Seles Remains a Kournikova Supporter

By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The fact that Anna Kournikova has achieved widespread fame without winning a single tournament causes resentment among many players on the women’s tour.

Monica Seles isn’t one of them.

After beating Kournikova 7-6 (7-6), 6-4 Saturday night in the Minnesota Tennis Challenge, Seles scoffed at the suggestion that there’s any animosity toward the 21-year-old Russian, whose known more for her beauty than her forehand.

“I don’t think there’s animosity. My gosh, that’s a strong word to use,” Seles said after the exhibition match. “She’s dedicated her life to this sport. She’s one of the hardest workers on tour.”

And if Kournikova’s fame is based on a pretty face, not a French Open or a Wimbledon title?

“It’s understandable,” said Seles. “But she’s a gorgeous girl. What can she do about that? She can’t just hide her face.”

Seles pointed out that Kournikova was ranked as high as eighth in May 2001 before an ankle injury slowed her down. Now 35th in the WTA rankings, Kournikova is getting ready for the 2003 season. She hasn’t won a Grand Slam singles match since the 2001 Australian Open.

Her goal?

“To stay healthy, go back and try to play a full season this time,” Kournikova said.

The same goes for Seles, the nine-time Grand Slam winner who was hampered by a foot injury this year and lost in the quarterfinals in each of the last three majors. She’s ranked seventh.

“The offseason is not very long,” Seles said. “You basically have to start training right away. I’m pretty much healed, but we don’t have much time. It’s very tough to come back from an injury because the ranking system is so brutal.”

The 29-year-old Seles had her return game working well and served three aces to finish off Kournikova in the final game. She looks ready for a full schedule in 2003 and doesn’t seem to be thinking about retirement.

“As long as she’s still having success, I don’t see why she won’t continue,” said Tony Godsick, Seles’ agent. “She hasn’t said anything to me about it.”

Seles and Kournikova have played each other in a number of exhibitions. They left St. Paul on Saturday night for Canada, where they were scheduled to play Sunday in Winnipeg.

“It’s tiring, but these matches are great,” Seles said. “It’s a relaxed atmosphere where we can work on our game a little bit.”

It also gives Kournikova, who grew up as a huge Seles fan, a chance to pick up a few pointers.

“It’s amazing to play against Monica,” Kournikova said. “It’s like the best feeling in the world.”