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Beauty and the best as Anna turns on style.

Anna Kournikova is probably the only person on the planet who can keep Ronaldo out of the spotlight in the next two weeks.

The red-hot Russian is the Lolita of women's tennis and as long as she retains an interest at Wimbledon the sporting world will retain one in her.

World No.1 Martina Hingis, no potato-face herself, commands nowhere near the attention of the blonde Muscovite with the lissome legs.

And Kournikova is happy to push her image as it fills her bank account with more roubles than the Kremlin.

She said: "Why should I have to look ugly just because I'm an athlete?

"People ask me why do I have to look good on court, why not just play?

"But whenever I'm on court, to me it's like theatre. I have to express myself. I did not make the image for myself."

Kournikova is perhaps not the best person to ask for an understanding of herself. At 17, she is feeling rather than thinking her way through adolescence.

And like countless gorgeous creatures before her she is evidence of how beauty is sometimes wasted on the young.

When asked at the French Open last month what she liked best about life as a tennis superstar she replied: "Sitting next to Tim Henman at Press conferences."

Our Tim went puce with embarrassment - or was it lust. Either way it was the only suitable reaction to a silly answer.

If maturity is proving elusive off court, the signs are more encouraging on it.

Last Thursday's win over Steffi Graf at Eastbourne was the latest in an impressive sequence which has seen her claim a number of top 10 scalps this year including Hingis, Monica Seles, Lindsey Davenport and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

She was impressive enough last year to become the first Wimbledon debutante since Chrissie Evert in 1972 to reach the semi-finals.

Twelve months on the world No.11 is beginning to add belief to her celebrated racket head speed and accuracy.

She said: "The win over Steffi was probably the most important of my career. If I'd been 4-4 in the final set last year I could not have imagined winning.

"But I did at Eastbourne and the way I did is a measure of the improvement I have made. It was also very important for me going into Wimbledon."

Graf is chasing her eighth singles crown - but although the sentimental vote suggests she can fulfil her dream, the harsh reality is likely to be so different.

Dogged by an injury to her left knee, the 29-year-old may well find that too great a handicap against younger, fitter and fresher talent.

The German said: "I have a lot to do. The competition is greater than ever, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Defending champion Hingis is head and shoulders above the rest but she said: "There is always more pressure when you are No.1 - you are the leader of the sport.

"Everyone is improving and so must I if I want to stay at the top."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Garside, Kevin
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 22, 1998
Next Article:RED-HOT CHILE LEPER!; Rios has a shorter fuse than McEnroe.

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