Another rising star, Kournikova, rolls on Russian teen-ager sweeps past Rubin on Centre Court

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WIMBLEDON, England -- They sure don't mind rushing along the new teen-agers at Wimbledon.

Yesterday, 16-year-old Anna Kournikova of Russia, unseeded but hardly unknown, made her Wimbledon debut in a little out of the way spot known as Centre Court.

She beat Chanda Rubin, 6-1, 6-1, and then faced the ravenous British tabloid reporters.

The reporters tried to lure her into all sorts of controversies.

Did she talk trash about the play of another top teen, Venus Williams?

"I never say anything about players," she said.

The reporters tried to probe her friendship with 26-year-old Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov, who has attended some of her past matches.

"I'm single," she said.

One reporter even asked, "Do you ever worry that everybody is talking about how pretty you are?"

Kournikova said: "Well, I just don't worry about anything like that, you know. I just think about tennis right now."

Finally, the reporters gave up and asked her about tennis.

"I watched many, many matches before on the Centre Court and on television when I was growing up," she said. "And it was really, really enjoyable for me to play there."

The attention paid to Kournikova speaks volumes about the state of the women's game. Reigning champion Steffi Graf is out with an injury. Monica Seles and Williams don't play until today.

While Kournikova was dodging questions, another 16-year-old, No. 1 Martina Hingis, was having a surprisingly difficult time on Court 1. Eventually, she beat a pesky Anne Kremer, 6-4, 6-4.

"She played really smart and waited around," Hingis said. "I always had the chance to make the point, but I didn't make it. And we were just running from one corner to the next all the time. I think it was a good match for the spectators. It was close. And it was a good start for me."

No. 8 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario also got off to a quick start, with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Clare Wood.

She figures with all the attention paid to the teen-agers, she can slip through to the championship.

"I'm in good shape at the moment," Sanchez Vicario said. "I'm thinner. I have more experience. I think that the fact that I play well here can help me.

"Every year anything can happen," she said. "It's just the start of the tournament, but I'm just trying."

Featured matches

Play starts on Centre Court and Court 1 at 9 a.m.; all other courts at 7 a.m.

Centre court: Rachel McQuillan vs. Monica Seles (2); Magnus Norman vs. Goran Ivanisevic (2); Tim Henman (14) vs. Jerome Golmard

Court 1: Wiltrud Probst vs. Jana Novotna (3); Greg Rusedski vs. Jonathan Stark; Chris Wilkinson vs. Mark Woodforde

Court 2: Andrei Pavel vs. Richard Krajicek (4); Dominique van Roost vs. Mary Pierce (9)

Court 3: Richey Reneberg vs. Carlos Moya (10)

Court 5: Kristie Boogert vs. Barbara Paulus (16)

Court 18: Mary Joe Fernandez (11) vs. Noelle van Lottum; Wayne Ferreira (15) vs. Rodolphe Gilbert

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