© Ella Ling


Heels, spray tans and cougars: tennis and reality TV


Five things about… tennis players on reality TV

Martina Navratilova this week announced she is to don her dancing shoes and glittery, sparkly outfits to become only the second tennis player to appear on Dancing with the Stars, the American equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing. The 55-year-old, who joined Twitter in almost the same breath, will partner Tony Dovolani, and has already been forced to play tennis in high heels, have hair extensions and a spray tan, but has drawn the line at fake nails.

“The Foxtrot is exercise for my body AND my brain. Talk about concentration. It’s definitely more challenging than Words with Friends,” she tweeted.

Navratilova’s big announcement got us to thinking about other tennis players who have hit the reality TV trail once they’ve hung up their rackets….

1. Martina Navratilova in I’m a Celebrity
Top of the tree is Navratilova herself, who at the grand old age of 49, braved creepy crawlies, sludge, goo, slime, terrible food and a host of other horrors on ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity.’ Not only that, she came within biting distance of winning the whole thing, narrowly losing out to Eastender Joe Swash.

2.  Mark Philippoussis in the Age of Love
An NBC show that was later broadcast on E4, this abomination put the Australian thundercloud as the sole bachelor in the midst of a group of 40 year-old women, the ‘Cougars’, and 20 year-old women, the ‘Kittens.’ Competing for his affection over a series of weeks and activities, ‘Scud’ was finally forced to choose one to take on a final date, and plumped for a 25-year-old dancer.

3.  Justine Henin in The 12 Labours of Justine Henin
During her first retirement, the owner of the world’s best one-handed backhand took part in a show on Belgian TV in which she was put through 12 different ‘labours,’ which included singing, cooking and playing football.  “The hardest challenge was to cook – because I never cook. But I did OK,” she said afterwards. In June 2009, she also hosted a musical TV show.

4. Greg Rusedski in Dancing on Ice
Having put his professional tennis shoes away in 2007, six months later, Greg grinned his way into a pair of ice skates as he signed up for ITV’s Dancing on Ice. Partnered up with fellow Canadian-born Kristina Lenko, Rusedski miraculously finished a respectable fifth, losing out to eventual winner Suzanne Shaw.

5. Martina Hingis in Strictly Come Dancing
The Swiss Miss was the first female former tennis pro to try the likes of the Waltz and the Rumba on the BBC’s hit dancing show, and, despite being one of the bookies’ favourites, she was voted out in the first round. When you consider that she was far better than Andrew Castle, who made it to the seventh week the year before, it had to have been that the British public simply didn’t know who she was. Monica Seles suffered a similar fate on America’s Dancing with the Stars, making it to the second round.