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Tennis's treasure chests


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"Before" image:

050812_sharapova_before_225.jpg

Change of uniform: Are you offended at all by the "before" photo? Do you think the image needed to be altered?

"After" image:

050812_sharapova_after_225.jpg

Aug. 14, 2005. 07:22 PM

Tennis's treasure chests

Can you spot the difference? As the fabric of the sport changes, marketers push up against the boundaries, writes Oakland Ross

What's this fuss about Maria Sharapova's bosom?

Like many of life's great questions, the answer depends on whom you ask.

"I don't see the sporting necessity of having Maria Sharapova's breasts falling out of her top," fumes Richard Powers, professor of sports marketing at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. "Boy, oh, boy, what are they selling here? I don't think it's in good taste."

"They," in this case, is a reference to Tennis Canada, the organizers of the Rogers Cup women's professional tennis tournament, which gets underway this morning at York University at Keele St. and Steeles Ave.

Fourteen of the top 20 female players in the world are scheduled to compete in the nine-day tournament, including Maria Sharapova and her ... um, tennis racquets.

Sharapova, of course, is an 18-year-old sports and fashion phenomenon ? she of the 6-foot frame, the long blond locks, the piercing blue eyes, and the formidable tennis skills ? who rocketed to planetary fame last year by winning the women's singles championship at Wimbledon. She was a semi-finalist at the same tournament last month. Currently ranked number two in the world, she is expected to play her first match in Toronto on Wednesday evening ? assuming she makes the trip north.

Yesterday, Sharapova withdrew from a tournament in Carson, Calif., with an inflamed chest muscle, and it was unclear how long the injury might keep her out of action.

"She's still committed to Toronto," a spokesperson for Tennis Canada said yesterday, but he warned that this could change.

Meanwhile, what's this controversy about her bosom?

"I would say that it was something that we missed," concedes Stacey Allaster, director of the Toronto tournament, one of the top summer sporting draws in the city. "It's a shot of Maria hitting a serve."

But it is not Sharapova's punishing serve that draws the viewer's gaze in this particular image. It isn't her tennis racquet, either.

The picture in question appears in a large-format, four-page brochure promoting this year's edition of the annual Rogers Cup tournament.

Allaster says the decision to use that image was an honest mistake.

"It's the nature of that Nike dress," she says, deftly slipping the name of the manufacturer into a telephone interview. "It's low-cut. It's something that we missed."

And there's a bridge in Brooklyn that's up for sale at a good price right this very minute.

Powers, for one, isn't buying it.

"That picture," he says, "is selling sex."

As they say in tennis: Advantage, Mr. Powers.

Whether it was an oversight or not, Tennis Canada's use of the arresting photo of Sharapova is nothing new in women's tennis or in women's sport ? and it is, indeed, selling sex.

At its heart, the Rogers Cup is a top-flight sports contest, pitting more than 100 extraordinary athletes against one other in a competition for ranking points, trophies and $1.3 million U.S. in prize money. But, like the rest of the professional women's tennis tour, it is also something of a celebrity fest, featuring a bevy of attractive young women dressed in fashionable but not very copious attire.

"Marketers use sex because it works," says Ashwin Joshi, an associate professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

The Tennis Canada brochure featuring Sharapova's d?colletage is by no means the only example of this titillating and time-tested phenomenon that will be on display at the Rogers Cup tournament this year, but you won't necessarily be able to see some of the other instances of sex being used to sell sports, or not in their entirety.

When tennis fans and celebrity hounds converge upon the Rexall Centre tennis stadium at York this week, they will be greeted by rows of huge banners draped from the stadium's concrete fa?ade, each showing one or another of the top women's tennis stars who will be competing at the tournament this year ? Am?lie Mauresmo, Serena Williams (sister Venus pulled out last night with the flu), Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and, oh, yes, Sharapova.

But, in some cases, spectators will be seeing only the bowdlerized versions of those photos.

Two of the banners ? both depicting Sharapova, it so happens ? had to be hauled down during the past few days and then digitally doctored to obscure delicate portions of the famous Russian's storied physique. The retouched banners have now been put back up with the rest.

"There were two that were maybe too revealing," says Allaster. "It's a fine line, though."

Tennis, especially women's tennis, has been pushing up against that boundary for decades, to the chagrin of some and the delight of others

According to Allaster, the players themselves are happy with the current approach to marketing the game.

"They're teenagers," she says. "They love fashion and they love the limelight."

Toss a dash of sex appeal into the blend, and you've got women's professional tennis, circa 2005 ? a mix that has not changed all that much during the past decade or so.

Remember Anna Kournikova ? another Russian female player who, like Sharapova, probably needs no introduction, certainly not to red-blooded young men the world over or to anyone who has surfed any of the more than 800,000 websites that snap to attention in cyber-space the instant you tap Kournikova's name into the Google search engine (versus 1,200,000-plus sites for Sharapova).

