Unique Monique: Kournikova could have company in Viele

Riley Logo PHILADELPHIA (Sports Network) - Anna Kournikova is unchallenged right now as the most marketable woman on the WTA Tour, but the Russian beauty should have some company when American Monique Viele joins the circuit on a regular basis.

Viele, who will turn 16 on Friday (October 6), is a California native/Florida resident and considered to be the next hot prospect in women's tennis. Once she reaches the age of 16, the young gun will be allowed to play in 10 WTA events. The tour doesn't allow full-time status until the age of 18.

Like so many of the youngsters these days, Monique possesses solid, powerful groundstrokes and a booming serve which has been clocked in the Serena Williams range (115 mph).

At the tender age of 8, Viele appeared on "60 Minutes," saying "I want to be No. 1 in the world."

Monique Viele
It was apparent then that she was destined for stardom.

The talented teen has been making strides as a tennis player, but her talents are not limited to the courts. The ambitious Viele (pronounced VEEL-ee) is also a professional singer, actress and model.

The venerable Bud Collins referred to her as "the Eighth Wonder of the World."

In 1999, the beautiful athlete graced the covers of five magazines, was written up in over 300 publications world wide, appeared on 22 international TV shows, and was voted No. 4 among the Top 300 female personalities on the internet.

An agent once said of the 5-9, 125-pound Monique: "She rivals a champion thoroughbred with her physical grace and beauty. Her long, lean, tanned, muscular legs are both an attribute to her good looks and her speed on the court. Her physique is astonishing...she looks more like a supermodel than a tennis player."

Viele played World Team Tennis for the New York Hamptons this past summer, competing on the club owned by current ESPN analyst and former ATP performer Patrick McEnroe (younger brother of all-time great John McEnroe). Former world No. 1 men's star Jim Courier also represented the Hamptons. Viele's record for the WTT squad was less than stellar, as she was a disappointing 8-30 in 38 games played for the team, and finished 25th out of 25 ladies in league singles. Venus Williams posted the best women's singles winning percentage (.909) in the league (co-founded by the legendary Billie Jean King), going 10-1 in 11 games played for the St. Louis Aces.

Monique Viele
The young Viele fine-tuned her tennis skills at the [Rick] Macci Academy in Pompano Beach, Florida. Macci's students have produced 94 USTA national titles.

Macci is a veteran tutor of adolescents earmarked as future tennis stars, including Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce. Macci swears, however, that Viele is the best one yet.

"She brings more to the table than just great tennis. She does it all, and she might be the most marketable American player in the last 25 years," said Macci. "She is the ultimate, total package, a one-in-a-million can't miss prospect."

I guess time will tell.

Monique's results were encouraging early on. By the age of 11, she had a Top-40 ranking in Florida's girls' 18 division, and in 1998 she became the youngest player ever to win the 18 division of the Florida Open.

Viele's parents, Richard and Bernadette, have been pushing Monique towards greatness since an early age. Of course, many of us are familiar with her folks' battle with the WTA. Mom and dad demanded the WTA stretch its age eligibility rules for minors and allow their at-the-time 14-year-old Monique to gain a wild-card entry into a WTA event...or face a court case. The WTA gave in to the Vieles' request and granted Monique a wild card into the Princess Cup event in Tokyo in 1998, thereby changing its age eligibility rules to allow 14 year olds the opportunity to compete in just one WTA tournament in that season.

Like Kournikova, Viele has several distractions away from the court, focusing just as much attention on a singing career as she does on her tennis prowess. Viele was scheduled to head into the studio to cut a single with the producers that worked with Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC.

All this and she still manages to keep an A average with her schoolwork -- which comes via tutoring and home-schooling.

Viele is managed by mega-mogul Donald Trump, who Monique calls a "great guy, very intelligent, very successful and very funny."

The currently 876th-ranked Monique has played in only eight WTA tournaments thus far, but for obvious reasons she has been drawing comparisons to Kournikova, with a promising game, sun-streaked hair and ocean blue eyes. And, much like "Kourni," if Viele fails to live up to all the hype on the court she'll be harshly criticized for style as opposed to substance.

Viele has not shyed away from encroaching on the Kournikova sex appeal. The young American's off-court attire often features slinky strapless dresses, miniskirts and four-inch high heels -- a look well beyond her almost-16 years.

Monique, like some many of today's vocal teens, is not lacking in the self-confidence department, once stating that she wants to be the greatest player of all-time, "and that includes men too." Viele has already said that she can beat Martina Hingis and Kournikova.

Between all the media attention and public fascination with Viele, this star-in-the-making should soon be shooting for the top.

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