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Tennis Officials Call Venus Williams Ugly, Send Her to Back Courts

Posted Jun 29 2009 9:47pm

Quick, name this profession: long, slim, toned bodies poured into tight fitting - but adorable! - clothing and jumping around in front of a bevy of overeager photographers, magazine editors, and camera crews. Oh yeah, and there's a lot of "grunting" involved ( oh, the scandal!).

Did you say modeling? Actually, it's tennis.

With East European beauties such as Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova and Elena Dementieva ruling the press coverage of the sport, one would think they must also be ruling the courts. Not so, say many tennis insiders. Often the best courts and play slots (and hence the better media coverage) are given to the women who are better lookers rather than the ones who are better players. This is even true at the venerable Wimbeldon tournament where officials admitted last night to putting the prettiest female players on the famous center court even if that means relegating the uglier-but-higher-seeded women to the new auxiliary courts. Wimbeldon spokesman Johnny Perkins said unapologetically, "Good looks are a factor." Observe:

In center court we have seed No 59 Maria Kirilenko of Russia

The number 1 seed? You'll find Dinara Safina of Russia way over in court 2.

Back in the center court we have No 28 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania

But where is the number 2 player? The U.S.'s own Venus Williams is back on court 2.

Never having played tennis outside some embarrassing weekend recreations that we won't discuss, I have no idea if being moved to another court or being told flat out by officials that you are homely would affect one's game. Venus and Serena Williams seem to be pretty indomitable despite being stuck out in the hinterlands (I know! They're gorgeous, right?) but if it were me, I think it would mess with my head and probably my game too.

On the flip side, it also makes me wonder if the "pretty" center court girls worry more about which custom Nike tennis dress they will be wearing than if their backhand is stellar. Or, even worse, that they might avoid lifting weights or training hard because they don't want to "bulk up" and look more like the muscular athletes they are than catwalk models.

Of course no similar trend has been noticed among the men. Apparently the tennis officials are just giving the people want they want - and they think we would rather see pretty-but-weaker-players rather than the strong athletes that would show the best athletic competitions.

The question is, are they right? Do you watch tennis for the cute miniskirts and pom-pom socks? (And if so, you've heard of competitive cheerleading, right?) Any of you out there tennis players? Is an overemphasis on looks, like found in ballet and gymnastics, a big part of tennis?
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