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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dementieva Drowns Out Kournikova Mania

SYDNEY, Australia — Who needs Anna Kournikova?

That’s the question most Russians were asking themselves Tuesday as they woke up to embrace their new tennis star, Yelena Dementieva, after she reached the Olympic final and a gold medal game against Venus Williams.

"Yelena the Beautiful makes the final," read a huge front-page headline in Tuesday’s edition of Sport-Express newspaper, echoing the feelings of millions of sports fans across the country.

While cover-girl Kournikova attracts most of the attention wherever she goes, Dementieva until now has been confined to a minor role.

But not any more after she surprised everyone, including herself, by beating home favorite Jelena Dokic in Monday’s semifinal 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

"I’m ecstatic, this is my first major final," Dementieva said. "And this is the Olympics. What else can you ask for?"

Win or lose against the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, the 18-year-old, who earlier this month reached her first major semifinal in the U.S. Open, is already a winner in more ways than one.

While U.S.-based Kournikova refused to represent her native country in the Olympics, citing scheduling problems and the risk of injury, Dementieva never considered pulling out.

She also welcomed being in the spotlight, up to a point.

"I don’t mind the attention, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my tennis," said the blonde Muscovite.

But she does not want any comparison with Kournikova.

Unlike Kournikova, who has been seen in public with various celebrities, Dementieva has a low-key private life.

When she was asked after the Dokic match why she is not traveling on the WTA Tour with a boyfriend like many other female players, Dementieva simply said she does not have one.

Now, with her pictures on the covers of many newspapers, that might just change.