"Anna Kournikova was the start of equating sex and a professional athlete," says Powers.

An accomplished and highly ranked tennis player during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Kournikova failed to win a singles tournament during her professional career but enjoyed immense international celebrity just the same, mainly on account of her revealing outfits, her golden tresses, and her smashing looks, not to mention her taste in famous boyfriends.

But Kournikova was by no means the first women's tennis player to gain legions of mainly male admirers while capitalizing on her sexuality in addition to her athletic prowess..

Consider American Gertrude "Gussie" Moran, who played in the 1949 Wimbledon tennis championships while wearing a dress that was disturbingly short by the standards of the time. But it wasn't the dress that raised eyebrows. It was what she had on underneath ? a pair of ruffled panties that flashed into view every time her skirt flipped up, which was far too often for some, not nearly often enough for others.

Moran did not win Wimbledon that year ? she did not come close ? but she did become famous, or at least her underwear did, earning themselves the nickname "Gorgeous Gussies."

Still, if the tennis court has been a place for women to be glamorous and a little scandalous, it has also been a place for them to beat men, as happened most famously in 1973 during the so-called "Battle of the Sexes" showdown that pitted American tennis star Billie Jean Kingagainst a tennis huckster by the name of Bobby Riggs.

The victory was hailed as a major triumph for women's tennis and for women's sport in general. The women's game is now as big a draw as the men's, and the gap in prize money is shrinking fast.

Meanwhile, up at York this week, there will be three Canadians among the players in the main draw, which starts Monday ? Marie Eve Pelletier, Stephanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak, all of whom received wild cards. Six other Canadians, including 14-year-old Sharon Fichman of Toronto, will be competing in the qualifying draw, which starts this morning.

"It's the number one women's sport in the world," says Allaster. "It's driven by athleticism, celebrity and fashion."

And maybe just a soup?on of sex.

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentSe...id=971358637177

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that picure you posted show absolutely no cleavage. maria has pretty small breasts, how can they make such a big deal about her? this powers guy is seriously misguided if he thinks maria's breasts can fall out of any top. trust me, i watch her a lot ;)

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that picure you posted show absolutely no cleavage.  maria has pretty small breasts, how can they make such a big deal about her?  this powers guy is seriously misguided if he thinks maria's breasts can fall out of any top.  trust me, i watch her a lot ;)

586377950[/snapback]

True :yes:

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I do see the in the first picture she is showing nothing, although you can see a nipple impression, in which is missing the second picture....

I only read the top half of that article... so if i missed something sorry, not gonna spend that long reading about nothing...

I think this guys is smoking something alright...

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Yeah I don't see the lowcut-ness they referred to being changed in the second photo, just the perkiness being removed. In fact I don't see the picture being low-cxut anyway. Unless for these people a nipple impression automatically qualifies something as low-cut. Anyway, people need to find better stuff to complain about.

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And just like Maxim...they remove the nipples. The only different; the models in Maxim usually have larger breasts...oh, and most time, aren't playing tennis.

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O and I don't know if it's some kind of Torontoan (? sorry I don't know the adjective form of Toronto) colloquialism but why did the writer refer to her breasts as "racquets'? If it was an attempt to be clever I think he (Oakland is a guy's name right?) failed miserably. When I think racquet I do not think breast. Again if this is a common term to refer to breasts in Toronto then I gues it makes sense or else it was just odd.

trust me, i watch her a lot ;)

586377950[/snapback]

don't we all :D And she's 18 so we don't have to feel dirty about it either lol.

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O and I don't know if it's some kind of Torontoan (? sorry I don't know the adjective form of Toronto) colloquialism but why did the writer refer to her breasts as "racquets'? If it was an attempt to be clever I think he (Oakland is a guy's name right?) failed miserably. When I think racquet I do not think breast. Again if this is a common term to refer to breasts in Toronto then I gues it makes sense or else it was just odd.

don't we all :D And she's 18 so we don't have to feel dirty about it either lol.

586378522[/snapback]

I think it was a play on words.

Or just a polite way of referring to something that you're supposed to be watching (her racquet) rather than what you really are watching (her rack).

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Wow, I had no idea Canadians were so prudish! ;)

Anyway, she hardly has a chest I'd worry about popping out, has this guy never seen Serena Williams before? Her chest is nothign to spectacular, but the overall figure seems to be agreeable to these fellas:

post-22586-1124119199.jpg

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dear god, those are gigantic. but what is she supposed to do? reduce her mobility and wear a sweater? i think things are fine how they are.

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nah, they shouldn't airbrush that stuff...it's not vulgar, it's not like anything is exposed...I guess next...they are going to airbrush out downhill skiers tight pants showing camel toe and man mounds....

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