Although I don't care much about sport stars this year's 30th anniversary of the ATP Mercedescup in Stuttgart (July 7th – 13th, 2008) fetched my attention since the former WTA player and model Anna Kournikova was supposed to stay in town for three days
by Stephan Daniel
I knew she would be hard to get due to her bad name being a bitchy & moody diva. As I got to know in advance Anna was flying in from Miami with a stopover in Frankfurt and her plane was scheduled to land at 10:20 a.m. at Stuttgart Airport on July 7th. So I made my way to Stuttgart Airport and was quite surprised when I arrived and realized that Anna's flight had been cancelled like several hundreds of other flights as well due to a token strike of Lufthansa employees. At 10:25 a.m. I received the information from a journalist that Anna was still staying at Frankfurt Airport, so my guess was that she might take the next flight to Stuttgart at 2:25 p.m. Since this was only a guess and I didn't want to miss Anna I prospected for a Lufthansa supervisor and checked the waybill for the 2:25 p.m. flight from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. Since Anna's name didn't show up on the waybill I knew that she would be transferred via a Mercedes Benz shuttle service from Frankfurt to Stuttgart and made my way to the Maritim hotel in downtown Stuttgart. So the initial situation was pretty crappy as I figured that Anna would be pissed off by the token strike of the airline employees upon her arrival at the hotel. Who wouldn't be?!? Finally at 12:15 p.m. Anna arrived at the hotel in a black Mercedes Benz van and ran past me into the hotel lobby without signing anything. You could punctiliously recognize that she was pissed off and tired.
The Mercedes Benz gala she was going to attend in the evening was supposed to kick off at 8 p.m. so I positioned myself in front of the hotel at around 5 p.m. Beside Anna Kournikova there were also Mika Haekkinen, Katarina Witt, Henri Leconte, Boris Becker and other sport stars staying at the same hotel so I collected their signatures in the meantime to bridge over the latency until Anna would leave the hotel. At 6:48 p.m. I spotted Anna in the hotel lobby and crossed my fingers she would sign at least one of my photos. What happened next surprised me and other collectors (there were 14 other collectors waiting for Anna) very much. Anna came out of the hotel and instead of getting straight into the waiting Mercedes Benz limousine she came over to us, grabbed a blue Sharpie and started to sign photos of each collector.
I asked her if she would be so kind and also sign my second David LaChapelle photo and strangely enough she kindly fulfilled my request. Anna signed a total of around 20 photos before she finally got into her limousine. Needless to say that we were all impressed and stunned by Anna's surprisingly relaxed temper.
My next goal was to get a picture with Anna, so I came back to the hotel at around 9:30 p.m. and waited for her return. At about 10 p.m. Anna's limousine drove up to the hotel's main entrance and when Anna got out of the car I asked her if she would mind taking a picture with me. Once again she surprised me since she agreed and posed with me for a photo. Other collectors were left behind disappointed because Anna wouldn't take pictures with others nor sign their photos and headed towards her hotel room.
Anna's unusually kind and relaxed temper inspired me that much that I decided to come back the next day and get the picture signed that we had taken a few hours before. I knew that she would have to be at the Weissenhof's centrecourt at 10 a.m. on July 8th, so I had our picture developed by an express photo lab early in the morning and arrived at the hotel at around 9 a.m. I nearly feared that I had missed Anna by just a few minutes when there was still no sight of her by 9:30 a.m., but fortunately a limousine drove up the approach and Anna walked out of her hotel at 9:40 a.m. When I asked her if she would sign the picture we had taken the night before she seemed surprised at how quickly I had this photo developed and signed it in silver metallic Sharpie. Since Anna was in a really good mood I also asked her if she would mind adding an inscription, but she apologetically depreciated this further request by saying that this would take too long and she would be running very late anyway. I didn't care too much as I had received more than I had expected since Anna had hit Stuttgart. Spurred by these fabulous in person experiences with Anna I decided to push the limits and get two more photos developed by the express photo lab hoping that Anna would sign them as well upon her return to the hotel in the afternoon. I knew that Anna would finish her commitments at the Weissenhof at 03:00 p.m. so I returned to the hotel just in time. At 03:35 p.m. Anna's limousine drove up and when Anna spotted me again in front of the entrance she came directly up to me instead of walking straight into the hotel, reached for my Sharpie and started to sign my photos. I didn't even have to say a single word nor would I have had the time because Anna was so quick – I just found it quite astonishingly, but I guess Anna knew what I was waiting for and what was expected from her.