Sharapova to pick model ball boys
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Wednesday May 10, 2006
Russian tennis and merchandising phenomenon Maria Sharapova is due to take part tomorrow in what will be the world's first beauty contest for ball boys.
Sharapova, currently number three in the world tennis rankings, is to help at a casting session in Madrid for male models seeking jobs as ball boys at the city's WTA Women's Masters tournament in November. The auditions for catwalk-quality ball boys, who will be sponsored by a fashion company, are said by organisers to be an example of sexual equality in the world of Spanish tennis. There has been outrage in recent years over the hiring of female models as ball girls at the men's Masters tournaments in the city
Spain's socialist government accused organisers and sponsors of the tournament of blatant sexism. "That was unfair," Spain's conservative ABC newspaper said yesterday. "This is equality."
The Madrid ball girls, in skimpy tops bearing the logo of the Hugo Boss fashion company, have become a set part of the men's tournament. They are given coaching by ball-boy instructors, which includes an introduction to the rules of tennis for those who need it.
Sharapova, who shot to fame when she won Wimbledon two years ago aged 17, will be joined by Argentinian actor Natalia Verbeke at the hotel casting session. The jury is said to be on the lookout for physical beauty, elegance, politeness and a rudimentary knowledge of tennis.
Sharapova, now 19, is estimated to earn some £14 million a year from merchandising and sponsorship. She recently struck a deal to endorse Land Rover for a reported $2m a year over three years. Her other endorsements include Honda, Nike, Colgate-Palmolive and Motorola.