In an age where social media allows fans to feel but a heartbeat from their favorites, the line between a player’s public and private life becomes more blurred than ever. Their significant others have always been lightening rods for discussion, but they are no longer mere faces in the player’s box; they are rounded characters in the ATP and WTA Tour’s never-ending story, with thoughts and opinions that can drive and destroy preconceived narratives.
Pop culture primarily sees a special someone as an access point, but programs like Bravo’s “The Real Housewives…” and VH1’s “…Wives” (e.g. Baseball, Basketball) have proven that the Wives and Girlfriends (WAGs) are fascinating stories all their own.
All of this got me thinking: what would a tennis-themed, similarly-structured show look like? The No Challenges Remaining Podcast issued their challenge, and I accept.
Hold onto your weaves and wine glasses: it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
WAG: FEDERER (née VAVRINEC), Miroslava (SUI)
Tagline: “Greatness doesn’t just run in my family. It sprints.”
Spirit Animal: Caroline Manzo, RHONJ
Born Miroslava Vavrinec, the right hand to the Roger Federer Dynasty is a formidable opponent all her own. The Slovak-born Swiss first showed up on radars as a rising star, reaching the third round of the 2001 US Open and peaking just inside the Top 80 on the WTA rankings.
But it was a fateful trip to Perth for the 2002 Hopman Cup that would change her life forever. Filling in for defending champion Martina Hingis, Vavrinec partnered with a young Roger Federer and brought new meaning to “mixed doubles.” Beset by injuries, she played the PR game for her fast-rising boyfriend, who was a major champion and World No. 1 within 18 months of their initial courtship.
“Mirka” has been a constant fixture at Federer’s side since then, marrying the living legend within months of his record breaking Wimbledon victory in 2009, and presiding over an ever-growing lineage with two sets of identical twins.
But do not mistake Federer’s reputation as a silent partner for weakness. The mother of four is fiercely protective of a family who is, by all accounts, “thick as thieves.”
She has seen it all, done it all, and has no problem letting others know exactly what she thinks about them. Look for her to put up a guarded front if a new person attempts to enter her circle of family and friends. But can you blame her? She has an empire to run.
WAG: MURRAY (née SEARS), Kim (UK)
Tagline: “I was born into this life, and I live it uncensored.”
Spirit Animal: Brandi Glanville, RHOBH
The series’ resident “unfiltered blonde,” Andy Murray’s bride is another all-too-familiar with the world of tennis. Daughter to famed tennis coach Nigel Sears, Kim dated the future Wimbledon champion for the better part of a decade — aside from a brief split stemming from, among other things, Murray’s video game habit.
On the surface, Murray and Sears couldn’t be more different when it comes to public perception. The Scot is infamous for his gritty determination and penchant for “winning ugly.” Sears, by contrast, quickly became an icon of style and grace, with many a slo-mo zooming in on the Brit’s swooshing hair.
But like Mirka Federer, Sears has made her competitive desires known, letting out more than couple choice words towards her then-fiancé’s semifinal opponent, Tomas Berdych, at this year’s Australian Open. Not one to be shamed and silenced by the vociferous British press, Sears appeared at Murray’s next match in a Parental Advisory t-shirt, earning the respect and admiration of all those Down Under and Up Above.
Sears married Murray as the ATP turned from hard courts to clay, and look to see if the Melbourne moment triggers a moment or two more of unbridled honesty come Paris. She may not be throwing wine, but she hasn’t backed down in any other respect, so don’t expect her to start now.
WAG: DJOKOVIC (née RISTIC), Jelena (SRB)
Tagline: “I married a superhero, but now I’m saving the world.”
Spirit Animal: Lea Black, RHOM
If we were awarding superlatives, the wife of the reigning World No. 1 would win “Most Charitable” with a bullet. The Serbian couple has been together for over eight years, and first meant to wed between last year’s French Open and Wimbledon. Djokovic decided to postpone the nuptials in favor of preparing for the Championships. Luckily, the gamble paid off; the top seed ended his major drought with an epic five-set win over Federer, and the two wed on the Montengran resort island of Sveti Stefan. Ristic married Djokovic weeks after his inspiring run to the Wimbledon title, starting a roll that has yet to slow down.
But far be it from Ristic to rest on her ever-more glittering laurels; the Serb has taken her platform and resources to become a charity maven for UNICEF and her husband’s own foundation. As the CEO of the latter, Ristic has made improving the lives of Serbian children her life’s work — an undeniably admirable effort that makes her more than your typical housewife.
On going head to head with Sears?
WAG: HAAS (née FOSTER), Sara (USA)
Tagline: “Acting is my passion, but my player’s box is unscripted.”
Spirit Animal: Heather Paige Kent-Dubrow, RHOC
Born into music royalty as the daughter of songwriter David Foster, Tommy Haas’ better half is quickly earning her crown as the Queen of All Media. Foster began her career as a model, but shifted into acting in the mid-00s with the lead role in the feature-length adaption of D.E.B.S., a teen spy comedy.
Foster married Haas, a former World No. 2 and four-time Grand Slam semifinalist, in 2010, and gave birth to daughter Valentina before returning to the spotlight in the sleeper hit Barely Famous, a self-described “faux reality show” which just completed its first season on VH1.
When she’s not on a TV or film set, the American has taken her dry sense of humor to Twitter, and would provide some down-to-earth elegance to any group of ATP WAGwives. But that doesn’t mean she would back down from calling one out if they crossed her.
WAG: Anderson (née O’NEAL), Kelsey (USA)
Tagline: “I fly like an eagle, and keep the drama under par.”
Spirit Animal: Kandi Burruss, RHOA
Every reality show needs an access point, a character who’s (relatively) relatable and can play narrator for the audience. Married to Top 20 stalwart Kevin Anderson, Kelsey O. isn’t just a WAG. She’s one of us.
The American was a golfing prodigy when she met Anderson, a combined five-time All-American in singles and doubles at the University of Illinois. Married since 2011, Anderson travels with her husband around the globe, documenting their daily lives on Twitter and Instagram accounts that serve “wish you were here!” realness.
When not showing her support from the stands, Anderson remains fully engrossed with the world of tennis, tweeting well-timed GIFs and chopping it up with players and journalists alike:
Largely unassuming, quietly entertaining, Anderson would be the one making eyes at the camera while her more volatile castmates throw down, and have a quip and half to give the confessional booth.
WAG: Pennetta, Flavia (ITA)
Tagline: “I play this sport, but I don’t play games.”
Spirit Animal: Bethenny Frankel, RHONY
Pennetta is the only touring pro of the bunch — sorry, Mirka! — and seemed like a longshot to make this group, despite a previous relationship with former No. 1 Carlos Moya. But the former US Open semifinalist has certainly become close to compatriot Fabio Fognini. En route to her Indian Wells win last spring, Pennetta already had her imitation on fleek:
To quote Pennetta herself, “I’m Italian, eh?” and with her heart on her sleeve, Italian she is. Looking to defend her title a few months ago, she took the court in tears against Maria Sharapova, only to up-end the Russian in three sets. Reaching the second week of the French Open, she upset rising clay courter Carla Suarez Navarro and did…this* against Garbiñe Muguruza:
*this clip may or may not have been edited
Much like her spirit animal, Pennetta has no time for nonsense, and has no problem shutting you down — in your face, or with a well-played burn in the confessional booth.
Pennetta has seen it all in her more than a decade on the WTA Tour, and with plenty of ATP connections, her inside track will likely keep her one step ahead of the group. And that’s just the way she likes it.
Who is your favorite ATP/WTA WAG or HAB? Sound off in the comments!