(1976 - )
Anna Smashnova, aka Anna Pistolesi, not only has one
of the great names in the history of tennis; she is also Israel's
top female tennis player. Anna won four WTA titles in 2002 (including
two in the month of January alone), and her successful season saw her
rise in the world rankings during the year. On July 8, 2002, Smashnova
reached her peak as the No. 16 ranked player in the world, a ranking
she matched in mid-October. On December 7, 2002, Anna married Claudio
Pistolesi, her former coach, and now plays as Anna Pistolesi.
Ranked No. 18 in the world (as of July 8, 2004), Pistolesi
was the No. 14 seed at the 2004 Australian Open tournament, but lost in the second round to Tatiana Golovin of France. She compares her style
to that of the Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, minimizing mistakes,
running down every possible ball, and being mentally tough. Anna speaks
three languages: Russian, English, and Hebrew.
She graduated from American International High School, outside Tel
Aviv, in 1995, and completed her mandatory service in the Israeli
Army in 1997. She enjoys watching movies, reading, and listening to
music, and she confesses that she loves chocolate.
Born in Minsk, Smashnova began playing at the age of
six she said because, "The tennis club was the closest sport club
to my home. It was easy to get there, and they were taking young kids...My
parents did not play tennis. They started after me." The top Girls'
junior player in Russia for four years in the late 1980s, Smashnova
and her family moved to Israel in 1990 when Anna was 14. The following
year, she surprised everyone, including herself, by winning the French
Open juniors title.
After turning pro in 1994, Smashnova was named Tennis
Magazine/Rolex Watch Female Rookie of the Year. A terrific player on
clay, her favorite surface because of her baseline style, Smashnova
made it to the fourth round of the French Open in both 1995 and 1998,
her best results to date, in Grand Slam competition. She has steadily
improved over the past few years winning her first WTA tour title in
1999 at the Tashkent tournament, and her second career title on July
24, 2000, when she defeated top seed Dominique Van Roost, 6-2, 7-5,
in the final of the Sanex Trophy in Belgium.
On January 5, 2002, Smashnova won her third WTA Tour
title when she soundly defeated fifth-seeded Russian Tatiana Panova 6-2, 6-2 in the ASB Bank Classic at Auckland, New
Zealand. Smashnova, unseeded in the tournament and ranked only 88th
in the world, thrashed her opponent by putting on an impressive display
of precise baseline play in what the Associated Press described as "difficult
conditions...Both players were unsettled by a heavy breeze that swirled
about the enclosed stadium court, tumbling courtside umbrellas and blowing
the hats off spectators." Smashnova had made headlines in her semifinal
match by whipping the celebrated Russian, and former world No. 8, Anna
Kournikova in straight sets.
Smashnova said before the New Zealand Open final that
this tournament represented a new start to her career. According to
The New York Times (January 6, 2002), "She has a new physical trainer
this season, a new coach and a determination to make an impression on
the women's tour. Panova was only the latest player to be bothered by
Smashnova's relentless approach and her ability to keep the ball in
A week later, on January 12, Smashnova won her second
tournament in a row, upsetting top seed Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-5, 7-6,
to win the Canberra Classic women's tennis tournament. Tanasugarn, ranked
29th in the world, broke Smashnova's serve in the opening game, but
Smashnova struck back in the next game and eventually took the first
set when she broke again in the 12th game. The pair traded breaks again
midway through the second set before Smashnova sealed the match by winning
On June 16, 2002, Smashnova defeated defending champion
Iroda Tulyaganova 6-4, 6-1, to win the $170,000 Wien Energie Grand Prix,
her third title of the year. On her way to the title, the 25-year-old
Israeli upset local favorite Patricia Wartusch in the semifinals, ending
the Austrian's six-match
winning streak. In gaining the championship, Anna utilized her superior
speed to win her third tournament of the season. The victory boosted
Anna's ranking to No. 17 in the world, the highest ever for an Israeli
On September 15, 2002, Anna collected her fourth WTA
title of the year by thrashing Anna Kournikova 6-2, 6-3, in the finals
of the Shanghai Open. According to The New York Times' account of the
contest, Smashnova "was precise and controlled throughout the match,
hitting perfect winners in stride...Kournikova didn't score a point
until the third game of the first set when Smashnova hit a shot wide.
'She was like a wall today, hitting everything back,' Kournikova said."
