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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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LONDON (Reuters) -- Skeptics have dubbed her "Kourna-Copy" and the "American Anna" but U.S. tennis officials confirmed their faith in 16-year-old Ashley Harkleroad this week by inviting her to an Olympic training camp.

To date, the teen-ager has made more headlines with her skimpy tennis outfits and likeness to Anna Kournikova than her on-court prowess, but U.S. tennis chiefs hope that will all change.

Harkleroad, also nicknamed "Pebbles" after the cartoon daughter of Fred Flintstone -- she was born in the small Georgia town which shares a name with the prehistoric family -- has been named in the elite squad for this week's USTA "Gold Medal Training Camp" at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

The camp is seen as "an opportunity to focus the goals of these players towards competing in the 2003 Pan-Am Games in the Dominican Republic and at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens," the United States Tennis Association said.

The youngster, who already trains at Saddlebrook, will work with Billie Jean King, the U.S. Olympic women's tennis coach for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, as well as the U.S. Fed Cup captain.

A U.S. under-18 junior champion aged 15, Harkleroad hit the international headlines earlier this year when she made her debut at the U.S. Open.

She put up a brave performance, losing to compatriot Meilen Tu in three sets, but was noticed more for her midriff-baring top.

Harkleroad wears her long, blonde hair in the style of Russian Kournikova and, perhaps attracted by the thought of multi-million dollar endorsements, does little to discourage comparisons with the east European.

"I like the attention," she said at the U.S. Open. "The outfit was tight and short, but I like things like that...and they [the crowd] liked it on me.

"That's why I wore it and possibly the crowd maybe was more on my side because of that outfit."

Kournikova, though, has become a byword for triumph of appearance over performance.

Despite cleaning up in the endorsement stakes, she has never won a senior singles event.

Harkleroad is determined that is one trait of her favorite player she will not emulate.

"Hopefully I'll make it to my goals... to what I want to be," she says.

"I want to do my very best and try to be top 10, top five. I don't have a set time for that -- any time would be nice for me."
 

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Yeah...she needs to work on those footwork! She's not as mobile as most of the girls.
 

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Ashley is a bit lightweight and when she plays big hitters in the juniors she gets crunched.
 
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unlike some peopel (maria sharapova) i like how she doesnt bash anna straight out and accepts the very generous compliment. good luck to her in the future
 

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I don't really know too much about her ,but imho I don't care for her comments regarding her clothes and how tight they are and that, that is why she wore them blah blah blah. It seems that she has no problem with using her body to win a match. I personally don't like that attitude.

Screw the clothes and talk about your tennis. sheesh <img src="smile.gif" border="0">
 

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She seems like a confident girl, which is good. But then so was Anna at her age. And Anna had had better results and wins over Top 50 players by then. I'm sure Anna didn't think she'd have to wait this long to win a singles title either. But at least Ashley has set a bar to measure herself up against. Talk about aiming high. <img src="wink.gif" border="0">
 

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I got to see two of her matches on t.v. from the US Open, one against Meilen Tu, and also her junior match against Joanna Sakowicz which was put on Arthur Ashe stadium. She doesn't have a big game, but she does have fairly good consistency, and I think tactically she is fairly smart which is what has helped her become a top 10 junior player. I think as long as she keeps building on her strengths, and improving on weaknesses, she will fair alright in the pros. Her WTA rank is already at 271 with only 9 events played, so I think that that's pretty decent, considering it compares with the likes of many of the other higher ranked juniors rankings professionally aswell. I just hope she doesn't get too caught up in trying to be a glamour girl and actually take the tennis part seriously (something that I think a lot of people fail to recognize about Kournikova - she is very dedicated to her training and is a hard worker on court despite making time for things outside of tennis).
 

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First of all, the reason Harkleroad is getting all this attention is that she is the top ranked American junior and they are always trying to find someone that is coming up next. Second, since she is not a minority, and isn't that interesting of a story, they are going to try to find some way to market her, and they have decided the American Kournikova route. That said, however, it doesn't seem like she is caught up in the attention. She has put in a lot of hard work to get where she is and did not try to become a "glamor" girl, it's not her fault that people put her on center court at the U.S. Open, or people want to say she is sexy. And also, the clothes she wore were on many other players at the U.S. Open from Nike and no one caused a stir about that. I'm just tired of people already being negative toward her for no fault of her own.<br />Game wise, I agree with both Randy H and Boiled Egg that she is more of a Hingis type player, she said she models her game after her and it's easy to see that. I hope that she can fulfill her potential, because I'd like to see a young American break through because I think we need one.<br />Good luck Ashley <img src="smile.gif" border="0">
 
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