Magazine article Insight on the News

Mauresmo Serves Up PR Problem

Magazine article Insight on the News

Mauresmo Serves Up PR Problem

Article excerpt

How will an openly gay player fit into the strategy of the Women's Tennis Association as it searches for a new title sponsor?

Women's tennis has a new star in Amelie Mauresmo, but it's unclear whether fans will adopt her as the sport's latest poster girl. The 19-year-old from France, who came out of nowhere to beat top-ranked Lindsay Davenport en route to the Australian Open final, is a lesbian.

Homosexuality is nothing new to women's tennis. Two of the sport's greatest champions, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, are gay, and both advanced the women's game. But this is a new era for women's tennis, which has spent the last few years trumpeting its sex appeal. Thanks to Steffi Graf, spice girls Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova and Mary Pierce, and cocky teenagers Venus and Serena Williams, the women's game has become more popular than the men's.

But the publicity surrounding Manresmo could complicate things for the Women's Tennis Association. Last year, Mauresmo moved from Bornel, France, to Saint-Tropez to live with her 31-year-old girlfriend, Sylvie Bourdon, whom she met through a fellow WTA Tour player, Isabelle Demongeot. "Things happened quickly" Bourdon recalls. "It was love at first sight."

The tour encourages players to talk about their personal lives so that fans perceive them as more than one-dimensional tennis robots. "When the media asks me what's going on in my life, I'm obliged to talk about this" says Mauresmo. "There will be people who I hope will respect me for doing it, because it was my decision and because there are many other players who are the same way as I am and say nothing and act as if nothing is going on. …

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