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Anna Kournikova - Bollettieri Protege

Famous Sports StarsTennisAnna Kournikova Biography - Bollettieri Protege, Wimbledon Semifinalist, Off-court Headlines, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Seles Defends Her - SELECTED WRITINGS BY KOURNIKOVA:

Bollettieri Protege

Born an only child in Moscow, Kournikova first swung a tennis racquet at age 5. She came from an athletic family; her father, Sergei, was a Greco-Roman wrestler and her mother, Alla, ran the 400 meters. At age seven, Kournikova was accepted as a junior member in Moscow's renowned Spartak Athletic Club, but the city's climate limited outdoor play to four months, and indoor courts were cost prohibitive.

The family moved to Florida in the early 1990s, enabling Kournikova to enroll at Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy, which launched the likes of Seles, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras to stardom. Kournikova spoke no English when she arrived. "But Anna knew who she was, and wanted everyone to know who she was, too," Bollettieri recalled. "She thought she was Queen Tut."

She turned pro at 14, making her WTA Tour debut at Moscow as a qualifier, defeating Marketa Kochta before losing to Sabine Appelmans. A year later, she surged 224 spots to a No. 57 ranking and, in her first Grand Slam, reached the fourth round before losing top-ranked Steffi Graf. She also represented Russia in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

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