Anna Kournikova 1997 Lipton Championships 1st-Round Interview ( Sports - Women's Tennis )  

1997 Lipton Championships at Key Biscayne, Florida, on Thursday, March 20, 1997
Anna Kournikova defeated Nana Miyagi, 6-2, 6-0

An Interview With Anna Kournikova

Q. How many tournaments can you play this year?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Ten this year. Next June, until this June, I'm going to -- I can only play three more tournaments.

Q. Do you know which ones they are?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Depends on where I get in. Probably the French, Rome and Hamburg.

Q. Are you okay with that?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, I think if I had the chance, I could play a little bit more to get some more experience. I think it's a little bit strange because next year I can only play 13 tournaments, so that doesn't help me a lot. It's just plus three tournaments. I have to defend my points. That's hard to do when every other girl is playing almost every other week, every two weeks. I can only play ten tournaments during a year. That's half of a tournament each month.

Q. Do you feel like the development of your game has been slowed because of that?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, yeah, I think so. I don't think I'm going to get worse from that, but I don't think I'm going to get better from that.

Q. Sort of standing still?


Q. When the rule first came out, how did you understand it and what did you think the effect was going to be?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I was fine with it last year because we had divisor, old ranking system. From this January, there's no divisor, so it's plus, plus, plus points. The other girls are playing, for example, 30 weeks a year, like 30 tournaments. Of course, they will get better than me, even if I win all my ten.

Q. How many would you like to play ideally?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, I can't say really. It's not about how many I want. It's when I feel like it, I play. When I don't feel like, I don't play, so.

Q. Venus is coming along, Martina made a big breakthrough. Do you have any feeling you'd like to be out there more often to play against them more often and to have a more real picture of how all of you do on a level playing field?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Venus is just coming out. Martina is there. If I could have a little more chance to play, maybe I could be there also. I mean, I have no chance to play. I have to get experience, I have to learn how to win, how to lose, so.

Q. Do you feel, considering the number of times you've played, that your progress matches up?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: It's hard because I go out there, I win the first round. Even in the first round, I play a seed. I went to Australia, I made Amanda in the first round. Indian Wells I played third seed in the second round. Even then, you can't play enough in ten tournaments getting every tournament the seed.

Q. Is there any talk about challenging the system? Do you make your feelings -- do your representatives make your feelings known?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Yeah, we're working on it.

Q. Do you think that the rule, when it first came out, was fair?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, yeah. I was caught in the middle. Either they had to let me go or they don't let me play at all. They just froze me there in the middle, and now I'm like stuck. The rule, in general, I think for the people who are coming. Still, it's hard to tell because you have to play more, you have to get experience. How are you going to learn to play if you are not playing, if you are just practicing? I mean, there is no way. You have to get match experience. I can't go play on juniors forever, for five years.

Q. You seem very frustrated by the whole situation. Is that fair?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, I'm not frustrated. I say what I think about it. That's the way it is.

Q. How come you didn't decide to do the grandfathering thing? What was the reason for that? To turn pro?


Q. You know how Martina got in on the grandfather clause.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I didn't want to play then pros. I was, what, 13 years old. I could before the age. I didn't know the rule is coming and I thought I had plenty of time to turn pro, so.

Q. Is there anything good about the rule?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Well, for me it's hard to say, because for me it's not that good. I don't know how the other people feel. I'm sure it will be good in the future, but I don't know.

Q. With all the spare time that you seemingly have, since you're not playing a full schedule, what else do you do?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I have to keep on still practicing, playing matches, just to try to stay in shape. If I go for my next tournament, I don't -- you know, just normal stuff, same things.

Q. How do you feel you're playing right now?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I feel very, very comfortable here in Miami because I have a lot of good memories. I've been in Florida for six years, so it's like my home. I feel playing very comfortable here.

Q. The restrictions that you're under, do they affect what your expectations are of yourself?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: What do you mean "expectations"?

