Navratilova: HOW MARTINA SMASHED THE SEX BARRIER (1983); MARTINA: I WANT A BABY ('85); JUDY [Nelson, Navratilova's former companion] JUST WANTED TO WATCH TV AND REST HER VARICOSE VEINS ('91).
McEnroe: PITS OF THE WORLD; THE INCREDIBLE SULK; THE MERCHANT OF MENACE; KING SNEER (all 1981); I JUST WANT TO BE LOVED SAYS SUPERBRAT ('84); I NEED HELP TO CURE MY CENTRE COURT INSANITY ('90).
Becker: BORIS: LOVE WILL MAKE ME NUMBER ONE (1987); IT'S DAME, SET AND MATCH FOR BORIS ('89); I WANT LOVE NOT SEX ('90).
Obviously there is a thread running somewhere through here, and it doesn't have a PG-13 rating. Moreover, last week at Wimbledon, the only shock bigger than No. 1-seeded Jim Courier's being upset in the third round by 193rd-ranked Andrei Olhovskiy of Russia—Olhovskiy learned to play tennis hitting balls through the Kremlin wall, you may not know—was the absence from the tabloids of Becker's newest flame, model Barbara Feltus-Ferbus, or Strapsy Babsy, as the tabloids in Deutschland call her.
In the place of Boris-Babsy bulletins, however, there were: 1) TENNIS ACE MICHAEL IN LOVE STICH-UP, explaining how Stich "currently has two beauties in his life. And he has had flings with two others since finding fame as last year's winner." 2) TENNIS AND SEX DO MIX, a touching report, direct from London's Hard Rock Cafe, about how Courier had gotten back together with "gorgeous heiress" Morgane Fruhwirth, from whom he had split after a patch of poor form and after declaring "sex gets in the way of winning." As the top seed jumped behind the drum kit with the band Nice and Sticky, Fruhwirth, 20, said, "Yes, we're together again. We had a misunderstanding but we're very happy now." And 3) POP STAR WIFE IS SECRET GROUPIE, the epic tale of a rock 'n' roll star's wife leading a double life—as a tennis Annie. "The stunning 38-year-old brunette claims to have slept with a host of top players behind her husband's back," reported James Weatherup in News of the World. "And she boasts that one of her conquests, currently seeded at Wimbledon, was only 17 when she bedded him."
Well, that leaves out Olhovskiy.
Other players have felt the sting of being similarly neglected. "One of my greatest regrets was never to have been linked with anybody in the tabs," says Pam Shriver. "Once I saw George Hamilton at a restaurant and offered him tickets to Wimbledon. He couldn't make it, but if he'd have sat with me, I would have been all over him to get some pub. My fantasy headline would be six A.M.: CHARLES BIDS PAM GOODBYE AT PALACE."
Chris Evert has had no such problems. During the eight years she was married to John Lloyd, an Englishman, reporters and photographers trailed Evert everywhere during Wimbledon. "When John and I had our troubles, it was hurtful when they'd write about all the men I'd been with," says Evert. "Once, a headline screamed CHRISSIE LOVE TRIANGLE. The triangle was John, me and my career."
The seminal moment for the tabs at Wimbledon occurred in 1981. During a press conference with McEnroe that was going along swimmingly, with Beasties and Rotters screaming questions about Mac's off-court activities, the man from Reuters spoiled everything by asking him about something innocuous, such as tennis. "Greeaaaat——question," said James Whitaker, a king Rotter.
As shouting suddenly broke out between the serious press and the gossip hounds, McEnroe beat a quick retreat. But he probably regrets to this day that he did not return, because soon Clarke (wouldn't you know?) and Charlie Steiner of RKO Radio, a non-Beastie, were grappling on the floor trying to strangle each other. Then a mass of journalists joined the fray, bouncing off desks and walls, screaming threats and debating who belonged in the press room and what questions they should ask.