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New York Ponders the Notion of Beauty at U.S. Open

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the self-styled 'capital of the world', of all places, there is an uprising against the notion that image is everything.

"Promote the game, not the babes," the New York Times begged this week as the issue of a player's looks in women's tennis dominated discussion at the U.S. Open.

Lindsay Davenport, Jelena Dokic, Billie Jean King and Justine Henin-Hardenne have spoken out against an apparent obsession with style over substance and the promotion of beauty above skill by the guardians of the sport.

Davenport says women players face more criticism over their appearance than the men; Dokic insisted the media should stop searching for the next 'Lolita'; King lamented the immense pressure on young players; Henin-Hardenne was true to her prosaic nature by claiming she could not care less about image.

Then, just as Serena and Venus Williams were taking their high heels along the red carpet at the MTV Music Video Awards in Manhattan on Thursday night, on to court at Flushing Meadows walked 16-year-old Maria Sharapova.

And the uprising was quelled.

Pretty in pink, Sharapova is the personification of all that is good with women's tennis, and if her presence -- regrettably dubbed the "new Anna Kournikova" -- attracts fans, hype and sponsors, all power to her and the WTA.

The fact that she is ranked so low in the world she can only claim to be the Russian number 10 is immaterial.

Here is a player who can charm any line judge, with the personality, motivation and good humor to boot. Of all the women/girls under the microscope, the "Siberian Siren" currently has most to take offence with.

"Around me, they can talk and say anything," Sharapova said. "I don't worry about who people think I am."

Which is exactly the sort of attitude you need.

What people actually think is that Sharapova, who moved from Siberia to the Nick Bolletieri academy in Florida aged six, has the ability to be the next world number one.

Combine that with dynamite good looks and you have a very marketable commodity.

"It's only a matter of time and I know it," Sharapova said of her seemingly pre-ordained rise to the top of the rankings.

They said something similar about Kournikova, too. But Kournikova talked the talk and stopped there. Out through injury, she can be seen at the U.S. Open only as a television reporter. She remains happy to trade on her image.

One player who will shy away from that is Daniela Hantuchova, harshly labeled the "Slovakian Skeleton" by British tabloids at Wimbledon after the 20-year-old appeared to be dangerously thin earlier this year.

Not for the New York Times that sort of approach, and commendably so. Celebration is one thing, exploitation quite another.

Further, it has been suggested that the WTA might consider relaxing its eligibility rule for players aged 14 to 18, which currently restricts the number of tournaments they play. Again, desperate exploitation is to be discouraged.

But the problem for sympathizers of the women's game who want to focus on competition is the distinct lack of it.

There are rivalries on Tour. But not at the moment the same level of awe-inspiring tennis to match the era of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, or Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

GENERATE INTEREST

Into this void goes the admittedly frivolous obsession with image. But who can profess genuine surprise at that in 2003? The game needs to generate some interest for its own good and if the WTA does not lead the way, they will be left behind.

Even the biggest and potentially most fascinating women's rivalry, the one that is supposed to provide diversity and genuine inspiration to the masses, is flawed.

Yet to compound matters, the Williams sisters are not even playing at the U.S. Open this year.

On Thursday, therefore, the injured pair were schmoozing with fellow celebrities courtesy of MTV.

There is nothing reproachable about that. Venus and Serena have justified their hype with results. For the rest, the bottom line in women's tennis as in life is still facing them: if you can't be good-looking, be good.

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There is nothing reproachable about that. Venus and Serena have justified their hype with results. For the rest, the bottom line in women's tennis as in life is still facing them: if you can't be good-looking, be good.
I'm not sure how to take this last sentence. Is there supposed to be a break and change of thought from sentence #2 to sentence #3? Awkwardly composed paragraph, the last one.
 

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Pretty in pink, Sharapova is the personification of all that is good with women's tennis, and if her presence -- regrettably dubbed the "new Anna Kournikova" -- attracts fans, hype and sponsors, all power to her and the WTA.
well this paragraph is a bunch of BS if I ever saw it. Maria is the epitome of all that is good in the woman's game? Hows that? Her blonde hair? Her way too skinny body? Her light colored eyes? How is she the embodiment of all that is good in the woman's game?

