Maria's bananas and Anna's bra - next question please!
5 June 2007, PARIS - Maria Sharapova talked bananas, Anna Kournikova once discussed her bra while Balkan politics, Shakespeare, vegetable shopping and the plight of refugees have all been aired at the French Open.
5 June 2007
PARIS - Maria Sharapova talked bananas, Anna Kournikova once discussed her bra while Balkan politics, Shakespeare, vegetable shopping and the plight of refugees have all been aired at the French Open.
Today's Grand Slam contenders have to be as well-versed in international affairs as they are in forehands and backhands if they are to satisfy the international media.
No subject is taboo and it's in the bearpit of the compulsory news conference that the probing is carried out.
The more daring the question, the more colourful the response and, hopefully, the more eye-catching the headline the following morning.
Not surprisingly, Sharapova, the world's most famous sportswoman, is relied on as a major source of snippets.
But the Russian wasn't happy when celebrations of her US Open title last year were overshadowed - by a fruit.
"I believe my life is not about a banana," said Sharapova after her New York win over Justine Henin degenerated into questions over why her coaching team had been waving a banana.
Was it a hidden code? Was it a breach of the coaching rules? Or was it simply a hint to eat, erm, a banana?
"My career is about winning a tennis match. And right now, I'm sitting here as a US Open champion, and the last thing I think people need to worry about is a banana."
If it was fruit in America, it's vegetables at Roland Garros for Sharapova who, after another routine victory, found herself discussing grocery shopping.
"The first time I was absolutely lost," she said recalling a trip to her local supermarket.
"Now I've got it under control. I know where the vegetables are, where my favorite cheese is, I've got it all going."
Sharapova sits in the hotseat once occupied by equally glamourous predecessor Anna Kournikova.
The Russian beauty once held a news conference in the run-up to Wimbledon to launch a new line of bras, posing sultrily to tempt the photographers.
However, she refused to talk about her private life after being linked with ice hockey players Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure.
"Let's just talk about bras," was her reply, declaring her love life off-limits.
This year's French Open has seen the tradition once again flourishing.
Marat Safin even talked Shakespeare.
A reporter wanted to know whether he had seen a production of Hamlet.
"There are a lot of interesting monologues and he's asking himself to be or not to be," pointed out a journalist.
The Russian was not to be fooled.
"Well, I'm 27 years old. So it's not really a question of to be or not to be. This kind of question is for the age of 22, without winning a Grand Slam, being up close, but never actually achieving anything," he replied.
Croatian top 10 player Ivan Ljubicic, who fled the 1990s Balkan war with his family, pondered the plight of refugees and his work to highlight present dilemmas.
"I'm not thinking about what happened to me. I'm just thinking there are people who need help, and I'm the one who maybe can help them," explained Ljubicic.
The problems of being a woman on tour have also been the focus of questioning.
Anastasia Musykina, the 2004 French Open champion, was beaten in just 35 minutes here as she tries to battle a career-threatening foot injury.
"Do the other women players show sympathy for you?," she was asked.
Myskina replied: "All of them smile to me. But you never know what they say behind your back."
The Russian is a media-favourite; fiery Jelena Dokic is the opposite.
Five years ago, one brave soul asked her to comment on reports linking her romantically with a racing driver.
"Why don't you think of a question that is your business?" she fired back.
Subject: French news