Tennis Hottie Harkleroad Set For Playboy Spread

Even though Ashley Harkleroad lost to Serena Williams on Sunday, many male fans felt like winners when they heard her post-match announcement - she’s going to be appearing in Playboy.

Ashley Harkleroad

The ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that the 23-year-old Harkleroad is taking the road to further media exposure by flaunting all she’s got without the constraints of clothing. (Figures she would follow her French Open foe.)

But before any self-righteous souls get on Ashley’s case for posing, keep in mind that her decision came after a frightening medical episode.

While competing in the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami last March, Harkleroad was complaining of abdominal cramps - which soon evolved into “several hours vomiting” after her final match. Doctors discovered that a blood-filled cyst on her right ovary had ruptured, causing internal bleeding & problems with her liver. Emergency surgery was performed to removed the ovary.

It just so happens that during her recovery time, Hef & Co. came a-calling:

“I was just laying there for three weeks, and an offer came to me,” Harkleroad said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m not really doing anything right now.”‘

Ashley admitted that she did the shoot to show how proud she was of staying in shape:

“I thought about it, and it was something that I did,” Harkleroad said. “I’m proud of my body. I was representing a female athlete’s body …

Ashley Harkleroad

“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.”

It could also be argued that doing the shoot would be a big confidence boost for Ashley, proving that she still has great sex appeal even after experiencing such scary surgery.

Harkleroad’s spread is scheduled to show up in the August issue - just in time for the college football previews. (We’re adding that little tidbit as a good alibi for any Playboy purchasers, in case the wife or girlfriend comes across it in your desk.)

Ashley noted how other female athletes had previously graced the pages of the nudie mag, including Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard and beach volleyball vixen Gabrielle Reece. And now she can proudly proclaim, “I’ll be the first tennis player ever. That’s kind of cool.”

Maria Sharapova Ana Ivanovic glamor shots

Could Ashley’s appearance convince other courtly girls to serve up a sexy spread of their own? We’d 40-love to see it. Maybe if we make a loud enough racket.