She has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated in a bikini and also posed nude on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s The Body Issue.
Daniela Hantuchova has been known for her stunning good looks as much as her accomplished forehand on the tennis court. In fact, the 29-year-old intends to rely on her beauty when she retires from the game, as she ponders a career as an actress or on the fashion runway.
But for now, the only strutting she will be doing is on court, as she chases her dream of winning her first Grand Slam singles title.
Asked if she considers herself a sex symbol, the 1.81m-tall Slovak – who will compete in Singapore later this month at the Clash of Continents – laughs off the tag.
“First of all, I’m an athlete and these things are just fun to do from time to time,” she told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview.
“It’s part of my job, but I absolutely will not consider myself that.”
But she admits that being blessed in the looks department does have its benefits. For example, better-looking players tend to have better support from the crowd, a fact she can attest to.
“I hope that it’s not for the looks but for my game. But, sometimes, whatever works is good,” quipped the blonde, who has earned five Women’s Tennis Association titles.
Since turning pro in 1999, Hantuchova, whose highest singles ranking was No.5 in 2003, has enjoyed most of her success in the doubles and mixed doubles.
In 2005, she became one of only five players to have completed the Grand Slam in mixed doubles – winning the French and US Opens that year to add to her 2002 Australian Open and 2001 Wimbledon victories.
A self-confessed perfectionist, she believes that it is the excessive pressure that she puts on herself which has prevented her from replicating that success in her singles game.
She explained: “In doubles and mixed doubles, I don’t think about the results.
“I never went on court trying to win Slams or something. It’s fun and, suddenly, there they were, all the titles.
“If I would be able to play like that in the singles, it would be a different story. But it’s never too late right? That’s what keeps me going, trying to figure out how I can do that in singles.”
But the ever-evolving sport has changed from the time she burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old. Then she came up against the likes of more finesse players like Martina Hingis and Justine Henin.
These days, the emphasis is much more on power.
Said the world No.32: “I prefer to play against Martina and Justine and people who were actually playing it like a chess game. It was more about the fine shots, but now it’s more about hitting the ball as hard as you can.
“I definitely enjoyed those times much more.”
To cope with the physical nature of the modern game, Hantuchova puts in as much effort in the gym as on the court.
“I’ve always been professional in this part and I think I actually enjoy working out more than being on the court,” she said.
But before the rigours of the season begin again with the Australian Open in January, she is looking forward to a week-long trip to Singapore for shopping and a golf game or two.
“I absolutely love the shopping, it’s absolutely amazing,” said Hantuchova, who was here last year for the Singapore Women’s Tennis Exhibition.
“Travelling so much around the world, I’ve never seen something like that. It’s like New York, Rome, Milan, altogether in one place. I’m definitely looking forward to that, especially before Christmas time.
“Hopefully, I will get to play some golf too.”
This story was first published on November 7, 2012 on StraitsTimes.com. To read more: