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by Ben Rothenberg

Since the sport’s origins in Victorian England, a woman’s place has been on the tennis court.

For nearly 150 years, women have been finding and revealing their power and potential on the tennis court, using the racquet as a key that can unlock doors across the world.

A singles tennis match is intensely individualistic: every shot is an opportunity for self-expression and self-determination. But a woman who is to succeed on the court must contain multitudes within herself.

Tennis transcends limited traditional notions of masculinity and femininity: women in tennis have proven themselves as stars and superheroes time and time again, with both beauty and brutality.

A champion needs to be aggressive but restrained, and consistent but unpredictable. The perfect shot is both percussive and precise, breaking the hushed silence with sudden violence.

But while a tennis court contains contrasts of sweat and sophistication, it’s also a venue for remarkable equality, both between different genders and different worlds. Every court, whether at Wimbledon’s Centre Court or a neighborhood park, has the same dimensions inside the lines. The balls and racquets are the same, too; it’s just up to you how you swing it.

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As the world stopped in 2020, Radka Leitmeritz swung into action capturing the women of the sport she loves.

Leitmeritz starts this road trip with the figures and backdrop of Eastern Europe, her motherland. Eastern Europe has been a fertile ground for top women’s tennis talent for half-a-century, but it still retains an air of insurgent, outsider status in the sport. Players from Eastern Europe challenge old-guard powers like England, the United States and Australia in the Anglosphere, but there is still considerable history and tradition behind their disruptive hunger.

Blending her background in fashion with her love for tennis and the superheroes it produced, Leitmeritz found women with whom she shares a cultural, athletic, and stylistic connection like Martina Navratilova, Victoria Azarenka, and Barbora Strycova.

Leitmeritz began her journey in a time of challenges, but also of opportunity. With the classic cathedrals of the sport closed to their congregations, the world’s best tennis players were free to be put in whatever mise en scene Leitmeritz could imagine. Tennis players were no longer confined to conventional stadia, and so she was able to construct temples to these demigoddesses, celebrating both their supernatural strengths and all-too-human vulnerability. Every court is a stage, a catwalk, and a launching pad.

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RADKA LEITMERITZ

CREDITS

Crew

Creative Producer: Jozef Pavleye
Styling: Jana Kapounova
Make up and hair: Adriana Bartošová, Kamila Brunias, Tina Echeverri
Set designer: Andrea Katonova
Production Coordination Miami: Daniel Saro
BTS: Egon Černý
Postproduction and video editing: Rene Hallen at Semaphore Studio US

Special thanks

Thank you to Tenis Cibulka Praha and Jan Písecký, Ondra Krejčí, Chateau Nebílovi and Milan Fiala, TK Start Praha Topolka and Stanislav Burian, Tenis Klub U Sv.Apolináře, TC Bajda Kroměříž, Athenes LTC, TJ Sokol Praha Vršovice, LTC Řevnice, Spa TC Luhačovice, Philip von Reden – Luetcken, Marek Neuwirth, Maira Passia, Rudolf Leska and all beautiful tennis clubs, courts and practice walls featured in this project, Video Interview by Laurent Barthelemy, Erick Holdener, Adriana Tesler, Nicolas Ruch and all of the tennis agents around the world.

Special Thank you to PORSCHE and Leo Lindemann for generous support and angel Estelle DeLaporte at WTA, Courtney Nguyen and Ben Rothenberg and all tennis players feautured here – my muses.