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Thursday, July 17
'She's heading in the wrong direction'

WIMBLEDON, England -- The WTA Tour is unhappy with how Anna Kournikova was interviewed by BBC-TV at Wimbledon, saying Tuesday that questions were harsh and insensitive.

Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova was publicly criticized by some of the game's greats for her behavior and consistently poor play.

The BBC responded that the questions about Kournikova's game were "not unreasonable.''

Kournikova was visibly irritated during the interview after her 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 first-round loss Monday to Tatiana Panova.

After failing to get past the first round for the fourth tournament in a row, Kournikova was irritated when interviewer Garry Richardson suggested she should consider playing some lower-tier tournaments.

"I just don't think you should phrase the question that way,'' she snapped. She stood up, and asked that the taped segment start over. The BBC later aired the entire session.

John McEnroe, Virginia Wade and ESPN analyst Pam Shriver criticized Kournikova, as did British newspapers.

WTA Tour spokesman Chris de Maria said talks were held with the BBC about the interview.

"We've had discussions with the BBC and said perhaps they could have been a little more sensitive to the player that lost,'' de Maria told The Associated Press. "Sometimes you have to take an extra pause to understand the sensitivities of the player that lost.

"We talked with Anna afterward. There was, I think, a legitimacy to her irritation to the way the questions were posed ... they were probably being phrased a little more bit harshly than they needed to be.

"It's unfortunate that after she requested they start again, that they showed the entire thing from the start to finish.''

The BBC said Tuesday that it stood by its decision to broadcast the whole interview.

"We met with the WTA and there was a frank exchange of views,'' BBC spokesman Caroline Inman said. "We understand each other's concerns. The questions asked in the interview were not unreasonable.''

Inman said she was unsure whether the BBC had previously broadcast in full a taped interview that someone had asked to be restarted.

Kournikova will only be required to sit down for another BBC interview if she wins the doubles tournament.

Three-time Wimbledon champion McEnroe, who is doing BBC commentary here, said Kournikova needs to assess where she is going in the sport.

"Her nerves are shot, she has no confidence, and she is not in very good shape, and if she is telling you otherwise then she's kidding herself,'' McEnroe said. "You can see that by watching her.

"At the same time let's not forget she got to the semis here and did break into the top 10. She's heading in the wrong direction very quickly and she's tried a number of different people.

"Wimbledon was her best chance. It's time for some serious reassessment and some serious practice.''

Wade, the 1977 Wimbledon champion, agrees.

"She has lost her confidence and I don't think she is facing her problems,'' Wade said. "She is absolutely in denial.''

Shriver said the interview showed the real Kournikova.

"A player can be stretched and you can say things in an interview you regret. I know, I've been there -- but nothing like that,'' Shriver said. "It was horrible.''

Former British Davis Cup player and fellow TV commentator John Lloyd agreed.

"You can't react like that. It's pathetic. She has had more cameras thrust in her face than I've had hot dinners."

Kournikova had at least one supporter -- Monica Seles.

"I didn't see the interview but it's been the talk of the locker room this morning,'' Seles said after her 6-0, 6-0 first round win over Eva Bes of Spain.

"Anna is definitely going through a difficult period. I think she'll get through it. She's a very strong personality. Each one of us has a crisis ... in (out) career. It's a tough one she's going through. She had a tough injury.

"You know, she's going to have to have a few matches, win, to get her confidence back and I think start playing better.''

Kournikova's defeat and interview spat made front, middle and backpage headlines in Britain's newspapers Tuesday.

"Is it game over for Anna?'' asked the Daily Mail in a two-page spread that said "TV tantrum tarnishes gold girl image.''

The Daily Telegraph, under the headline "Kournikova starting to look like last year's model,'' said her Wimbledon "is all over in an afternoon of posing and pouting, with a few tennis shots thrown in.''

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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