With the world's best tennis players chasing medals in Sydney (the gilded Venus and Serena Williams, among others) or uninterested in beating up on a litany of lightweights ( Martina Hingis, taking a breather), Anna Kournikova had a golden opportunity last week to—wonder of wonders!—win a tournament.
When top-seed Nathalie Tauziat was upset in the opening round of the Seat Open in Luxembourg, Kournikova, ranked 13th in the world and the tournament's second seed, found herself in the unfamiliar position of favorite. In her first match, the Charles Schwab spokesmodel survived a scare from 50th-ranked Nadeja Petrova: After losing the first set 6-1, Kournikova rallied to take the second 7-5 before advancing when Petrova withdrew with a thigh injury. Then, everyone's favorite cover girl knocked off defending champion Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals, sending a shiver through fan sites across the Web. ANNA WON!!! read a post on the message board of the Anna Kournikova International Fan Club. Replied a fellow acolyte: "That's really the best, most important news!"
Unfortunately, Kournikova was abruptly sent packing, 6-2, 6-4 by seventh-seeded Magdalena Maleeva. "I was shocked," wrote an Annaphile on the International Fan Club site. "But just imagine how Anna must feel." No need to imagine: Tennis's glamour girl was surprisingly emotionless. "Everybody is here to win, and she was playing better than me today," said Kournikova following the match. "I tried to give my best."
In five years as a WTA pro, Kournikova is now 0 for 79 in her attempts to win a singles title, and with the top tier players rejoining the circuit over the next two weeks, you can bet The Streak will continue into 2001. Not that any of that has shaken the faith of true believers: Last month Kournikova signed a five-year deal to become the new face of Omega watches. At least time is on her side.