Golovin hot stuff on and off court
By Mark Hodgkinson
And still Tatiana Golovin waits for some sort of response from Buckingham Palace. It was last summer that she informed Prince William through the morning prints that she wanted to look up from the Centre Court at Wimbledon and see him waving back at her from the Royal Box. "I'll be waiting for him," the would-be princess had purred.
Stylish: Tatiana Golovin shows her tennis skills
Britain's royal family continue to figure strongly in the thoughts of the 17-year-old mademoiselle, a tennis star in the making. "Maybe Prince William isn't a tennis fan, but that's OK as I think Prince Harry is even cuter, actually. And he's a little younger so I think he will be perfect. I just guess it's every girl's dream to have a prince come to watch you play," Golovin said.
This cheeky approach to the princes was typical of her. Golovin is no joyless tennis machine, more like a Frenchwoman who simply adores all the glitz, glamour, occasional hilarity and the hipster hotpants of being a tennis player. She has already won over the locker room, voted best women's newcomer at tennis's version of the Oscars last week. So she gave an emotional speech "straight from the heart".
In little over a full season, this Russian-born French citizen has moved from outside 350 in the world rankings to the top 25 and, if she puts together a decent run at one of the three remaining grand slams this season, then her celebrity, inside and outside the sport, will have the lift-off she wants. The PR
minder for the women's tour remarked that "it might suddenly go all crazy with Tatiana".
She has already attracted plenty of attention for her flamboyant, at times risqué, wardrobe. Her version of demure in the Miami players' lounge was a blood-red top and low-slung, hot pink tracksuit bottoms. During her junior days she was known to take a pair of scissors to her skirts to make them more revealing, and for her Wimbledon Centre Court debut, a fourth-round defeat by Serena Williams, she wore what looked like a large belt. On Monday she lost a close match to Elena Dementieva in the Nasdaq 100 Open here in Miami.
Fashion is important to Golovin. "My style is young, fun, a little bit sexy and a little bit sophisticated. I try to mix it up a little," she said. "I think fashion is whatever you're comfortable with. I think you decide what to wear based on what your mood is and what you feel like. My favourite designer, Christian Dior, has a large store opposite my flat in Paris. Too much of my money, far too much of it, goes in that store."
Golovin's ice hockey coach father moved the family from Moscow to France when she was just eight months old. She speaks French as her first language, English as if she is in the smart set at an American high school, and Russian at home with her parents. She can be funny, feisty and disarming in all three languages; there is plenty of personality to go with the shots and the frocks.
Almost inevitably, what with her neon hair, those cheekbones and Soviet Bloc origins, Golovin has been called the French Anna Kournikova. This does not annoy her too much, particularly as the pair are family friends and Kournikova has passed on plenty of tennis and extra-curricular advice. But the sense is that she finds the comparison superficial, fairly stupid and wrong.
Golovin laughed. "Just because we're both blonde, originally from Russia and people say that we're good looking, does that mean that we're the same person? We're such different people it's impossible. As soon as people get to know me and the way that I play tennis, they will realise that we're nothing like each other," she said.
"You're going to be compared to somebody when you're just starting out in tennis and you haven't made a name for yourself yet, but I really think that I've outgrown that stage now. It doesn't really bother me, especially as I know Anna. She's a great person. It was never like, 'oh no, don't compare me to her'."
Kournikova was instrumental in Golovin boarding at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida from the age of seven. "Dad was watching a video of the players at Bollettieri and he saw Anna on it and said that we should definitely try it out with Bollettieri. So Anna was a big help with my tennis. And my parents and her parents became good friends when they met in Florida," Golovin said.
She seems genuinely thankful for what Kournikova has done for her. She has recently bought a luxury flat in Florida so will be able to go on more shopping trips with Kournikova, who has not played on the tour for close to two years and lives in Miami. Another inspiration has been Maria Sharapova, the Wimbledon champion and a contemporary from the Bollettieri days, "but we're not so much friends any more".
Golovin wants to get the point across that she is an individual. She never much enjoyed ice hockey with her father as it is a team sport, and has "people to see" rather than a full-time coach. She travels with her mother. "My mum taught me to be really independent, and to always be balanced in life and not to get caught up in one thing," she said.
Her off-court passions are ballroom dancing, boxing, jazz, a Persian cat, a Labrador and entertaining her five-year-old nephew. "I want to experience as many things as possible. I need my time off as otherwise it would all get a bit too crazy. It seems to me that if I don't take time off I can't focus on the court. It keeps me sane, keeps me balanced," she said.
Golovin is savouring her life, on and off the court. "I just love going on court and making it happen. I have quite a charmed life. I'm not smiling and joking around all the time, but I sometimes take a step back and look at what I've got. I'm very proud and very happy at the way I live my life."
She will be expecting at least one of the princes at Wimbledon this summer.