Anna Kournikova and the Male Testosterone Level
by Mason Hawk
Anna Kournikova is living proof that all Russian women don't look like Yogi Berra, much to the astonishment of many ethnocentric American males. Quite to the contrary, the 17-year-old tennis champion (ranked 16th in the world) is a golden-haired beauty, known as much for her precocious good looks and brash attitude, as for her ability to send drop-shots rocketing to the playing floor.
Unfortunately, a few members of the press are less then thrilled with Anna's brashness. In fact, some have dished out their dissatisfaction in heaping, schoolmarmish doses. Take Bruce Schoenfield, of TennisMatch magazine, for one, who recently bashed Anna for committing such transgressions as wearing leopard-skin miniskirts and "the shortest of all possible of tennis shorts."
Whether Schoenfield's been out in the sun too long is anyone's guess. (Outdoor sports can be rough on the old cerebral cortex during these hazy summer months.) Nevertheless, Anna whose trail of nicknames has included such tags as Lolita and Baby Spice seems to be taking it all in stride. "I'm trying to look feminine," she explains. "Tennis is a women's sport, and we should look like ladies out there."
Anna "Baby Spice" K. & the Rest of the Gang|
Well, tennis may or may not be a women's sport but looking feminine seems to come easily for Kournikova and has, to date, been rewarding her in handsome ways. Although her mother, Alla, and her agent, Tony Godsick (of the International Management Group) claim to be making no untoward moves to capitalize on Anna-mania, truth be told, someone's raking in the perks. Kournikova has recently signed multimillion-dollar deals with the likes of Rolex, Yonex and Adidas.
So what is it about Anna that manages to raise the testosterone levels of male tennis fans and, hell, just plain males everywhere? Put simply, there seems to be a comfort zone that the five-foot-eight, 123-pound pro has with her raw charisma and star appeal. To coin a phrase, she's got it; she flaunts it. She mugs for the camera, she wears those leopard skirts and, as Peter de Jonge of Details magazine pointed out, she tends to tie her shoes without bending her legs. (Use your imagination here, Poncho.)
So why the Anna K. backlash? In addition to criticisms about exploiting her appeal, Kournikova has been on the receiving end of a good number of barbs due to her relationship with Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings. The complaints are rooted in the fact that the hockey star is her senior by a good number of years, at age 27, and, moreover, that the relationship started a few years back when Kournikova was still at the tender age of 14.
The fact is that this was roughly the time that Anna turned pro. Obviously, she had to grow up fast. And by all accounts, she appears to be handling her celebrity with relatively good grace. I don't doubt that some of the claims to her curtness may be true (Davis Cup champion Eugene L. Scott dubbed her a "semispoiled brat"; German pro Tommy Haas said she was "mostly stuck-up") but hell she just turned 17 in June and the pressure's on. Maybe they should give her a break. A little vibrancy and personality are not necessarily bad things in this big, bland world. And besides, I've always had a liking for leopard-skin miniskirts and "the shortest of all possible of tennis shorts."
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