Kournikova drops Davenport

Updated: September 17, 2002, 2:18 PM ET
By Peter Bodo | Special to ESPN.com

Signature Match

March 25, 1998 - At 16, Anna Kournikova displayed her sweet promise in Key Biscayne, Fla. After eliminating No. 5 seed Monica Seles and No. 9 Conchita Martinez earlier in the Lipton Tournament, she extended her winning streak against Top-10 players today by beating second-ranked Lindsay Davenport, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

Playing before a crowd of about 8,000 on stadium court, Kournikova wore down the bigger, less agile Davenport. She forced Davenport behind the base line with powerful ground strokes, then charged the net. And Kournikova hit eight drop shots for winners, each time catching her foe flat-footed.

When Davenport dumped a backhand into the net on match point, Kournikova let out a squeal and pumped her fists. Ranked 25th, she probably would be higher if not for WTA Tour age restrictions on the number of tournaments she could play.

"I played great tennis at Wimbledon, but right now I'm much smarter," Kournikova said. "It's all just mental, because physically -- the way of making shots -- I could do anything probably."

The next day, Kournikova defeated No. 8-ranked Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach her first final on the tour. However, her upset string ended in the championship match when she lost to Venus Williams.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Kournikova's first coach was Larissa Preborazhenskaya, whom Anna still visits, consults and exchanges presents with on her increasingly infrequent return trips to Moscow.

  • Kournikova moved from Russia to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in February 1992 with her mother Alla. She stayed until 1997, when she resettled in the glitzy environs of Miami's South Beach.

  • In junior competition, she was the 1995 ITF junior world champion, winning the prestigious Orange Bowl 18s, the European Junior Championships 18s and the Italian Open as well as reaching the French Open quarterfinals and the Wimbledon semifinals.

  • In 1995, she received a wild card into a WTA Tour event in Moscow at 14 and won one match before falling to third-seeded Sabine Appelmans.

  • At 14, she became the youngest player to compete and win in Fed Cup competition. In the first tie of 1996, she helped Russia beat Sweden, 3-0.

  • In 1996, she won the WTA Tour's Most Impressive Newcomer award.

  • En route to becoming only the second woman in the Open Era to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon in her career debut there in 1997, she saved match point in her second-round win over Barbara Rittner, upset No. 5 seed and former French Open champion Iva Majoli and beat No. 10 seed Anke Huber. Before the tournament, she had not reached the semifinals in any tour event.

  • In 1998, she was selected to People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list, one of only two athletes to make that cut.

  • At Eastbourne in 1998, she handed Steffi Graf only her third grass-court loss of the 1990s, and scored the unique achievement of beating the last five players to have held the No. 1 ranking since 1987 in the space of three months.

  • She was the recipient of the 1999 Sanex WTA Tour Doubles Team of the Year award, with Martina Hingis.

  • In 2000, she was among the five female tennis players named to the Forbes magazine Power 100 in Fame and Fortune at No. 58 -- no other female athlete made the list.

  • That year, she made a $10,000 donation to the national junior tennis program in Russia, and also helped financially underwrite the modernization of the tennis facilities at the club where she learned the game, Spartak.

  • Besides being romantically linked with long-time family friend Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings, she also was mentioned on the gossip pages with another Russian star, Pavel Bure, when he played for the Florida Panthers.

  • Her elite generation of Russian female players included pro tour players Elena Dementieva, Nadjeda Petrova and Anastasia Myskina -- all of whom trained and played together as juniors.

  • In May 2002, Kournikova filed a lawsuit against the publishers of Penthouse. Seeking damages in excess of $10 million, she said the magazine featured a 13-photo spread of a topless woman the publication promoted as her, portraying her in a false light, invading her privacy and defaming her name.

  • Also in May, she hired Harold Solomon as coach.

  • Four months later in Shanghai, Kournikova reached her fourth final in 117 WTA Tour events, but went away still looking for her first singles title when she was beaten by Anna Smashnova in straight sets.

    Peter Bodo has been covering tennis for over 35 years, mostly recently for ESPN. He is a former WTA Writer of the Year and the author of numerous books, including the classic The Courts of Babylon and the New York Times bestseller (with Pete Sampras), A Champion's Mind. His new book on the 1975 Wimbledon final between Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors will be out in June of 2015.