Ashley Harkleroad of the US was knocked out of the French Open by Serena Williams on Sunday but stole the headlines from her compatriot by announcing she has posed for Playboy.
The 22-year-old, ranked 61 in the world, revealed she had agreed to the photoshoot while she lay in a hospital bed recovering from surgery.
Harkleroad, who lost her first round match 6-2, 6-1, believes she is the first tennis player to pose for the magazine and follows US swimmer Amanda Beard in baring all for the cameras.
“I was just lying there in hospital for three weeks, and an offer came to me. I thought about it and it was something that I did. I’m proud of my body,” said the Florida native whose pictures will appear in the August edition.
“I stay in shape and try to stay fit. I’m just trying to represent a female athlete and her body. That can be sexy too. It’s no big deal,” she said.
Williams backed Harkleroad’s decision to pose for the magazine.
“I do appreciate that magazine. I think Hugh Hefner is a great businessman, and he has a niche that he just did really amazing in,” Williams said.
“I’m happy for her if that’s what she wanted to do. It takes a lot of courage. And whether I’m courageous enough, I don’t know, but it’s great for someone to be so courageous and tough.”