she w win the french open, but who cares? anna kournikova is living proof that even in this age of supposed enlightenment1, a hot2 body can count as much as a good backhand3.

“ i'm the perfect age right now,” anna kournikova says with great delight. “ i can be a little girl or i can be grown up. i can be whichever i want.”

  and like that, both woman and child, she can also by turns be cagey4 or guileless5, wise or foolish, cocky6 or dependent, tender or tough, coquettish7 or direct, beautiful or...

  beautiful.

  as raym wrote in farewell,my lovely, “ it was a blonde. a bl to make a bi? shop8 kick a hole in a stained glass window.” anna is that kind of gorgeous9, and anna knows it.

  oh, she protests, properly, “ but i am a tennis player. there are thousands of beautiful women, but how many have the ability to play tennis, to be a personality10? if i would be ranked 500, no would look at me.”

  this is true to a point. but kournikova is certainly not ranked 500th.to be sure,she isn't no.1 either, but she is 15th in the world, and that is good enough. there has never been any quite like anna kournikova in sports. never any so rich and famous the world over just for being a beautiful athlete. j who played mixed doubles with kournikova this year in australia, says, “ it's quite amazing to stand on the court with her and see so many guys going nuts.”

  now she is the beauty who plays tennis. but what if she becomes the beauty who never wins at tennis? says billie jean king, “ being a beautiful woman is a lot like being a tennis player: you know the best of it has to end when you're still young. to be both, as anna is, can be hard. after all, from age 10 she's heard two things over and over: how beautiful she is and how great a player she is.”

of course, at least for now, anna's beauty is hers to keep, unthreatened, undiminished.