Harkleroad Bares More

I ran into Playboy pin-up Ashley Harkleroad on Tuesday afternoon (she and partner Galina Voskoboeva had just lost their doubles quarterfinal 6-3, 6-3 to the Bondarenko sisters) and I was curious to find out what the reaction had been since she disclosed she had posed. The 23-year-old Georgia native told me in her southern drawl that she had received overwhelmingly positive feedback. She genuinely sounded excited about the whole experience. “I’m spending more time in L.A., and so it just sort of fits,” the 5-5 player said.

She went on to tell me some other details: It’s not just an inside-the-fold layout – Harkleroad will be splashed on the cover of the August issue (it comes out in mid July). She told me that there is no full-on frontal nudity, but that she will be topless and that some of her “other attributes” might be showing a tad. “I had just had my operation (for a cyst on her ovary), so I couldn’t wax, you know,” she laughed. Harkleroad said the photo spread will include an article explaining why she decided to do it. “I sat down with the writer for about two days,” said the stoked American.

Also Tuesday, I spoke with Larry Stefanki, the coach of Fernando Gonzalez, who goes up against the mighty Federer today in the quarterfinals. Stefanki, who recently agreed to work with the Chilean for a third year, expressed confidence that his pupil could put pressure on Federer despite his 1-10 career record (although he won their most recent meeting in the round robin of the Masters Cup in Shanghai last November).

Stefanki said Gonzo has come a long way in dealing with pressure matches and won’t fade or succumb to the occasion as he did in his Australian Open final loss to the Swiss No. 1 in 2007. Gonzalez’s forehand can put the scare in anyone, but he hasn’t shown the kind of sustained, patient, play that earned him his only Grand Slam final 17 months ago. “He’s ready and I think you’ll be surprised by what you see,” said Stefanki.

To catch up on the week, here are links to stories in USA Today about Nicolas Almagro (Monday), Dinara Safina (Tuesday) and Ana Ivanovic (Wednesday). The Spanish press was so impressed that Almagro showed up in the pages of an American newspaper, they asked him about it in his press conference after getting destroyed by Nadal. Here's the transcript:

Q.  There was a report made on you. 

NICOLAS ALMAGRO:  On me?  Did I look nice on the pictures (laughter.)

Q.  It's in USA Today in America, and it has your face on the front page. 

NICOLAS ALMAGRO:  Yeah, they must remember my face, because in September we'll meet the American team in Madrid.


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