Kournikova shows she can still draw a crowd

Jul 7 2009 - 6:56pm

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(LAERENCE JACKSON/The Associated Press) Anna Kournikova smiles during a news conference before her match on July 23, 2008.
(LAERENCE JACKSON/The Associated Press) Anna Kournikova smiles during a news conference before her match on July 23, 2008.

PHILADELPHIA -- Anna Kournikova last played professional tennis in 2003. From the way she was mobbed by fans and photographers Monday before her St. Louis Aces took on the Philadelphia Freedoms, an outsider might have thought she had just won Wimbledon.

Sidelined with a left-wrist injury suffered three weeks ago, Kournikova will not play World Team Tennis for the Aces this season. However, the 28-year-old Russian will travel with the squad for select matches. At each stop, she will participate in children's clinics, sign autographs, and meet with spectators, media and sponsors.

Monday, before heading off to a steakhouse for a meet-and-greet session, Kournikova conducted a clinic for youngsters on a multicolored court at the Freedoms' 3,000-seat temporary stadium in the King of Prussia Mall.

"It's a natural way to give back," Kournikova said. "I really enjoy doing things like this, encouraging kids to play tennis, whether they play for fun, whether they play for college, or whether they play professionally."

The Freedoms knocked off the Kournikova-less Aces in their home opener and improved to 1-2. They had dropped road matches against the Springfield Lasers (21-16) and New York Buzz (23-14).

At 14 years and 5 months old, Philadelphia's Madison Keys become the youngest player in WTT history. In the second of five matches, the Boca Raton, Fla., resident fell to 20-year-old Ashley Weinhold, 5-3, in singles. Lisa Raymond paired with Keys in women's doubles and also played mixed doubles.

Kournikova, flanked by several security guards, fielded questions from media members before the match. One of those questions pertained to the rock the striking blonde was wearing on her left ring finger.

"What kind of press are you?" she responded with a laugh. "I thought you were, like, the good press."

In the past, Kournikova was romantically linked with musician Enrique Iglesias and hockey players Pavel Bure and Sergei Fedorov.

She did not talk about her personal life, which included a reported scuffle with a patron in a Las Vegas nightclub 10 days ago, but did address what she said was a tennis-related injury that occurred after she began training for her seventh WTT season nearly a month ago.

"I've never had problems with my wrist in my life before," she said. "It's definitely a new injury. I think I was maybe trying to push myself too hard in the beginning. Hopefully, it won't become something chronic. Tenosynovitis can become chronic. I don't want to do any long-term damage."

 

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