Re: LA East West Bank Classic -- Tier 2
Playmate Harkleroad Exposed On Court
Struggling Ashley Needs Time Off
By Matthew Cronin, ********************
Harkleroad is searching for on court energy.
- On Sunday, Flintstone native Ashley Harkleroad was as happy as a Georgia peach conducting pre-tournament interviews celebrating her appearance on the cover of Playboy as well as her prospects in the East West Bank Classic draw.
On Tuesday, after being waxed by Stephanie Dubois in what she called the worst match she’s played in two years, she was nothing but glum and is considering taking some time off. The 23-year-old had to undergo emergency surgery to remove one of her ovaries back in April and it appears she came back too soon.
“Maybe I’m not as strong as I was,” she said. “They had to cut me in three different places. I’m trying to figure it out…I go see a doctor once a month. I’m going through this hypochondriac stage where I think there is something wrong with my other ovary. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but when you are healthy your whole life and something like that happens you don’t know how to handle it. If I would have went to sleep maybe I wouldn’t have woken up. I was bleeding internally.”
The handful of men who came out to hoot and holler at Harkleroad during her loss have no idea what’s going on with the object of their affection, and really, neither does she. She made the decision to do the Playboy shoot while on bed rest and while she admits that money played a role in her decision (she is said to have been paid $250,000) and is happy how the pictures came out in the magazine, some one should have advised her to take more time to recover physically and emotionally from the major surgery.
Maybe someone did, but she didn’t listen and now she’s in a big time, on-court funk.
“I don’t know what it’s supposed to be like after you lose an organ,” she said. “My stamina isn’t back even though I’ve been cycling a lot. I feel out of breath. Everything went so fast. Everything was going well, and then I’m in the hospital and then the next thing you know I’m in Europe playing Serena. It’s not going my way tennis wise.”
Harkleroad is a retriever who prior to her surgery had added some pop to her groundies and had been admirably rushing the net. But she needs her speed to win matches, as she’s not going overpower a lot of the bigger players. Now she’s lacking energy, as well as confidence.
“ I’m feeling super rusty and low in confidence and I need to win some matches.”
But she’s not going to when her body is telling her to slow down and heal. She wishes she took more time off post her April surgery, but she can’t turn back the clock back. Since she returned at Strasbourg the week before Roland Garros, she’s only managed to win one out of her last seven matches.
“I’m trying to find game again but my mind is racing a tad and I need to figure out a way to slow it all down,” she said. “It’s taking a little longer to move past it. I can’t find my range.”
Outside of tennis media circles, Harkleroad is in big demand due to her August Playmate status, but she’s not in jovial, extroverted mood, declining to do a major radio appearance on Tuesday morning because she felt that it would take her mind off her real career.
“I’m trying to focus on tennis,” she said. “It’s hard enough to win matches and try to stay focused and that’s not working either. [The attention] a little distracting, but I’m enjoying it. It’s more about my tennis and that’s all good and great but I want to play well again.”
It’s clear that Harkleroad and her boyfriend and coach, Chuck Adams, should stay at home in Beverly Hills (they moved from Malibu) during the next couple of weeks and figure out what is going on with her physically.
“He's having to deal with female hormones," Harkleroad said.
But it’s quite possible she’ll just play out the summer string because by October, the Playboy shoot will be almost forgotten and then it will be just the two of them again trying to figure out how to earn money on a demanding tour.
“I wish I could take a couple weeks off, but there’s no time otherwise I’ll slip out of top 100,” she said. “It’s a year round sport and sometimes you hope it just clicks.”