Anna Kournikova became one of the best players in the world of tennis during her day, reaching as high as No. 8 in the world rankings.
Despite that, the Russian star never won a singles title. Because of injuries, Anna was forced to give up her career at age 22. Even so, sponsorship and endorsement deals continued to flood in, and she soon became one of the most ‘Googled’ people globally.
After her career ended, Kournikova became a big celebrity through several television productions, modeling, and other projects. Her marriage to Enrique Iglesias also whet the appetite of entertainment newspapers – these days, the couple live a somewhat quieter life with their children.
So what does Anna Kournikova do today? And what does the 40-year-old look like? This is all you need to know about her!
Many young people dream about becoming celebrities and achieving fame in a chosen field. With that in mind, the most important things behind becoming successful, be it an entertainment star in Hollywood, the brightest shining singer in opera, or the best dancer and performer on Broadway, are hard work, believing in yourself, and dedication.
That also goes for the world of sports, where young, promising athletes fight tooth and nail to make it.
Of course, though the road to fame is a notoriously tough one, it’s important to remember that the higher you rise, the longer you have to fall.
For Anna Kournikova – once one of the highly-touted young tennis players in the world – that was the case. Experts thought she was the next big star in the sport, ready to climb its lofty heights. However, her career ended almost before it had started, despite the fact she turned pro at a very early age.
Anna entered the sport at a time when it was male-dominated, and fans, sponsors, and even journalists wanted a piece of her. This meant that in some ways she became a product instead of a person, and her looks took center stage in place of her obvious talent.
The Russian’s career may not have ended when and where she wanted to, but she still managed to create an empire and, at the same time, a beautiful family.
Anna Kournikova was born in Moscow on June 7, 1981. At the age of five, she started playing tennis with some friends and, soon after, became a regular at a tennis club in Moscow.
“I played well and I enjoyed the sport so my parents challenged me some more. Two years later, I began taking lessons at a professional tennis club where a lot of the current Russian tennis players were trained,” Kournikova wrote in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens: Personal Stories and Advice from Today’s Most Inspiring Youth.
Anna Kournikova – early life & move to the US
“Sure enough, tennis quickly became my life, my outlet, my circle of friends and my community. My coach was basically my second mother,” she continued.
“Everything in my life was about tennis and training. Somehow I knew, even though I was just a kid, that I didn’t really have many other options. At the time, life in Russia was tough – there weren’t that many opportunities there like there are in the Untied States. “
Kournikova was a colossal talent, and plenty of people saw that. Not only did coaches and her parents see her potential, but also agents and talented coaches on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
As explained in the book An Athlete’s Guide to Agents, author Robert H. Ruxin writes how agents wanted a piece of Anna Kournikova even before she was a teenager. IMG Tennis, a global tennis management company, was quick to set its sights on Anna and decided to act.
Anna, whom IMG had discovered as ten-year-old slogging old tennis balls across the court in Moscow, was tipped to become one of their biggest stars. IMG moved Anna and her mother to its Lord Tennis Academy, and helped make her a millionaire by the age 13, this before playing in a single professional tournament.
Put simply, the management realized that Anna Kournikova was more than just a tennis player at that age. She was renowned not only for her talents on the tennis court, but also for her looks. Despite her tender years, IMG are said to have considered her appearance an essential factor.
Even at the age of 10, Anna was as renowned for her looks as for her ability, New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenburg claimed.
“Even before her results started, even when she was a junior, people talked about her at IMG – which is creepy and gross, but it still happens to this day; ‘Oh my God, you should see this 12-year-old, she’s beautiful,’” Rothenburg said on the No Challenges Remaining podcast.
“People saw her as this package, and she became that.”
Kournikova moved to Florida and started playing at the legendary Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy. Soon after, she began playing in junior tournaments – and no one even came close to beating her.
In 1995, at age 14, Kournikova turned pro.
“For a lot of sports, most people don’t start playing professionally at fourteen, but tennis is one of those sports where rigorous training starts at a very young age,” she explained.
