- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

Anna Kournikova didn’t play tennis Wednesday night. She didn’t as much as hit a forehand or rocket a serve, but she did show up to the Washington Kastles’ match against her St. Louis Aces.

And when Anna Kournikova shows up, so do the fans.

Even though she’s injured with severe tenosynovitis in her left wrist, an advertisement on the Kastles’ Web site read, “Don’t miss Anna tonight!” And judging by the number of people who showed up at Kastles Stadium on Wednesday, Kournikova still can draw a crowd.

Now 28 and with her best tennis days behind her - which included a No. 8 world ranking and an illustrious doubles career - Kournikova still feels the need to support World TeamTennis and her team.

“I love still being on the court; I love the format [of World TeamTennis],” Kournikova said Wednesday. “I still wanted to be a part of it. … I wanted to spend the time with kids.”

Hours before the fans arrived, Kournikova hosted a clinic for 50 to 60 children that included basic instruction, some games and a talk from the seven-year WTT veteran. Afterward, Kournikova signed autographs and took some pictures.

This routine is nothing new to Kournikova, who was in Philadelphia with the Aces on Monday and will travel to Springfield, Mo., on Friday before going back to St. Louis on Saturday to do something similar.

“Anna’s been really great with us,” said Billie Jean King, the league’s co-founder. “She’s great with people and families, particularly kids. She’s been great for us because not only is she a big draw, but once people get there… she’s accessible. And that’s one of the things we try and make sure that our players are [accessible]. She really embraces that fact.”

Though Kournikova has found a way to make an impact even after getting injured three weeks ago, the Russian, who hasn’t played on tour since 2003, would have much rather been on the court Wednesday night.

King said Kournikova was “really upset” about not being able to play for the Aces this season, adding that she “tried everything” to get back on the court.

“It’s hard,” Kournikova said of her injury. “It’s a lot harder probably watching. You get a lot more nervous sitting on the bench watching the players play. It’s very difficult.”

But even in her injured state, even as she has been reduced to a public relations figure, Kournikova still is quite a draw for WTT.

“A lot of people think it’s just her looks, and I get irritated because she has a lot of accomplishments,” King said. “She’s a great athlete, and God happened to give her great looks as well. It’s great for branding. She’s still very popular; it’s amazing.”

Note - The Kastles lost to the Aces 21-15, Washington’s fourth consecutive loss to start the season.

The second-to-last set of the match, which was men’s singles between Washington’s Scott Oudsema and St. Louis’ Mislav Hizak, was pivotal because the Kastles held a slim 12-11 advantage with two sets remaining.

As it turned out, Oudsema lost the set 5-0, leaving a nearly insurmountable four-game deficit with only one set remaining. The Kastles didn’t get the late miracle they needed to capture their first win of the season.

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