OPINION: Mills on ... Women's Tennis Association

What is it about sport that brings out the irresistible urge to pun in journalists?

"Hewitt falls victim to a grass master" went one headline at the weekend.

"Supernova Sharapova" went another. "Ginny Wades in" (as in Virginia Wade) went a third. "Philippousis serves up notice" went a fourth. And those were the least bad ones.

Whatever it is, the disease seems to be infecting copywriters too. Reading the ads in the Wimbledon programme (it was a dull match) last week, was to see the pages littered with naff puns and crass wordplay. Don't they realise everybody else is as uninspired as they are?

So we have "Classic drop shot" (Buxton Mineral Water); "Always match fit" over a picture - and I ask you why - of a zebra for Investec; "Faultless deliveries" for a building company; "Advantage Peugeot"; "Serving suggestion" (Coca-Cola); "Perfect serve" (Jacob's Creek); "Game, set and match to Benadryl"; "Great service" from Grundon Recycling and, most risible of the lot, "It's a question of style" above a picture of the A Question of Sport presenter Sue Barker for Wimbledon-branded sunglasses. Whatever qualities dear old Sue may have, style isn't one that springs to mind. The only things missing are any ads using those notorious Maskellisms "Oh, I say" and "What a peach of a backhand pass". It's only a matter of time, though.

It was a relief to find among the dross this ad for the Women's Tennis Association, part of a new TV and press campaign through TBWA/Chiat/Day.

OK, so it may borrow from a well-known phrase but at least in inverting it, it applies some wit, imagination and visual distinctiveness. She's some specimen, Serena.

On closer examination, however, the ad begins to fall apart. For starters, it's not absolutely clear what the purpose of this campaign is. On the top level, it's obviously about promoting women's tennis to spectators.

Less explicitly, it could be part of the battle to get equal prize money with the men. Or it could be about encouraging young girls to take up the game. Equally, since they are not mutually exclusive aims, it could be all three.

Whatever, there is no call to action. If you want to watch more women's tennis, how do you find out where the tournaments are? And if, say, you are a 12-year-old girl and the ad inspires you to take up tennis, how do you find out what do to?

Somehow, I think, this ad reflects a sense of muddle at the heart of the WTA and it centres on this question: do they want to be more like men's tennis or not?

The ad portrays exactly that confusion. The picture, which leaves the dominant impression, is all about power, which is what the men's game has in spades. Serena is portrayed as almost primeval, which, given that she wields her racket like a caveman wields his club, is entirely accurate. The Athena poster it ain't.

The copy, however, including the sub-line "Get in touch with your feminine side", is completely at odds with the image. Perhaps they're being ironic and I don't get it. Or perhaps they're telling us that women's tennis is redefining femininity and Serena, with her athleticism, strength and competitiveness, embodies that shift.

Let's be generous and assume that that is the case. Does it work? Not for me. What it tells me is that, like the men's game, women's tennis is increasingly all about power and, to borrow from the Pentagon, overwhelming force. And it's precisely this emphasis on power and pace - as defined by Serena - that is crowding out the artistry and subtlety that has always made the women's game so much more interesting than biff-bang-grunt men's tennis. New balls, please.

Dead cert for a Pencil? No chance.

File under ... S for schizoid.

What would the chairman's wife say? "If that's your definition of

femininity, God help us."