Tennis phenom Nicole Vaidisova aims for Centre Court at Wimbledon this week, heading into the prestigious 130-year-old tournament as the youngest player ranked in the top 10. The 18-year-old reached the semifinals in January’s Australian Open, but had a tougher time at the French Open earlier this month, losing in the quarterfinals. Her ranking fell to 14th, after she had reached her career-high of number seven in May. Now all eyes are on London’s green grass, where Vaidisova must prove she’s not another Anna Kournikova before she heads to New York City’s U.S. Open — her favorite summer tournament — at the end of August.
SUGAR AND SPICE: The German-born Vaidisova loves all things girly: dresses, bows, rhinestones, crystals, bright colors. If tennis doesn’t work out, she has a “passion for fashion” that she is already exploring. Vaidisova says she is actively involved with the Reebok Premier Tennis collection designed especially for this year’s U.S. Open, even ripping out pages from fashion magazines to show the design team. The results will be sold nationally beginning next month at stores including Tennis Warehouse and Tennis Express. There also is apparel for running and yoga, both sports in Vaidisova’s repertoire.
ROLE MODEL: With all her on-court achievements, it might be tough to remember Vaidisova is still a student, as well as an IMG model. She fits in schoolwork between training sessions, and favors history and business over math, which she claims to be “horrible at.” While most teens look forward to summer vacations and time spent relaxing on the beach, Vaidisova says her highlight will be “playing lots of tennis. I am proud I can do something for a living that I love.”
COMING OF AGE: This is the first summer Vaidisova will be playing as a legal adult. She entered the tennis world at age 13 in 2003 and, by 2004, was ranked in the top 100. Vaidisova turned 18 in April. “It’s a big step,” she says. “But it’s not like I am going to wake up at 18 and be all wise and be able to do laundry or something.”
THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE: “No” is apparently not a word in Vaidisova’s vocabulary. While shopping for her birthday dress, to wear to the Manhattan bash her sponsor Reebok threw for her at celebutante club favorite Stereo, Vaidisova spotted a white Versace number in a window display. Though told that only five had been made and that they weren’t for sale, Vaidisova managed to leave with the dress. How? “I had a very friendly salesman and he could tell I was desperate for a dress after hours of shopping,” she explains. She paired her prize with 4-inch Giuseppe Zanotti stiletto sandals adorned in crystals, pushing her from a modest 6-foot to 6-foot-4.