All this, and the Jezebel of Sweat also teases us with an orchestrated love life that by comparison makes the U.S. tax code easy to follow. "She enjoys the game of it," says Eric Van Harpen, her coach. "The secrets. She enjoys just saying 'perhaps.' What woman does not want to say 'perhaps'?" Whom does Anna love? Sergei? Perhaps. Nicol�s? Perhaps. Pavel? Perhaps. Mark? Perhaps. Will she marry? Perhaps. Did she really announce that she is still a virgin? Perhaps. Did she actually mean it when she said the women on tour will one day be playing topless? Perhaps. Anna, over here. Anna, please. Look here. There's Anna. (Even in America, with our nasal a's, everybody pronounces it right—Anna, as in ah.) Ahhh. Oooh. COME WATCH ANNA'S SERVES AND CURVES! The home-movie cameras whir. Little boys chase after her. Big boys leer after her. Special K. Baby Spice. Pornikova.
Charlie Pasarell, who runs the Indian Wells tournament in Southern California, leans forward at his desk and declares, "If she won just one major, she would become the most famous female athlete of all time." Just one? "Just one. She's that special."
On the other hand, if she doesn't win, when does it all start to pale? Now she is the beauty who plays tennis. But what if she becomes the beauty who never wins at tennis? It is all so big right now, but maybe this is as big as it gets. Bubbles burst. Says Billie Jean King, "Being a beautiful woman is a lot like being a tennis player: You know the best of it has to end when you're still young. To be both, as Anna is, can be hard. After all, from age 10 she's heard two things over and over: how beautiful she is and how great a player she is."
Of course, at least for now, her beauty is hers to keep, unthreatened, undiminished. Tennis, though, is a game in which other people—envious people—try to take something from you. So it is still possible that... Anna Kournikova will be a very young HAS-BEEN...in tennis...even if she has years left in radiance...as a will-be.
Dear Anna Web Pagers,
Here's what I think: I don't think she is going to get married anytime soon, anywhere, to anybody. You can put this on your page: Exclusive! You see, I had a long chat with Anna, a t�te-�-t�te. She has a good sense of humor and a nice way about her, and there was only one time that she got put out, even a little peeved at me. That was when we were talking about her parents, Alla and Serguei. They married when Alla was 18—which is to say, younger than Anna is now. It was the custom then in the Soviet Union to marry young. So, in a very natural, clever segue, I said, "It must be in your blood."
Anna looked at me quizzically Then, bingo, she got my drift. She took her hand away from her lip. She has a habit of playing with her lip when she talks. (Another Exclusive! for your Web page.) Then, sharply: "What's in my blood?"
"You know, that you want to get married young, too."
She scowled at me. Then: "No, no!" she shrieked. "Not me!"
It was a very unambiguous answer, indisputably visceral. There was no perhaps.
Anna's father, a professor at the University for Physical Culture and Sport in Moscow, has pretty much joined her troupe. Anna has his eyes, but the rest of her she obviously derives from—shares with—her mother. It was Alla who, alone, escorted Anna to America a decade ago, to set up residence at Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy in Florida. Alla herself is most fetching, and while she has never been a shrinking violet (Bollettieri had to institute what became known as The Kournikova Rule to keep her off the practice court), she does not manipulate her daughter's life, especially now that her only child has more grown-up days than little-girl days. "It's a difficult age, isn't it?" Alla says. "Anna still listens to me, but now she also wants to try everything for herself." Still, when Anna is playing, it is striking how often she glances over to her mother.