- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2015

Violetta Degtiareva, one of Russia’s highest paid and highly popular tennis stars — and billed as the “next Anna Kournikova” — dropped dead during practice at the age of 23.

“I can hardly believe it,” wrote her close friend, Anastasi Vdovenco, on Facebook. “Rest in peace.”

It’s not clear why the tennis star suffered heart failure, the New York Post reported. She actually died Jan. 12, but news didn’t spread until her friend posted the message on Facebook.

Central European News reported Degtiareva, a blond beauty who was making huge gains in her tennis career, was born in Rostov, near the border with Ukraine. She was only ranked 1,084 in the world at the time of her death, but nonetheless won a major title and was expected to blossom in her career, much as Ms. Kournikova did, the New York Post reported.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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