. This is your sixth year in WTT, talk about how the league has grown and evolved. ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I think it's amazing what Billie Jean did in creating this. It's a great format. It's so perfect for the fans. Again, like I said before, it's men, women, singles, doubles and mixed together, in the same place, one evening, three hours. A fan comes and gets to see everything. It's very fan friendly in terms of music, craziness. I love the whole teamwork. It's like basically watching Davis Cup or Fed Cup. It's awesome. I think it's grown so much. There are so many marquee players. Everybody wants to play even though it's like the only time where there's a free couple of weeks here and there before the tournament starts here after Wimbledon. It just shows you that players respect it and want to play and want to support the league. It's optimal in a way where the league is being played in cities where there are normally no tennis tournaments. So it reaches to a lot wider fan base, but still in places where there are huge tennis communities, like where there are great clubs, amazing country clubs, and people that play tennis, but there are no huge tournaments. I think that's also great. I love it. I mean, I will always do anything to support tennis and get young kids involved into tennis or sports in general. Billie Jean King has done an amazing job with this, really has.
Q. Do you follow any other sports, particularly soccer, especially with Russia making the semifinals of the Euro Cup? ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, either Spain or Russia worked for me perfect. I am perfectly satisfied. Of course, I'm sad that Russia lost. They did get to the semifinals, which is incredible. Nobody even expected it. I'm extremely happy that Spain won. There was a party at my house, let's put it that way, a huge one (laughter).
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