Fashion takes centre court in Montreal: Counting down my top 40 stories

Over 40 years in this racket, I have written about police, crooks, people in crisis, tennis players, scorpions, elephants, hockey players and average Joes who have had interesting stories to tell.

As I wind down my 35-year career at the Toronto Star (40 in all), I am reaching back into the archives to share my top 40 stories.

No. 40 was my personal account of being in New York in 2001 for the U.S. Open when the twin towers were knocked down.

No. 39 comes from Montreal in 2002 when tennis diva Anna Kournikova was the talk of the women’s circuit.

We had a new sports editor at the time. Graham Parley had come in from the National Post. I had never met him.

In a telephone conversation, he assigned me to write a piece focusing on the women’s knockout tennis outfits.

It was a fun assignment that allowed me some freedom to write about something other than serves and top-spin lobs.

Here is that story, which appeared on the front of the sports section:

No. 39, Aug. 14, 2002

Headline: Fashion takes centre court

MONTREAL — Forget the forehands and backhands. What every real tennis fan in this city of haute couture wants to know is what Anna, Jennifer and Daniela will be wearing.

Great games count on the scorecard, but great gams and peek-a-boo dresses draw the fans, drive the television ratings and hike the advertising dollars.

Eye-popping tennis fashion is a multimillion-dollar industry now and irrefutable proof of that came last year when Venus Williams signed a $40 million (U.S.) multi-year deal with Reebok, which stands as the richest endorsement deal ever for a female athlete.

Of course, money is one thing. These young women love to look good, too.

Perhaps none enjoys the fashion world more than Serena Williams, who says her favourite place to visit is the mirror in her house. But when she pulled out of the $1.2 million (U.S.) Rogers AT&T Cup late yesterday afternoon, the tournament also lost its biggest fashion plate.

Would she have worn her gold shoes or her purple ones? Would her stunning dresses have shown more cleavage than normal?

Tennis fans are left to wonder. But then there’s still Anna Kournikova, who models sports bras because, as the slogan says, Only The Ball Should Bounce.

Kournikova was the talk of Monday night when she showed off a body-hugging white number that was cut to show off some midriff.

The dress was so intriguing that observers couldn’t figure out what was covering her tummy and what it was concealing. Some suggest it was a bandage covering a tattoo. Some were suspecting an injury. Perhaps even a navel-piercing?

That Anna keeps everyone guessing. Not so Martina Hingis. She revealed yesterday that she’s brought a collection of new outfits, including a tank top, that she’ll show off this week.

But the powder-blue number she wore yesterday was her favourite.

“It’s new, “ she said, grinning. “I like light blue because it matches my eyes.”

Jennifer Capriati also showed off a new outfit yesterday in her doubles match with partner Martina Navratilova.

Purple in the front with a white back, the outfit looked … well, as they say in tennis, smashing.

For the nouveau tennis set, there’s a newcomer to the runways here at the Jarry Tennis Centre. A British magazine has now crowned Slovak Daniela Hantuchova as the sexiest woman on the tour, overtaking Kournikova.

Dubbed the “Legs from Slovakia, “ Hantuchova can draw gasps with outfits that display her 44-inch-long legs.

At the Australian Open this year, she caused a stir with what one observer described as a black, cocktail-like dress with spaghetti straps.

Even bad taste draws attention. Like it or not, black shoes — boots, you might call them — have made an appearance. Henrieta Nagyova’s black-topped shoes contrasted sharply with Mary Pierce’s white ensemble.

Nagyova won the match but lost on the fashion front.

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