By Mark Elkington
MADRID (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova has handpicked seven male models with tennis knowledge to act as ball-boys at the WTA Tour's end-of-season championships in Madrid.
The 19-year-old Russian was the center of attention at the casting event held in a Madrid hotel on Thursday.
A selection panel that included Sharapova, former champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and film actress Natalia Verbeke was invited to narrow down a field of 15 hopefuls.
The male models, wearing white shorts and tight t-shirts, were brought up one at a time and tested on their knowledge of tennis, among other things, in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
A number of contestants struggled to respond correctly to questions such as "What is a tie break?" and "What would you do if a player asked you for a towel?"
Models who could get by in English seemed to win favor with Sharapova, who does not speak much Spanish.
Two candidates were marked down by the world number three after being asked who was their favorite female tennis player.
One replied Amelie Mauresmo
and the other Kim Clijsters
When one failed to name the 2004 Wimbledon women's champion (Sharapova) quickly, he also appeared to get the thumbs down.
The idea to use male models as ball-boys derived from the Madrid Masters tournament which has courted controversy by using female models as ball-girls.
The WTA event takes place in the Madrid Arena in November and organizers say the $1 million winner's check will equal the largest in the history of women's sports.