Picspam: Vulnerability Tennis.


With the US Open about to commence, the New York Times ran a story titled “How Power has transformed women’s tennis” (clickey), accompanied by a slideshow and a series of videos filming the top women in ballet-inspired clothes, hitting in slow motion (clickey).

I realise I’m probably in the minority here – I didn’t like the feature. To me, it suffered from the same schizophrenia that any writing on women’s tennis in the mainstream media falls victim to these days – it laments the lack of iconic players on the WTA tour (Williams and Sharapova aside). It deplores monotony and highlights the inconsistency of the tour’s top players. It notes the growingly more prominent “missing generation” – my generation, utterly incapable of challenging Serena Williams.


And yet … despite its negativity towards women’s tennis, the piece tries to wow with the aesthetic appeal of ballet, piano music, and beautiful women in flowing, silky dresses, and ends with this conflicting statement:

People worrying about the game today will probably be the same ones, years from now, who boast about having seen Serena in her prime, along with Henin and Venus and Sharapova and Clijsters.

There’s nothing like it, they’ll say. Those were the days.

Make up your friggin mind.

And on the aesthetics – again, I think I’m in the minority when I say I’m not a big fan of the photo shoot: on the whole, there was too much hair and smoke, too little character or clarity. Besides, I fail to see anything remotedly balletic about the tennis of Vera, or Lena, or Vika or any of their other name-rhyming friends.

All this I say with one important exception – the photographs of Sam Stosur were stunning. It’s not so much that you hardly ever see the feminine side of her, so any attempt to put her in a dress inevitably wows.

No. It’s more than that.

These photos are a remarkably accurate reflection of Stosur’s character – a curious mix of power and vulnerability. Or perhaps even more accurately – power to mask vulnerability.

Trapped within her muscles and her sunnies, there’s a lot of tenderness and fear. The naturally aggressive, emotive mindset doesn’t come easily to her the way it does for – let’s say – Serena, and the simple routine of crawling out of her comfort zone each day, putting on a head to match her ironically powerful, attacking game is a challenge each of us witness Sam confront on a match-by-match basis.

Is it any wonder that she froze at Roland Garros?

Enough musings. Do you see what I see?



The rest of the photos: Lena, Vika, Vera and Kim (in that order), with a whole lotta hair.








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9 responses to “Picspam: Vulnerability Tennis.”

  1. LJ says :

    i dunno man, those slo-mo videos with the brian enoesque ambient soundtrack just SCREAMED Aesthetic Appeal to me…

    Agreed that Sam was the best

  2. Ellie Johnson says :

    someone got carried away with the baby oil…can you imagine these pics with the 90s chicks..picture sabatini, graf, hingis, seles, sanchez vicario, pierce….

  3. PSP says :

    I went through the pictures 2-3 times and I still felt a bit icky about the pictures and their concepts. I guess the pictures just looked too fake and forced.

  4. TennisAce says :

    I liked it actually. Matter of fact I loved it. The whole theme. The music, the video, the article and the still shots. As someone who loves women’s tennis, I appreciated the concept. Too many times we have seen the women of the WTA featured in come f*ck me poses. Dressed up like porn stars, throwing kisses at a camera. That is not what they are. They are powerful athletic women who are very beautiful in their own way.

    The pictures showed the femininity (flowing scarves, piano music), the high intensity and power in their games (rippling muscles, beads of sweat flying) and lastly it showed them as athletes, hitting the ball, sliding into their shots, the aggressiveness in their games etc. I think it was very well done and I agree Stosur’s was really the best as it captured her every emotion.

    I know that whenever I see Sharapova and Ivanovic in an ad for some product or on the cover of SI or whatever, it does not say athlete to me, it says something totally different. I prefer they showcase the women in this vein rather than as porn stars who play tennis.

    • dootsiez says :

      We dont disagree. I enjoyed the concept. The professionalism. I loved the shots of force rippling through muscles. I liked the fact that these women were not pouting at a camera. But like I said: too much hair, too little character. A shot of Lena’s face hidden in blonde hair does nothing for me. All in all, slightly robotic execution of a good concept. (The images also give the wrong idea of what the article was actually about)

    • Mia says :

      +1. Liked it, too. Glad that in no way did the women make like SI Swimsuit Illustrated nor FHM. Yet, this was still an ode to power and beauty. For sheer movement and glamor, I liked JJ’s best. Then Vika’s and Lena’s.

  5. Alex says :

    I like the opening shot of Kim sliding into a forehand. Pretty much epitomizes her game.

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