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Nadal and Federer: Proof Tennis Has Arrived

I am sitting here passing time while waiting.  As usual, I grab a  magazine in the room’s stack of reading for bored individuals, this one a Vogue, and to my surprise, tennis has intercepted mainstream media.

Rafael Nadal is featured in slick glamour, hair pulled back.  Roger Federer’s wedding is covered on a full glossy page, part of the social
scene usually devoted to Hollywood.  Huh?  Tennis in a women’s fashion magazine?

When American Vogue is putting two of tennis’ top players in a single issue, that’s proof tennis is losing the “popular to everywhere but the
USA” reputation.  It has genuinely arrived.  Nadal has the potential to become the male Maria in endorsement appeal – his playboy charm wrapped in down to earth goodness and talent on court (ignoring a little French Open slip) make him a super estrella for sure.

Thoughts on this, anyone?  When did you realize tennis “made it” in a country obsessed with football and baseball?

Bill Mountford: Exposure in America

If you support tennis in the United States, then I urge you to visit your local newsstands and purchase the July 14-21 double issue of Sports Illustrated.  First of all, it celebrates “the Greatest Match Ever” with an action shot of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer doing battle.  This will be a collector’s item for years to come.

Tennis has not gotten its due in recent years from SI.  The most important sports magazine in the US has not had a tennis player on the magazine cover in over five years

(Serena Williams was the last, from way back in May 2003).  What is the corporate reason for this slight? Apparently, the Sports Illustrated “tennis issues” have traditionally been among the worst-selling.

So… tennis supporters please heed the call.  Go to your newsstands and purchase one (or many) of this great issue and send a clear message to advertisers and the mainstream media.  For a review of ALL the times that tennis players have graced the cover of SI, visit http://subs.timeinc.net/SI/coverstore/CoverMain.jhtml?category=Cover&subcategory=tennis.

By the way, nothing should please the U.S. Tennis Association more than seeing this SI issue.  Tennis has enjoyed a growth period over the past half-decade that puts golf (to name just one traditional sport) to shame.  The USTA mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis, and this cover exposure on Sports Illustrated is an invaluable marketing bonus.

Speaking of magazine covers, the August issue of Playboy magazine hits newsstands on Friday, July 18th.  America’s Ashley Harkleroad, the No. 72 ranked player on the WTA Tour, is this month’s cover girl.  This is a brave – and lucrative – move for the 23-year-old. She joins a list of other athletes to pose for Playboy, which includes Amanda Beard, Katarina Witt, and Gabrielle Reece.

Harkleroad will surely enjoy additional attention, and some extreme media scrutiny, throughout the summer on the “greatest road trip in sports.”  The US Open Series got underway this week.  Visit http://www.usopenseries.com/home/default.sps for daily updates and various previews and features.

On a feel-good note, if you are anywhere near a World Team Tennis franchise, take a carload of kids to these matches.  The unique format (men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles played in shorter sets and with no-ad scoring) creates an entertaining night out.  It also includes some of the greatest names in our sport, including past champions, current stars, and future prospects.  A small sampling of these players includes John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Bob and Mike Bryan, Serena and Venus Williams, and- of course- Anna Kournikova.  For a full list, as well as the schedule and standings, visit www.wtt.com.  Thankfully, the Tennis Channel is covering many of the matches.  Enjoy!

Lastly, a few weeks ago our sport lost a dear friend.  Thomas Pura, of Bedford Hills, NY and Los Angeles, passed away suddenly.  Pura produced the documentary “50,000 Balls” about top-level 12 & under tennis.  His precocious son, TJ, is one of America’s top young prospects.  Tom was always a smiling, positive presence in the junior tennis community, and his love and support of our sport was obvious.  The Pura family requests that in lieu of flowers any donation in Tom’s name should be made to Partnership for After School Education (PASE), 120 Broadway, 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10271 or Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, 130 West 143rd Street, New York, NY  10037. Rest in peace, Tom.  You will be sorely missed.

Tennis Featured on Covers Of Playboy, Sports Illustrated

A first for the sport of tennis as in consecutive weeks, the sport graces the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine and Playboy magazine. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are both cover boys on Sports Illustrated for playing the “Greatest Match Ever” at the Wimbledon final. U.S. Fed Cup star Ashley Harkleroad is the first tennis player to pose for Playboy and is the cover girl of the August issue, now on newsstands. Both are sure signs that tennis is continuing to cross over into the main stream.

Serena shuts up the Playboy talk with a demure dress

Serena Williams used a conservative Nike outfit — the Doubles Dress from this Spring’s tennis collection — to end the run of soon-to-be Playboy bunny Ashley Harkleroad.

The top-ranked American, who went with a heart theme for her jewelry, next faces Mathilde Johansson of France.

Buy: Nike Doubles Dress, $75 at TW.

(photos by Getty Images)