Back when she was heading towards the peak of her professional tennis career, Ashley Harkleroad was often referred to as the “next Anna Kournikova” because of her good looks combined with her potential on the court.
Harkleroad, who turned pro in 2000 when she was just 15-years-old, and continued to play professionally until 2012, reached the high point of her career in 2003 when she reached a ranking of No. 39 in singles after impressive showings at several tournaments.
Unfortunately, she never did win a WTA singles event, but she did manage to take home 8 ITF titles, going 213–140 overall in her singles career, and reaching the third round of the 2003 French Open and the 2007 Australian Open.
In 2008, Harkleroad took some time off due to her pregnancy, but after finding little success she eventually retired completely in 2012 to do commentary for The Tennis Channel.
Also in 2008, Harkleroad became the first professional tennis player to ever post for Playboy magazine appearing on the cover of the August issue. She stated that Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amanda Beard’s 2007 Playboy pictorial was part of the inspiration for her to do the photo shoot.
After losing to Serena Williams in the first round of the 2008 French Open, Harkleroad was asked about doing Playboy…
“I thought about it, and it was something that I did,” Harkleroad said after the match. “I’m proud of my body. I was representing a female athlete’s body.”
The 23-year-old noted other athletes who have appeared in the magazine, including Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard and former volleyball player Gabrielle Reese.
“I’ll be the first tennis player ever. That’s kind of cool,” Harkleroad said.
“There’s a few reasons why I did it, but I can’t really go into it right now,” she added. “But like I said, I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I’m proud of my body. I stay in shape and try to stay fit.”
In October of 2018, Harkleroad revisited and discussed that very Playboy shoot with WomenFitness.net…
My Playboy cover was a funny topic in my family because I have never been a modest person when it comes to being naked. As a child I would be half-naked all the time. It was freeing and still is. Once I became a woman and all the different emotions that came along with that process accrued I started to have insecurities. I overcame an eating disorder at 19 and after 3 months of intense therapy I learned a lot about myself and learned how to embrace all the beautiful flaws that make us who we are. When Playboy asked me to be on the cover I thought it was a huge honor and that little girl inside of me with no inhibitions couldn’t wait to grace the cover with her newfound confidence and rock solid (yet feminine) athletic body in tow!!! I would love to one day grace another cover of a health and fitness magazine or perhaps another go with Playboy!
Now Harkleroad, who is still only 33-years-old is married to her former tennis coach Chuck Adams, is the mother of two kids, is the owner of Malibu Valley Vineyard Wines, and is a self-professed lover of closet selfies.
And now, you know.
Previously in “Where are they now?”
• The actress who played Six on Blossom
• The five sons who appeared on Malcolm in the Middle
• Little League legend Mo’ne Davis
• The creepy girl from The Ring movie
• The “Overly Attached Girlfriend”
• The little blonde girl who played Eminem’s sister in 8 Mile