Kournikova denies hiring Hingis' mother as coach

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The Independent Online

Anna Kournikova denied rumors today that she had recruited Swiss tennis star Martina Hingis' mother Melanie Molitor to help breath new life into a title–less career that has reached a new low following a nagging foot injury sustained earlier this year.

The 20–year–old Russian also denied speculation in British tabloids that she was to become the next "Bond Girl."

The Australian press reported Kournikova had enlisted Molitor's help following her slump from eighth to 24th in the WTA rankings resulting from a stress fracture of her left foot in February.

"That's not necessarily true," said Kournikova, who has not won a match since the injury. "We did work together with Martina a week in Switzerland to practice for doubles but there's not an official anything."

On her side, Molitor said through the WTA that she was "not her (Kournikova's) coach."

Kournikova has relied on her parents, Alla and Sergei, for coaching and training since Eric van Harpen was fired as her coach in August 2000.

While Kournikova and Molitor have no official working relationship, Hingis' mother has kept an eye on the young Russian, who was invited to stay at the Swiss family's home in Truebbach, Switzerland, last September to work on her physical form.

"It's not so much my physical condition now but more my mental state of mind," said Kournikova following her 0–6, 6–4, 3–6 opening round loss to Amanda Coetzer at the Swisscom Challenge. "Right now it's my concentration I have to work on."

The Russian has had few matches to keep her in shape, playing in just nine tournaments since her injury in February.

Since her latest comeback attempt last month, she has lost all four of her matches.

Recent embarrassments have demonstrated Kournikova's need for help. With no titles to her name and a dismal year that saw her crash out in the opening round of her last five matches, Kournikova needs to justify her status as one of the Tour's stars to both fans and sponsors alike.

Last week in Filderstadt, the Russian committed a staggering 25 double faults on way to losing to Luxembourg qualifier Anne Kremer. The week before in Moscow, Kournikova fell in straight sets to rookie compatriot Galina Fokina, playing in her first career WTA Tour match.

Spending three–to–four hours at the Bad Ragaz hall or on Hingis' private court also permitted the former doubles partners to kiss and make up following their split last year.

The two paired up to win in Moscow and teamed up again for the doubles in Filderstadt. They were scheduled to hook up again in Zurich until Hingis tore ligaments in her ankle last week during a semifinal against American Lindsay Davenport at the Porsche Grand Prix.

Kournikova, always at the center of rumors, was also reported to have clinched a role in the next James Bond film as a "Bond Girl."

"I found that out yesterday, too, on the Internet," Kournikova said, smiling. "It's really interesting. Seriously, I know as little as anyone else on that. Right now I'm just happy to be healthy.

"'Bond Girls' have to do a lot of tough things and I don't think I'm physically ready for that."