At the very beginning everybody in Russia loved Kournikova. The people loved Kournikova because she played beautifully and lived her life like real stars do. Then the whole lat fell out of love and started telling her off for hanging out at too many parties and winning no prizes after all those years on court. At the end of the day, Kournikova did as much as those who could pull it off in Roland Garros. She changed the image of Russia abroad. The world began to root for Russia by rooting for Kournikova – an achievement who should thank her for.
Q: You’ve become a citizen of the world. How is Russia portrayed in the other hemisphere?
A: In America, Russia is still mostly portrayed as the evil empire. You can see it especially in their movies. The Russian characters are almost invariably stupid, bloodthirsty, and ruthless gangsters. Though the number of movies where the Russian are painted black has decreased, the people out there are still kind of afraid of Russia. So be it. From my point of view, fear is one of the signs of respect. Subconsciously they can feel we’re still strong yet they can’t explain why. That’s why they apply strange labels to the Russians.
Q: What is the difference between the Russian state of mind and the Western mentality?
A: I believe the openness of the Russian soul is the biggest difference. The Russian soul is probably somewhat naïve and vulnerable. I do agree with you as for the state of mind because the Russians use their heart a lot while thinking, they tend to mix human relations and business. On the contrary, the people in the West are very good at keeping business and emotions separated.
Q: Everybody used to scold you for wasting away your wonderful talent, for not winning a single tournament. Do you have any explanation or excuse to all those accusations?
A: Why should I justify my actions? I’m not going to do that. By and large, I know a couple of things about myself. I know that I came to light out of nowhere, I do know the results I’ve achieved both on and outside a tennis court. I feel happy and I’m grateful to my fate for my life.
Q: Have you thought about staging a comeback into the world of tennis? Could you do something in a way of Martina Hingis who came back this year?
A: To be honest, I miss playing tennis a lot. Tennis is a huge piece of my life. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that tennis shaped me up like a person, it’s tennis that taught me discipline, responsibility, and precision both in occupation and emotions. I would continue playing it if my physical and psychological health were okay. Bear in mind that I worked 6-8 hours a day since I was five. My back had too much of a strain in the last 16-17 years. Lately it’s been aching all the time.
Q: According to one saying, this world will cease to exist when women become men, and vice versa. Looking at today’s female tennis one can arrive at the conclusion that the end of the world is nigh.
A: All athletes must pass a dope test. Should a female athlete test positive for male hormones whose amount exceeds the amount of the female ones, she may be banned from playing in a tournament. I won’t judge anybody for I know what it feels like being judged.
It is as simple as that. They have to show respect to any athlete. A tennis match will do the trick, it will show who’s a better player. Judging by the international tournaments, female players who had a strong build are really stronger. At the same time, they’re subject to frequent psychological breakdowns too. So they lose to refined girls in the end.
Q: Any regrets that you sacrificed tennis for love? Did you by any chance get overshadowed by Enrique Iglesias, your chosen one?
A: By no means. On the contrary, it feels great to be around a person who knows what it’s like being in the spotlight. My biggest dream is to see Enrique succeed and reach the top of his career. He’s a very hardworking person and he enjoys being goal-oriented. I’ve learnt quite a lot from him. Sometimes it feels great just to be his girl, you know, I stay in the background to let him fall into the spotlight.
Q: You turned 25 on June 7th. Twenty five years is quite a length of time, one can do a little bit of summing up. What are your ideas about turning 25?
A: Turning 25 is both cool and scary, and it’s awfully interesting as well. Because I can understand this world better now, and I’m getting better at it as years go by. I wouldn’t like to have the brains of an 18-year-old girl forever. Back then I was pretty stupid (in a good way) though being young and stupid is a charming combination. Now I can feel I’m growing older, I’m getting more experienced. In fact, I’m only beginning to figure out what kind of person I am. At the same time I feel totally young and full of energy.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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