TORONTO (Reuters) – Detroit Red Wings center Sergei Fedorov has admitted he and tennis player Anna Kournikova were married but are now divorced and no longer talk.
Fedorov, 33, rated as one of the top players in the NHL, confirmed his relationship with his 21-year-old fellow Russian in The Hockey News, which went on sale on Monday.
“They are true,” said Fedorov, when asked about rumors concerning their wedding. “We were married, albeit briefly, and we are now divorced.”
Fedorov has had a long-running relationship with Kournikova dating back to when she burst onto the tennis scene as a teenager. His mother told reporters back in 2001 that they had been married in a Moscow registry office.
One of the world’s most recognizable athletes and a target of paparazzi around the globe, Kournikova has been linked with several other high profile athletes and entertainers, including New York Rangers sniper Pavel Bure and singer Enrique Iglesias.
A torrid Russian love triangle involving Fedorov, Bure and Kournikova raged in the tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic with the two multi-millionaire ice hockey players both claiming to be engaged to the tennis diva.
Fedorov told The Hockey News that he questioned Kournikova about Bure and wanted to break up but was convinced by the tennis pinup to continue their relationship.
“I still don’t know what it was,” Fedorov said. “I read only in magazines what was going on and I basically tried to break up.
“But she had an explanation and I really believed that it was true and I, sort of … we patched things up.”
More recently, Kournikova has been linked romantically with Iglesias, appearing in his videos and accompanying the Spanish singer to various music award shows and premieres.
Fedorov, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next season and is seeking a contract in excess of $50 million, recently changed agents leaving Octagon, who also represent Kournikova.
It has been reported Fedorov left the company because he blamed them for introducing Kournikova, voted by People magazine as one of the world’s 50 Most Beautiful People, to Iglesias.
Fedorov said his split with Kournikova did not enter into his decision to leave his long time representatives but felt the company no longer had his “best interests at heart.”
“I wanted to make a fresh start with both my personal and professional life,” said Fedorov. “I needed to make a complete change from what had gone on with the last four years that I was being represented by Octagon.
“There were some things that happened when I was being represented by Octagon that I found out about after the fact.
“I just don’t think they had my best interests at heart.”
Fedorov has been linked with Kournikova since she was 16 and his relationship with the “tennis Lolita” was greeted with unease in North America.
During the 1997 Stanley Cup parade in Detroit, 17-year-old Kournikova rode with Fedorov, waving to the crowd.
Two years later at the 1999 Wimbledon, Kournikova flashed a diamond ring and it was rumored she had become engaged to the millionaire hockey player.
“I think the reason the media made such a big deal was because of the age difference,” said Fedorov. “We were friends for quite a while.
“We were just so much apart and those things when you fell in love or are falling in love, it happens at such a young age… it’s just impossible because I was a little bit older, I think.
“People didn’t realize we have parents. She has parents, I have parents. Everything was normal as far as I’m concerned.
“They (teammates) were quite supportive because they knew we came from the old word and pretty much, to us, it was normal. But no one really knows our story.
“We didn’t really speak about it. I don’t think my teammates had any problems. They had problems later, though … They wanted to support me, I guess.”
While Fedorov’s value as an athlete is on the rise, Kournikova’s continues to wane, her tennis fortunes in decline since reaching eighth place in the world in 2000.
She is now a lowly 67th in the WTA rankings and is still looking for her first singles title.
Things reached a new low in the second round of the Australian Open in January when she was thrashed, 6-0, 6-1, by Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne — her heaviest defeat in a grand slam tournament.