“In fact, as I remember it, it wasn’t even a question of turning pro or not. I was groomed for so many years in preparation for this opportunity that I never even questioned it, I was both eager and hungry to prove myself on the WTA tour…. I had won everything I could win on the Junior Circuit so I was really excited to move on to the next level. “
Kournikova won the top international junior event the year she turned pro.
The year after, she reached the fourth round in her US Open debut, and at 16 she reached the semi-finals of the legendary Wimbledon tournament. All told, she spent about 35 weeks on the tennis circuit each year.
At the same time, however, business off of the court was also significant for Anna and her team of managers and agents. Women’s tennis was growing fast, and money was pouring into the sport via sports marketers who wanted to score big names for their companies.
As the internet became a global phenomenon, it was easier for marketers to reach audiences worldwide. Anna was a Russian who spoke flawless English and played tennis all over the world, and nothing short of a dream from a brand perspective.
Anna became the first, massive female tennis star to go commercial. She was endorsed with everything from watches to sports bras – and was on the cover of several weekly sports magazines. At 18, she had already become what many would call a “sex symbol,” posing in small shirts and bras on covers.
Though this left a bad taste in the mouths of many, Anna was reeling in cash. Sure, she was selling her imagine to all of these different companies, but fellow players, including the legendary Martina Navratilova, took the Russian star’s side.
“What is she supposed to say, ‘No, I don’t want your money?’ That’s like winning the lottery and then saying, ‘No, I don’t really deserve it,’” Navratilova once said of Kournikova.
Anna was heading for the stars. She won the Wimbledon double title together with Martina Hingis in 1999 and 2002, while things couldn’t have been better from a commercial standpoint. In 2002, she also was one of the most Googled individuals globally.
Kournikova played on the WTA Tour for the last time in 2003. Sadly, at the age of 22, she was forced to retire due to injuries. She later continued to play in exhibition matches and competed in World Team Tennis, but her shot at becoming one of the sport’s all-time greats was snatched away from her.
Even though she enjoyed playing tennis, a part of Kournikova was happy about her retirement.
“You know, the fame and everything, I guess most of it was created by you guys, by the media a lot of times, most of the time the yellow press,” Kournikova said on the evening she announced her retirement.
“[I] never tried to pay attention. I mean, obviously, it was a little hard times dealing with it being 16, 17 years old, reading some kind of c**p about yourself, you know. Most of it was made up.”
We can all agree that Anna’s career ended prematurely, but that didn’t stop her from continuing to be successful. In fact, the Russian created herself an empire worth more than $50 million – today, she’s happily married and has three children.
“It was a lot of hard work. It was a lot of satisfaction for my family and me, it was also fun. I got to drink soda and chew gum and travel around the world. At nine years old, I was living in America and eating fruit 12 months a year. I didn’t have that back home. I’d been to most countries by 14.”
So what did she do after her on-court career ended? Kournikova worked as a model for a short while, while also continuing to appear in many commercials. She even had a minor role in the film Me, Myself and Irene, which starred Jim Carey.
Kournikova appeared in the music video Escape, by Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias.
“I’ve never met her before, but I’m a big fan,” he said at the time. “I’m sure a lot of guys want to meet her. I’m one of them. She’s beautiful, talented, great tennis player, you know, and I’m sure she’s going to be great in the video.”
It turned out that fate had more in store for Anna and Enrique than simply working together. Not long after their paths crossed, the couple engaged in a romantic relationship. They welcomed twins Lucy and Nicholas in 2017, and three years later daughter Mary was born.
“I love being a mum, I absolutely wanted to have children, whether I had my own or adopted. I love taking care of people,” Anna said in 2019.
“Marriage isn’t important to me,” she added. “I believe in being open and trusting each other, and respecting each other completely. We’ve been together for years. He’s the male version of me, and I’m the female version of him.”
Kournikova returned to television as a personal trainer in season 12 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and as mentioned, she’s built up an empire worth $50 million over the years. Needless to say, at 40 years old she still looks fantastic!