Babes of the Open
By DAVE GOLDINER
Daily News Staff Writer
They're willowy young stars, blessed with lithe builds, shapely curves and killer smiles.
Make way for a new generation of tennis hotties who will strut their stuff when the U.S. Open kicks off tomorrow.
Anna? She's not playing. Neither are Venus and Serena. All are injured.
This year's new hot draws are named Maria Sharapova, Ashley Harkleroad, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Daniela Hantuchova.
If that's not enough, there's also Dr. J's sexy daughter Alexandra Stevenson.
Gone are the days when women tennis stars were shunted to the outer courts while the men battled in the forefront.
Now, the biggest crowds line up for a peek at the newest feminine phenoms - and sometimes their outfits draw as many oohs and aahs as their serves and volleys.
Ever since Kournikova busted out from the tennis world onto the cover of practically every magazine on the planet (without ever winning a tournament), everyone's looking to catch a glimpse of the next big thing on the court.
Here's a quick look at the women most likely to turn heads at Flushing Meadow:
If anyone deserves the title "next Anna," it's this 16-year-old Siberian sensation. Sharapova looks every inch like a fashion model - "Kim Alexis is in her prime," one writer gushed - and isn't afraid to show off her lovely frame.
A long blond ponytail flowing behind her, she walks with the self-assured gate of a runway star and boasts a scrapbook filled with magazine spreads.
Sharapova says she enjoyed being mobbed by fans at Wimbledon, where she reached the fourth round.
She designs her own tennis clothes - watch out for a sexy pink number at Flushing Meadow - and loves to relax with yoga or a few chapters of the latest Harry Potter book.
But unlike some tennis hotpots, she is cocky on the court and is notorious for her loud grunts. Some call her the Queen of Scream.
Sexy or no, she comes to win and plans to be No.1.
"It's only a matter of time, and I know it," she says.
She's got 44-inch legs, drapes herself in the latest fashions and can blow a serve past you before you can say "Slovakia."
The sultry Hantuchova has already vaulted past Kournikova on one list of sexiest tennis players and is the ninth-ranked player in the world.
With her bright blue eyes, radiant smile and catwalk-friendly build, Hantuchova has been dubbed the Bratislava Babe.
But when she turned up at Wimbledon wearing a white tank top that exposed her protruding ribs, some whispered that she was too thin.
"I have to eat a bit more," she admitted.
A few weeks later, Hantuchova looked much healthier at a Canadian tournament saying that she has been pigging out on her mom's Eastern European cooking.
A real-life Dixie Chick from rural Flintstone, Ga., Harkleroad made jaws drop and lenses snap at the 2001 Open with a form-fitting, skin-baring blue lycra outfit. "Do your parents know you're wearing that?" the reporters asked.
Harkleroad's grown up a little since then - to the ripe old age of 18 - and vows to wear something a bit more demure this time.
But there's no hiding the gorgeous bod and blond hair that earned her the nickname the Britney Spears of Tennis.
She dated hunky tennis star Andy Roddick in their younger days, but dumped him, for what pals say were good reasons.
True to her Bible Belt roots, Harkleroad says she carries a Bible on the tennis tour and her father travels with her as a chaperon.
She's also working on her tennis game, pounding her way into the third round of this year's French Open and rocketing up to No.39 in the rankings.
Half of the planet must've let out a massive groan last year.
That's when Justine ended her bachelorette days and married tennis instructor Pierre Yves Hardenne.
The Belgian beauty has made a name for herself with her looks and her steely oncourt demeanor.
Henin-Hardenne's eyes often dart from side to side as she prepared to hit the ball and she won an emotional epic battle with Serena Williams at this year's French Open.
She's only 21, but says she's ready to settle down after rocky teen years in which her mom died and she split with her dad.
Unlike some of the Kourna-clones, Henin-Hardenne has got game - she's seeded second at the Open - and happiness to match her beauty.
Four years after she had her five minutes of fame, Stevenson admits she still dreams of living the Hollywood high life.
Even as she claws her way toward the tennis big time, the lovely daughter of basketball legend Julius Erving is planning a career as a model or actress.
J.Lo, watch out. "I'm getting ready," Stevenson warns the world.
Still just 21, Stevenson hit the headlines when she made it from nowhere to the semifinals at Wimbledon.
When reporters found out she was Dr. J's secret love child, she became front-page news worldwide.
Her tennis game fell apart, but she has been working her way back to the top ever since.
She never had to worry about her stunning looks - and muses about the day she'll be so famous that designers will be lining up to let her wear their sexy outfits.
"That would be really cool," she said.