|In search of a Kourni-clone|
By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2
WIMBLEDON, England -- One London newspaper dubbed it the "Battle of the Blondes." Another pantingly proclaimed "Babes Bid for Totty Title."
"It's the greatest match in the history of players who can't play," joked Bud Collins, the venerable tennis scribe and television commentator.
Indeed, the dozens of reporters and photographers on hand for Tuesday's first-round Wimbledon match between unseeded up-and-comers Ashley Harkleroad and Maria Sharapova seemed less concerned with checking out a pair of potential top-10 players than with ... simply checking them out.
That, in turn, raised the question: With Page 2 favorite Anna Kournikova out of the picture, who pouts supreme as the fortnight's foremost hottie?
"People have been thinking that women are, you know, very nice, very pretty on the court," Sharapova protested after notching a straight-set win over Harkleroad. "It's not just about going out there and being pretty."
Maybe not. But given Kournikova's staggering endorsement-to-results ratio, beauty certainly doesn't hurt.
Herein, a handy clip-n-save guide to Wimbledon's substitute Annas:
Who's that Girl: Hailing from Siberia by way of Florida -- talk about, er, icy hot -- Sharapova was Russia's No. 15 player at the age of 15. She's 16 now. Which doesn't make you any less of a lech.
"K"-redentials: Nick Bollettieri protege recently signed a generous endorsement deal with a major shoe and apparel company, even though she's never won a pro tournament. Sorta like you-know-who.
Double Fault: Officials at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, asked her to tone down her grunting. Said Sharapova: "I try not to make noise. But it's just something that I've been doing all of my life." You go, girl!
"K"-redentials: In 2001, made her U.S. Open debut in a midriff-bearing, memorably tight shirt-and-skirt combo. Told reporters afterward that her Britney-esque getup was "tight and short, but I like it like that." Also has signed with Michael Ovitz's Artists Management Group, ensuring a potentially bright future of halfhearted acting lessons, ill-advised film cameos and other off-court distractions.
Double Fault: Frankly, U.S. Open outfit was bit unflattering.
"K"-redentials: Posed for a glamorous photo spread in ESPN the Magazine; appeared in a fashion show just before the start of Wimbledon.
Double Fault: Owns a WTA Tour title; judging from her recent, uh, "ultra-lean" appearance, is taking this whole runway model thing a bit too seriously.
"K"-redentials: Also dating a famous Enrique. Who also happens to be richer and better-looking than you. Sigh.
Double Fault: Crazy dad Damir is prone to angry outbursts, most memorably over the price of salmon at the 2001 U.S. Open. Twelve bucks for a puny piece of fish? Outrageous.
Who's that Girl: As an 18-year-old nobody, gatecrashed the semifinals of the 2001 U.S. Open.
"K"-redentials: She's a blonde, blue-eyed tennis player from Moscow. What more do you want?
Double Fault: Enjoys a good game of chess; hasn't been romantically linked to any Russian hockey stars. At least not yet.
"K"-redentials: Once touted as a surrogate Anna by the salivating British tabloids. In this case, we defer to the experts.
Double Fault: Favorite actors are Harrison Ford and Gwyneth Paltrow. Get ready for an emasculating Blockbuster night double-feature of "Duets" and "Six Days/Seven Nights."
Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.