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Making a case for Kournikova

There has been on ongoing debate of late over Anna Kournikova, the young Russian tennis sensation who makes men's hearts go pitter-patter whenever she takes the court - or does anything else for that matter.

The debate centers around why Kournikova is an international star, someone who garners more fan and media attention than the best players on the women's tennis circuit, among whom she can barely be included.

Kournikova has never won a major tennis tournament and is ranked in the lower potion of the top 20, which by conventional standards means that she would barely be a household name if anyone beside a tennis fanatic knew her at all.

But therein lies the quandary. We all know who she is, we all have heard of her, seen her television commercials and read the articles in such national publications as Sports Illustrated, devoted entirely to her, articles that have about as much to do with tennis as tonight's weather forecast.

As a person who makes his living reporting on sports, I can say without question that Kournikova's fame and fortune can be attributed to her tennis success only when you realize that it is her tennis career that brought her into the public eye. Her fame, however, stems from another reason entirely: she is gorgeous.

Kournikova has been lambasted by certain members of the media for the fact that she captures so much attention because of how she looks, which, let's face it, is probably true. But that should not be used against her either, arguments many other journalists have made in recent weeks.

That Kournikova, as Dennis Miller likes to say, "hit the genetic lottery," is not her fault. That she is able to make money off her appearance - well, that is her right and she should not be criticized or reviled for it.

It is the public who has the problem, not Kournikova. If the public chooses to watch women's tennis because of Kournikova, it is something that women's tennis should take advantage of and use to its benefit. Any publicity, someone once said, is good publicity.

When Andre Agassi first burst onto the men's tennis scene, I never heard a word about his sex appeal and how it denigrates the game and draws attention away from the best players, which he certainly did.

I remember how television made a point of showing Agassi taking his shirt off after a match and tossing it to the crowd, but I don't remember anyone complaining either.

Of course, Agassi could back up any criticism with a resum

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