Following on from my ATP charisma list, now here are my WTA choices. I would argue that the current crop of players has as many, if not more characters than any previous era:
Darth Vika is as feisty, headstrong and abrasive as they come. This means she's not
everyone's cup of tea, including me. She has an arrogant swagger and a way of
rubbing opponents up the wrong way, with her wailing, celebrating and
occasional gamesmanship (loves an MTO, does Vika). And she's not averse
to blatant tanking in front of a huge crowd, as shown at the tour finals last year. A couple of
years ago, she'd regularly argue with umpires and the crowd and was
rude to ball kids, but seems to be trying to tone it down and ingratiate
herself with the fans more now. Only problem is, you can tell she's
been told to do this and doesn't always seem sincere. She's very young
and still maturing though.
who watched her run to the French Open title and Australian Open final
in 2011, cannot have failed to be charmed by her post-match interviews. A
genuinely funny and interesting character, with an on-court temper
that's always bubbling near the surface.
simply a delight. If you ever feel down, I urge you to flick on a clip
of Ana on YouTube and wait for the smile that could melt any heart. No
one shows as much happiness on court as an in-form Ivanovic and unlike
many other players, is as polite as possible to everyone; from ball kids
to opponents. She has a wide variety of fist-pumps and loves an "ADJE!!", which I feel really helps endear her to the crowd. Also can talk the hind legs off a donkey and off-court, her enthusiasm for the sport just shines through.
can be moody, miserable, bad tempered, rude and brash but that's
because she never hides her emotions and I love her for it. On the
flip-side, she can laugh at her own mistakes and when things are going
well, she loves to play to the crowd and offer up big gestures and
smiles. You can tell she loves the game.
Czech girl is completely mental. Guaranteed histrionics in every single
match, win or lose. This mostly involves berating herself but no one is
safe from an outburst, including her coach, who I've seen given the most vicious looking evils I've ever seen! Loves a good racquet
smash/throw and despite the fact she plays with a permanent frown, you
just have to laugh at the way she just never stops chuntering. She's
extremely talented and has more natural flair than most players ranked
far higher but her inability to conquer her own mental weakness has held
her back from a much better career. Makes me laugh every single time!
phrase 'mad as a box of frogs' was made for Bartoli (not just cos she's
French!). Her bizarre routines she goes through, both with the mechanical-looking
serve and the constant, wild jumping, shadow-swinging, fist-clenching and jerking on return of serve, mark her out as a must watch. Never stops moving at any time! Hilarious to observe and
when you add in all the strange interaction with her father, the mad
Doctor Walter, with his crazy training contraptions, you have a genuine
little Italian lives for the crowd. She never really bothers much in the
smaller tournaments and I'm sure it's partly because she needs a big
stage to perform her best. Franny understands that tennis is
entertainment and her game is suited to bringing out the best in a
crowd - proper old-school slices, volleys, mixed spins and drop-shots. Add in a comically outlandish grunt, cheeky smile and a stare that could kill your average umpire and she epitomises the phrase 'heart on sleeve'. And no one milks applause better than her!
of the few all-round entertainers in tennis. Gives great interviews,
can be funny, hugely intelligent, amusing celebrations, feisty on court
and also a bubbly, lively girl off it. The life and soul of the German
Fed Cup team. Greatly missed with her time out with injury this year.
Nicknamed 'The Lady Ga-Ga of Tennis' for her often outrageous on-court outfits, Mattek-Sands is a true character off-court too. Famed for her knee-high socks and American football style, facial war-paint, she is clearly an eccentric which is rare on the tour. From jackets made of tennis balls, to diagonally sliced skirts to cowboy hats, the feisty American adds plenty of colour to the WTA.
There are certain players who
do their bit and are great with the fans and say all the right things.
Federer, Nadal, Clijsters, Sharapova and Serena Williams all come into
that category but they are all a bit too polished and almost robotic.
You never get a real sense that they are a great character. Great
champions, yes, great speakers, yes, great in front of a camera, yes but
great personalities? I don't feel that. I'm not hanging on their every
word, waiting to see what they will come up with next. You could guess
Sharapova's post match interview answers before she's even finished and
she exudes a certain cold aloofness. Federer tries his best to throw in a
bit of humour but it all feels pre-written, and probably by someone
else. Nadal isn't known as 'Nadull' by some people, for no reason.
Clijsters is charming but gives absolutely
nothing on-court - completely stoic. And Serena, I just always feel as
though she's putting on a fake, sugary-sweet voice for her fans - the
tennis equivalent of the office receptionist.
guys understand the importance of giving to the fans but I don't feel
they would give half as much if a) they weren't obligated to give so
many post match interviews and b) they didn't have product lines like
'Sugarpova' to sell. I can guarantee you Nadal would be off on his
fishing boat faster than you could shout 'Rafa, a quick word please!'.
But I guess he does enough of his entertaining through his tennis, as do
all those I've mentioned. After all, they aren't paid to be comedians or
Does any other sport really have these
characters? Certainly not in football, where half the players can't
string a sentence together and the likes of Drogba and Cole cannot even
spare 2 minutes for an interview, even after winning the Champions
League for the first time. Both ran away before they could even finish
emitting their tired cliches to ITV and that's something you see all the
time with footballers. At least with tennis, they all try to engage the
fans off-court - even Andy Murray (reluctantly) does these days.
Compared to other sports, I think tennis doesn't do too badly at all in
the charisma stakes.