Tennis players are more than accustomed to the cameras when they are on court but many of them have also got cosy, for a variety of reasons, with the lens off-court as well. Here we take you through 10 players who have stripped off (for a cause).
Ashley Harkleroad first sent shockwaves through the tennis world at the 2001 US Open, wearing a scandalous outfit which transfixed the ball-boys and left the crowd open-mouthed. Anointed the “American Anna” by many, the American became the first professional tennis player to pose for US Playboy in 2008. “It’s something entirely different than playing tennis and I enjoy being in front of a camera,” Harkleroad told ESPN. “It’s just a different avenue and I wanted to see where it could take me, so I accepted it.”
Known for her statuesque physique, Daniela Hantuchova bared all for the 2012 issue of ESPN The Magazine’s ‘The Body Issue’, which urges its readers to ‘unapologetically stand in awe of the athletes who’ve pushed their physiques to profound frontiers.’ In it, the Slovak reveals she struggles to put on muscle. “In my sport, I’m not the most physical girl out there. I can work really hard lifting weights, and I do, but it just doesn’t show that much.”
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco posed naked for Cosmopolitan as part of the Everyman campaign to raise awareness of male cancer. The magazine featured different celebrities in nude centerfolds each month, helping to raise vital funds for the 37,000 men each year diagnosed with male cancer. Verdasco said that he felt all of Barcelona could see him naked during the rooftop photo shoot, and revealed: “I’ve never posed naked before but it was really fun.”
2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina’s tale of nudity is far less light-hearted. Only 20 at the time, Myskina had a series of photos taken for GQ magazine in 2002 of which she only approved one – fully clothed. The Russian said that the photographer (Mark Seliger) had asked if he could take the pictures “for himself” and she agreed, as long as they were not published. They were. After a lengthy lawsuit against GQ a judge ruled that Myskina’s rights were not violated, despite her insistence that she did not understand the technicalities of a photo release form and was not fluent in English.
Following in Verdasco’s footsteps, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also posed for Cosmopolitan magazine as a part of the Everyman campaign. The Frenchman cannot be knocked for confidence, stating: ‘my favourite part of my body is my buttocks.’ The part of his body most crucial to his tennis is Tsonga’s least favourite: ‘I don’t like my feet.’
Without doubt one of the greatest wheelchair athletes, Esther Vergeer is no stranger to setting records. Posing nude for ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue in 2010, Vergeer was the first disabled athlete to appear. “I wasn’t that confident about my body, but they assured me I would have the final say on what photos were published and the photographer made me feel at ease,” said Vergeer, “I just think it’s really cool that they wanted to put a disabled athlete on their front cover, and I am very happy with the photos.
Serena Williams appeared nude, or at least awfully close, on the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s The Body Issue in 2009. The American won many plaudits for her confidence, especially as just two years previous Serena has been quoted to say, “Just in the locker room, staring at my body, I’m like, ‘Am I not fit, really not fit? Or is it just that I have all these extra assets?”.
Compared to some of her competitors, Vera Zvonareva is a quiet, private player who likes to stay out of the limelight but that doesn’t mean she is afraid of getting nude for the camera. Zvonareva can be counted among the ever-growing list of tennis players who have posed for ESPN’s the Magazine’s Body Issue. In the 2011 edition, the Russian was asked whether she has ever been self-conscious about her physique, to which she simply answered, “No. It wasn’t something I ever thought much about.”
Sports Illustrated’s Bryan Graham tweeted in early January 2011 that tennis legend Andre Agassi made a shocking promise to the highest bidder at a charity auction in Taiwan. The former tennis star offered the audience to see his wife, Steffi Graf, naked on his phone. “You pay more than $4,000, and I will show you a picture of my wife on my phone naked,” Agassi said. The crowd appeared to get a kick out of it and a bidder eventually seized the opportunity to see the photo. Agassi showed the bidder his phone and then the two shook hands and hugged. It later turned out the American was joking, much to the relief of those worried about his safety.
Joining American Ashley Harkleroad and Brazilian who posed for Playboy in 2001 and 2008 respectively, Serbian tennis player Karolina Jovanovic posed nude for the September issue of her country’s version of Playboy. Jovanovic, who reached a career-high ranking of 404, recently entered in a Serbian reality show hoping to win some money to “resurrect” her tennis career which has been on hold for a while.