Women turn up the power


Fast, powerful, and athletic, these are the new images of women's tennis the sport's controllers want to promote. Wimbledon's top female stars are coming out fighting in an attempt to encourage more women to take up what has traditionally been a male-dominated game.

Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, and Lleyton Hewitt's girlfriend Kim Clijsters, are among those taking part in a new ad campaign by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

Forget pretty tennis whites and ladylike volleys, the images capture female players at their most powerful and aggressive. They are as far from the immaculate image of tennis players of the past, such as Chris Evert, as you can get.

With slogans such as "Sweat. The new black", and "Grunt if you like women's tennis", the pictures focus on sheer female power and emphasise how the women's game is becoming more competitive and exciting.

A major television and billboard campaign is being launched this week in 30 countries. One picture shows Austria's Barbara Schett drenched in sweat as she celebrates winning a point; another shows Clijsters, her face contorted, and the slogan "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".

Defending Wimbledon champion Serena Williams gave a sneak preview of the campaign message this week when she wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan, "Some things need a woman's touchî on the Wimbledon practice courts.

After defeating fellow American Jill Craybas yesterday, Williams, 21, said the campaign emphasised the importance of women being strong rather than slender.

Speaking days after fellow player Daniela Hantuchova sparked fears of an eating disorder when she was pictured looking skeletally thin, Williams said: "It's important to be both fit and in touch with your feminine side.

"Not everyone can be 90lbs, although I think that is what society believes now. All models these days are just drinking coffee or wine and that's it. It's not very healthy at all.

"All the tennis girls are getting more muscles. Everybody is looking stronger, acting stronger, and playing stronger, and I think that has lifted the level of the game.

"I have been really serious about my exercise and diet regime, working out on and off court, doing a lot of gym exercises and watching my sugar intake. It's been good."

The WTA believes the pictures will attract more young women to take up the sport. WTA vice-president Dave Larson said: "It is designed to showcase our players and illustrate how the game has evolved in terms of attitude, athleticism and style.

"With this new emphasis in women's tennis on fitness, strength and competitiveness, the notion of femininity has been redefined. It is now faster, more competitive, and more exciting to watch."

Former British tennis star Annabel Croft said: "The pictures are quite aggressive but they sum up women's tennis right now. It is powerful, and that is a big selling point."

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