adidas originals la trainer Kournikova’s crisis deepens
Now, as April gets underway, one of her main sponsors has warned that her on court form must improve if she is to keep her current lucrative endorsement deal.
“More sporting success is vital if she is to be taken seriously as an athlete,” said adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer.
Most British fans have seen far more of her on the hundreds of fansites on the web that at Wimbledon, where she has failed to make any sort of impact since reaching the semi finals in 1997.
Last summer her adverts for Berlei sports bras were plastered across billboards throughout the UK, giving her a profile bigger than that of any other player.
But she didn’t even make it as far as the first round at the All England Club a stress fracture of the foot keeping her out.
It was the same story in 2000. While Forbes Magazine named her 58th in their Power 100 Fame and Fortune list, the only female athlete in the top 100, she was dumped out of Wimbledon in the second round.
Is this the sort of form that justifies endorsements worth ?.5m that year?
Kournikova’s only successes have come in doubles events. She has twice won the Australian Open title, both times with Martina Hingis.
Hingis provides an interesting counterpoint to Kournikova’s crisis.
As a player, the Swiss is undoubtedly superior her five Grand Slam singles titles dwarfing the Russian’s achievements.
But both are threatening to be swept away by the new breed in women’s tennis, the players whose game revolves around brute power rather than prettiness.
Hingis has not won a Grand Slam since Venus and Serena Williams hit their peaks and Jennifer Capriati returned from the wilderness.
For all her stroke playing talents, she does not have the weight of shot to compete with the Americans at their best.
Kournikova lacks both the subtlety of her doubles partner and the strength of the others.
Does she realise? Probably. Is she prepared to so anything about it? Doubtful.
“I hate my muscles,” she said recently.
“I don’t want to look like they [Venus and Serena] do. I’m not masculine like they are.”
It’s an attitude that may eventually cost her dear. Does Marion Jones complain that the weights programme that took her to Olympic and world championship success made her look too beefy?