Anna Kournikova was born in Moscow on June 7, 1981, and started playing tennis at the age of 5.
Kournikova wrote in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens: Personal Stories and Advice from Today’s Most Inspiring Youth, “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.”
“Sure enough, tennis quickly became my life, my outlet, my circle of friends, and my community. My coach was my second mother,” she added. Everything in my life was about tennis and training. Somehow I knew, even though I was just a kid, that I didn’t have many other options. At the time, life in Russia was tough – there weren’t as many opportunities there as there are in the United States. “
She had talent and potential, it was quite obvious and everyone wanted a piece of her.
Kournikova became a millionaire at the age of 13 with the help of IMG after playing in a single tournament.
“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.
It wasn’t long before her talents became exceptional and in 1995 she was recognized as a pro and went on to win the top international junior event.
Anna was soon rushed by brands as she was a talented, popular, Russian who spoke English fluently. She was soon the biggest name in women’s tennis as she went commercial. Endorsement by brands was pouring in and was on the covers of sports magazines.
In 2002, she became one of the most googled personalities globally. In 2003 she played on the WTA Tour for the last time. She had to retire at the age of 22 because of injuries.
Kournikova said on the evening she announced 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. I never tried to pay attention. I mean, it was a little hard time dealing with it being 16, 17 years old, reading some kind of c**p about yourself, you know. Most of it was made up.”
Even though she retired early, she was able to an empire worth over $50 million. Today she lives a quiet life with her husband and children.