Q. Do you think since you're not playing the full schedule, it's more okay to only go to the second round, still okay to lose to top seeds?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Of course. If you get a seed, what can you do? I can beat them. I've been playing three sets. I beat a couple of seeds. In Top 10, they have much more experience there. They know how to win the important points. I don't get that experience by not playing.

Q. One of the reasons why they came up with the rule seems to be since you're a teenager, they want to let you be a teenager.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I don't know what better teenage life you could get by traveling the world, looking around, meeting different people, doing what I love to do. I've been playing tennis almost my whole life, so that's what's it about. You can't say, "You can't do this." For example, you go to school, you practice mathematics. If you go to college, they say, "You have to wait now until you are 21." Then you cannot do anything.

Q. I want to make sure I understand. After you play ten, will you be able to play --

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: After June I can play 13.

Q. So you will be able to play the US Open?


Q. You can play three more?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Yes. This is the fourth.

Q. Then three more after this?


Q. So you could play 16 tournaments this year, if that's what you decide to do?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: No, no. I cannot play more than ten tournaments in one year.

Q. He's talking calendar year.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: From June to June, I cannot play more than ten tournaments, from my birthday.

Q. Then June to June you'll play 13?


Q. Do you think you have any more free time? Say you could play all the tournaments you want, are you getting any more free time, relaxing time?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I mean, it's not that I want to play 50 weeks a year, it's not about that. It's just, I go to France to play French Open, and I need to have a preparation tournament on red clay, right? When I go to Wimbledon, I need to have a preparation tournament for Wimbledon on grass. That's already four tournaments. Then I go to Australia, I need preparation for Australia. I go to Hilton Head, I need preparation in Amelia Island or whatever. That's already like 14, 15 tournaments. How can I get ready for the tournament if I'm not playing warm-up on the same surface, time difference, all that. You have to play at least two tournaments in a row.

Q. Is there any certain match or tournament that you were playing where you suddenly realized, "I'm not learning as much as I should," or something you learned over time?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: In Australia it just happened. I flew down, 30 hours. I go there, I play a seed first round. The heat and everything. I didn't play the tournament in Sidney before because I couldn't, otherwise I would come earlier, practice, get ready. It's really hard. After Australia, I realized that's what happens. I have even more pressure on me, they try to take away pressure.

Q. The theory was --

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: -- to take away pressure, right.

Q. And you'd have more time.


Q. The question is, when have you all this time off, when you can't play because you know you have to space your tournaments, do you ever get bored?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I do get bored from not playing.

Q. And you're saying because every match is against a seed --

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Ten chances a year, I go there, I get a seed, I lose. The theory is that I have to win every match, because I have only ten chances. Other girls, they just lose in the first round, go to a next tournament, play it again, whatever.

Q. Do you feel added pressure because of that?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I feel that I have to win every match.

Q. After June 1998, then what is your limitation?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I am not sure. I didn't look that far yet. We'll have to check. I don't know.

Q. Will you be limited, though, do you know?


VERONIQUE MARCHAL: Play a full circuit when you're 18.

Q. You're not free until you're 18?


Q. I want to understand this. You're saying actually you are considering challenging this some way or you're going to abide by the rules?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I sent a letter to saying exactly what I said here. They said they would look at it.

Q. Did they say by when?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: No, unfortunately.

Q. Who did you actually send it to?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I send it to Kathleen, the trainer. She's in charge of it and Georgina.

Q. You came from Russia, the Soviet Union of course is famous because of its big bureaucracy, controlling people's lives. Is it funny to you that here you are in America and you're dealing with this?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Everything happened in like '91, everything finished, the Soviet Union and everything. I left like February '92 from Russia to Florida. This February, it turns six years I'm here.

Q. How soon after the Australian did you send that letter? Was it right away?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: No, not really. It was a couple of weeks after Australia.

Q. Did you actually write the letter and send it?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Yeah. I wrote everything I said here. I don't have anything against it or anything, I just, you know.


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