Although she moved up in the world rankings during
the 2002 season, Smashnova was not as successful as she had hoped to
be in Grand Slam events. She entered the 2002 Wimbledon tournament as
the highest ranked Israeli woman in history, at No. 17. Seeded No. 15
at Wimbledon, the first time an Israeli woman has ever been seeded at
a Grand Slam event, Smashnova was upset in the first round by Angelique
Widjaja of Indonesia, 3-6, 2-6. At the 2002 U.S. Open, Smashnova remained
one of the top women in the world and was seeded No. 17 entering the
tournament. After defeating Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian of Switzerland in the first round, 7-6 (7-1), and 6-4, Smashnova lost in the second
round to South African Amanda Coetzer, 2-6 and 4-6.
Her high year-end ranking qualified her for the prestigious
year-end WTA Tour Championship. She was the first Israeli woman to play
in the three million dollar tournament. On November 7, 2002, Anna lost
to world No. 1 Serena Williams in the first round by a score of 6-2,
Anna entered the 2003 season as one of the best players
in the world. Ranked No. 20 in the world as of May 10, Smashnova was
the No. 14 seed in the women's draw at the 2003 Australian Open. She
defeated Meilen Tu in the first round, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. In the second
round, she beat Maja Matevzic of Slovenia after her opponent withdrew
in the first set (Anna was leading 5-1). In the third round, however,
she lost to No. 19 seed Amanda Coetzer of South Africa again, 6-0, 6-2.
At the 2003 French Open, Smashnova was seeded No. 23
in the women's singles competition. In the first round, she defeated
Camille Pin, 6-1 and 6-1. In the second round, Smashnova lost to Magui
Serna of Spain in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, and 3-6. Anna also competed
in the mixed doubles event. With her partner, Leos Friedl of the Czech
Republic, she reached the second round before losing to Clarisa Fernandez
and Gaston Etlis.
Anna's form seemed to be at an all time high as the
US Open approached. She won the Idea Prokom Open in Poland, beating
Patti Schnyder (seeded 2nd in the tournament) 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, before
her finals victory over Klara Koukalova, 6-2, 6-0. Five days later Smashnova
eliminated Karolina Sprem, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, in the Nordic Light Open semifinal
in Helsinki. She went on to win her second straight tournament by defeating
Croatian Jelena Kostanic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, in the final. That victory
was her eighth final win in eight attempts.
Smashnova launched the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament
in New Haven with one of the most impressive victories of her career.
She defeated Anastasia Myskina, ranked 10 in the world, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7),
6-4. Israel's premier tennis player beat another high ranker in the
second round, Vera Zvonareva, before falling to Jennifer Capriati in
the quarterfinal. Smashnova seemed to be suffering from a leg injury.
Smashnova recovered in time for the US Open where she
lost in the first round. The defeat was her second straight first-round
Grand Slam exit, despite her good tournament form. Her mixed doubles
campaign was no more successful than her singles performance. Anna and
partner Jeff Coetzee were knocked out in the first round as well.
Smashnova won her ninth career title on May 22, 2004
in Vienna. In the final she beat
Alicia Molik the No. 6 seed 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. After the match she said
"I'm nine for nine in Tour finals and I feel pretty good about
that. I have a tough first round in Paris and after this week, I feel
I am very well prepared for it." In the second round, Pistolesi
had defeated Klara Koukalova 6-0, 6-1. Magui Serna, the 7th seed, was
destroyed 6-1,6-0 in the quarterfinals. Anna met fifth seed Amy Frazier
in the semifinals and beat the contender 7-5, 6-2.
Pistolesi went into the 2004 Roland Garros on a high
after victory in Vienna. She started off with a bang, defeating Italian
Flavia Pennetta 6-1,6-4 in the first round. She had a harder time against
up and coming Czech star Klara Koukalova in the second round. After
a brisk 6-1 victory in the first set, Anna was up against it in the
second but pulled out a 7-5 win. Anna met the formidable ninth seed,
Elena Dementieva in the third round. She annihilated the Russian star
6-0 in a mere 26 minutes of first set play. Dementieva came back to
win 7-5 in the second set. By the end of the second set, the Israeli
was clearly hurting and had to retire at the start of the third due
to severe cramps. Pistolesi and partner Massimo Bertolini were also
knocked out in the first round of the mixed doubles event.
Anna suffered another inglorious Wimbledon performance
in 2004. She lost to Katarina Srebotnik 6-4, 6-3 in the first round
of the singles competition.
in Sports. Photo copyright Manuela Davies / ProPix.info from Tennis