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When her talent became more apparent when she was seven, she was enrolled in an academy so she could hone her athletic potential. By the time she was eight, Kournikova began to participate in junior tournaments, and by nine, she was getting attention from tennis scouts around the world. At the age of ten, she signed a management deal and went to Bradenton, Florida to train at Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy.
Her tennis career really began to take off while in the states. At the age of fourteen, she won the European Championships and the Italian Open Junior Tournament. She was also the youngest player to win the 18-and-under division of the Junior Orange Bowl tennis tournament. She was crowned the ITF Junior World Champion U-18 and Junior European Champion U-18.
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Also at fourteen, she made her professional tennis debut in the Fed Cup for Russia, being the youngest player ever to participate and win. In 1995 she went pro, winning two ITF titles in Midland, Michigan and Rockford, Illinois. She also reached her first WTA Tour doubles final at the Kremlin Cup. She partnered with Aleksandra Olsza who was a 1995 Wimbledon girls' champion in both singles and doubles. However, they ended up losing to Meredith McGrath and Larisa Neiland.
1996 saw Kournikova play under a new coach, Ed Nagel, who would help her rise to greatness over the next six years. That year she made her grand slam debut, reaching the fourth round of the 1996 US Open, but was stopped by the at-the-time top ranked player, Steffi Graf. Despite the loss, after the tournament Kournikova went from being ranked #144 to debut up to the top 100, ranking at #69. In the same year she was part of the Russian delegation for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. To close off an eventful year, she was named WTA Newcomer of the Year and was ranked #57 by the end of the season.
1997 saw some tough losses for Kournikova where she was eliminated in early rounds of the Australian Open, French Open, US Open, and Italian Open. However, she made it to the doubles semi-finals for the Italian Open, but unfortunately took another tough loss. At the 1997 Wimbledon Championships, she became the second women to reach the semi-finals in her Wimbledon debut. By the end of the season though, she was ranked #32 in singles and #41 in doubles.
In 1998 Kournikova entered the WTA's top 20 rankings, coming in at #16. She kept pushing forward, entering more competitions and pushing herself further in both singles and doubles tournaments. In the Paris Open, she partnered with Larisa Neiland and reached her second doubles WTA Tour final. The pair kept playing together and reached their second consecutive final at the Linz Open. She reached her first WTA Tour singles final at the Miami Open, but lost to Venus Williams.
Through the rest of the year she continued to enter more tournaments and advancing her skills, as well as injuring her thumb at one point, which caused her to withdraw from some other tournaments. Her strong playing that year allowed her to play in the year-end 1998 WTA Tour Championships, where she ended up losing to Monica Seles in the first round. However, she paired with Seles and won her first WTA doubles title in Tokyo. By the end of the season, she was ranked #10 in doubles. That year she was also named one of People's "50 Most Beautiful People", as well as being voted "hottest female athlete" on ESPN.com.
1999 saw Kournikova keep moving forward and entering many more tournaments, and winning her first doubles Grand Slam title with Martina Hingis. Once again, she qualified for the year-end WTA Tour Championships, and by the end of the season she was ranked as #12 in the world. She and Hingis continued to play together and went on to wind doubles tournaments in Indian Wells, Rome, Eastbourne, and the WTA Tour Championships. By the end of the season she was ranked #1 in doubles. Kournikova and Hingis were presented the WTA Awards for Doubles Team of the Year.
Also in 1999, she met Pavel Bure, and NHGL ice hockey player with whom she developed a relationship. In 2000, rumors began to circulate that the two of them were engaged, but the couple dispelled them. A year later she married Bure's former teammate Sergei Fedorov in Moscow, but the marriage ended shortly after. Kournikova's representatives deny any marriage, though Fedorov and his agents claim that they were married.
Kournikova kicked off her 2000 season by partnering with Julie Halard and winning the Gold Coast Open doubles tournament. She participated in many more tournaments that year, winning six doubles titles, including the Gold Coast Open. By the end of the season she was ranked #8 in singles and #4 in doubles.
That year she also became the face for Berlei's shock absorber sports bras as well as landing a minor role in the movie, Me, Myself & Irene.
2001 was a shaky year for her and was dominated by an injury of her left foot, which caused her to pull out of twelve tournaments. She came back when she felt healed and reached her second career grand slam quarterfinals, but had to step back again due to continued pain with her foot. By the end of the season, she was coming in #74 in singles and #26 in doubles.
That same year, she started dating Enrique Iglesias, and rumors began to circulate once again that she was married. Kournikova continued to deny these rumors. For the next couple years, the two of them were sending different messages to the public regarding the status of their relationship. In 2010 Kournikova finally confirmed they had been a couple for eight years, but have no intentions on getting married.
She returned in 2002 with a strong year, moving forward in singles and doubles, winning the grand slam title with Hingis and the Shanghai title with Janet Lee. In 2003 she kept going in and out due to injury, and by the end of the season retired from the WTA. In 2004 she appeared in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, as well as other men's magazines.
Although she withdrew from the WTA after the 2003 season, she still plays exhibition matches for charitable causes. In January 2005, she played in a doubles charity event for the Indian Ocean tsunami. In September 2008, she participated in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in Malibu, California, which raised funds for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. On October 12, 2008 she played an exhibition match for the an annual charity event hosted by Billie Jean King and Elton John, raising more than $400,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Atlanta AIDS Partnership Fund.
In October 2010, Kournikova starred on NBC's The Biggest Loser, where she was in charge of leading contestants in a tennis workout challenge. In May 2011, it was announced that she would join the show as a regular celebrity trainer for season 12.