Anna Kournikova, the Russian blonde babe who features on this year’s provocative programme cover for the annual pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne, is being rubbished by fellow professional Nathalie Tauziat.
Kournikova, the undisputed glamour girl on the WTA Tour, has been served heavy criticism in a book co-written by France’s Tauziat and French journalist Dominque Bannot titled ‘Les Dessous Du Tennis Feminin’ (The Underside of Women’s Tennis).
Tauziat, 32, has taken a shot at teenager Kournikova by claiming that she’s recognised more for her good looks than her obvious sporting talent that took her into the 1997 Wimbledon semi-finals on her debut.
But many consider it sour grapes as 32-year-old Tauziat, the world #7, has won just over £3 million prize money spanning a 16-year career. In contrast, 19-year-old Kournikova has collected £7m off-court earnings due to lucrative sponsorship deals alongside her £1m in prize money from competing on the professional circuit alongside veteran Tauziat.
Bannot admitted: “Nathalie’s angry because Anna has amassed millions without winning a tournament and she’s won tournaments but has less money. She really doesn’t think that is fair.”
Tauziat, the 1995 Eastbourne champion, fumed: “I don’t know why everyone talks about Kournikova as being sexy when there are other girls on Tour who also look good.
“Kournikova has always had this image. When she was a girl at Bollettieri’s Academy they were already writing about her as the beautiful baby. There’s too much publicity on this aspect and not enough on her tennis.
“Of course girls like Kournikova are good for women’s tennis, making us better box office than the men. But in the long term I fear this isn’t good for the game.
“Kournikova has still not won a tournament. Will she have a career as long as mine?
“I gave a copy of the book to her coach, Eric Van Harpen, because he asked for one but I haven’t spoken to her.
“If she wants to talk to me she can. I would tell her to concentrate just on her tennis and try to win the tournament, I’m sure that’s her goal.”
Tauziat defeated Kournikova at Eastbourne in a tense and tight three-set semi-final last season that prompted her first volley of displeasure about the Russian.
The 1998 Wimbledon runner-up claimed: “I don’t think she has a very good volley, she needs to improve that to win Wimbledon one day, and her serve too. You need to have a very good serve on grass.”
And Tauziat, beaten by Russian Natasha Zvereva in last year’s final at Devonshire Park, could come face-to-face with Kournikova for a semi-final rematch on the sleepy south coast resort this month.
But Kournikova returned Tauziat’s verbal volleys of criticism by saying: “Thanks for suggestions from her, but I think I’m playing very well.
“My time will come. She’s more experienced than me and that’s the way it goes, but I’ll win next time.”