That is such BS. Maria is good and may be great who knows but her looks (which I saw her in People mag and lets just say i don't get the hype) are not and should not be the embodiment of all that is good in the women's game. :fiery: :fiery:
 

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Rocketta said:
well this paragraph is a bunch of BS if I ever saw it. Maria is the epitome of all that is good in the woman's game? Hows that? Her blonde hair? Her way too skinny body? Her light colored eyes? How is she the embodiment of all that is good in the woman's game?

That is such BS. Maria is good and may be great who knows but her looks (which I saw her in People mag and lets just say i don't get the hype) are not and should not be the embodiment of all that is good in the women's game. :fiery: :fiery:
I agree! All this hype is making me start to dislike her. :mad:
 

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The games and talent should speak for themselves, but it is a sad fact today that appearance dominates absolutely everything when instead it should be talent and hard work.
 

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Seles said:
Henin-Hardenne was true to her prosaic nature by claiming she could not care less about image.
:haha:
*dead*
 

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Quote:
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There is nothing reproachable about that. Venus and Serena have justified their hype with results. For the rest, the bottom line in women's tennis as in life is still facing them: if you can't be good-looking, be good.
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I'm not sure how to take this last sentence. Is there supposed to be a break and change of thought from sentence #2 to sentence #3? Awkwardly composed paragraph, the last one.
It's not just the last sentence. The whole article is confused and twsited. Saying Maria "quelled" the rebellion is nonsense :rolleyes: it was her hype that started it and Loit crushing her that ""quelled" it if anything. The writer ignores the fact that those "awe-inspiring" rivalries he touts were so prominent because there was no one else who could challenge the two top players so they were ALWAYS playing each other. and once again, he makes the mistake of proclaiming Sharapova the perfect package whose rise to the top is "inevitable." He's become part of the empty-headed hype machine dazzled by skinny blonde, teenage model-type good looks. :fiery: :rolleyes: :tape:
 

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You know it's kinda scary and weird at the same time, reading this.

Am I the only one who finds it weird that the North American ideal of beauty is: fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair?

And Hitler lost the war right?.........
 

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looks will always be stressed on a womans sport, frankly cos mens tennis is faster and generally better than womens. so, womens tennis needs something to fall back on, which would be looks since we live in a patriarchal society.

personally, i think maria is way overhyped. her game is kinda boring and she isnt much of a looker. she better not let this hype get to her head, or well have another kournikova on our hands. just like dani did, and jelena, etc...
 

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MartinaI said:
The games and talent should speak for themselves, but it is a sad fact today that appearance dominates absolutely everything when instead it should be talent and hard work.
Appearance dominates anything having to do with women, that is. It's not an issue for the men - at least, not to the same ridiculous degree.

It's not enough to be good, you have to be good looking. If you are good looking, you have to be even better to justify the hype. And so on and so forth...
 

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i don't agree with the hyped-up emphasis on beauty but to say that AMERICANS only hype up blond hair and light eyes ignores the GREAT ASS KISSING going with Roddick and Blake. :(
 

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not I am not dense. Last time I checked the notion of beauty does not only apply to WOMEN, now does it? I was disagreeing with posters who bring up "america's beauty ideal as only being blonde and blue-eyed and thin". Because these people use that as an excuse to hate on Dementieva, Dokic, Hantuchova, Kournikova and countless other players that meet that mold. A lot of them are basically racist in their own way which is no better.

and no I don't like all of those players either. I often root against Dementieva or Hantuchova or Dokic based on their style of play but I don't feel it is right for people to say that they are all clones of each other and use thinly veiled insults based on hair and skin color.
 

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yes I know Rebecca but nobody ever talks about the automatic hype up that "dark and handsome" players get. why is it bad to hype up blond women but okay to stereotype men too? The answer is that it is always politically correct to discriminate against lighter-skinned people now. Look at the disparaging names that people use against Amy Frazier. :(
 

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treufreund said:
i don't agree with the hyped-up emphasis on beauty but to say that AMERICANS only hype up blond hair and light eyes ignores the GREAT ASS KISSING going with Roddick and Blake. :(
James isn't 0.0001 hyped as Roddick...as much as I like both of them :rolleyes:.
 

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oh yes blake is VERY VERY hyped by the media. every five minutes they show some clip off him being "mr macho" while playing some rap music or something. of course he is less hyped than roddick based on results but believe me if he wins something big we will never get to see any men's matches besides blake and roddick.
 
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