Melbourne, Australia, 15 March 2013 |

Top tennis stars live international, exotic lives. And tennis tournaments love a media opportunity to showcase their players. Put them both together, and what do you have? Plenty of images of players posing with animals.

Over the years, players have taken time out of their schedules to get up close and personal with nature, be it the cute-and-cuddly kind, or the more dangerous members of the animal kingdom. And fans love seeing their heroes in more relaxed – or fearful – spirits compared with their regular work inside the lines of a tennis court.

At, we’re the same, which is why we’ve decided this Friday to look at the 10 best pics of players with animals.

10. Nicolas Almagro – wombat

Nicolas AlmagroFiery and combative on court, it was refreshing to see Spaniard Nicolas Almagro positively melt when he got the chance to hold a baby wombat at Australian Open 2013, one of many native Australian animals from Healesville Sanctuary that paid a visit to the player cafe at Melbourne Park.

9. Arina Rodionova – snake

Arina RodionovaArina Rodionova took it up a notch at the same tournament, posing at the player party with a snake, and seeming perfectly at home with it draped over her shoulders. Want a make a statement at a function? Couple a vibrant yellow dress with a giant reptile, and you’re guaranteed to turn some heads.

8. Jan-Michael Gambill – cheetah

Jan Michael GambillThe American seems at ease in this image, despite the fact there’s a cheetah sitting right next to him. And why shouldn’t he be? Gambill, a former world No.14, has always been passionate about big cats, having spent some time at the “Cat Tales” zoological park in his birthplace of Spokane, Washington and donating money to the preservation of endangered big cats including lions, tigers and jaguars.

7. Flavia Pennetta – dolphin

Flavia PennettaWe’re not sure who’s luckier – the Italian, who enjoyed the chance to connect with a dolphin while fellow WTA players Katarina Srebotnik, Sabine Lisicki and Tamira Paszek watch on, or the dolphin, who scored a kiss from the beautiful Pennetta. It seems everyone wins in this image.

6. Martina Hingis – horse

Martina HingisMartina Hingis has always loved her horses. When she burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old Grand Slam champion in 1997, it was her love of horse-riding that was well documented, a wonderful way to escape the pressures of life on the tennis court and in the public eye. Never mind that a horse may have cost her the Grand Slam that year – she took a tumble prior to the French Open and came in under-prepared, possibly the reason she fell in the final. But according to this snap, it seems all is forgiven.

5. Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray – koala

Kim Clijsters Andy MurrayThe Aussie wildlife seems to love making trips to Melbourne Park – prior to this year’s troupe, a koala attended the 2007 Australian Open, petted by Kim Clijsters, Andy Murray, and businessman and keen tennis fan Sir Richard Branson. You can tell the pic is a few years old – these were the days when Murray’s hair was almost as fluffy as the koala’s.

4. Petra Kvitova – guide dog

Petra KvitovaThe Czech got handed possibly the cutest media assignment during Australian Open 2012, getting the chance to pose with labrador puppies in training to be Guide Dogs. But what did she think of the furry, golden bundles of playful energy? “I don’t really like them, no,” she said. Really, Petra?!

3. Serena Williams – pet dog

Serena WilliamsYou’d be bored like Serena’s dog Jackie if you weren’t being included in the conversation. Which is why the terrier looks a little down-in-the-dumps while Serena chats on her phone. Neither, it seems, is paying attention to what they’re there for – Venus’s quarterfinal match at the 2005 Stanford tournament.

2. Novak Djokovic – falcon

Novak DjokovicDjokovic enjoyed the chance to get a close look at an impressive falcon at the ATP Dubai event a few years back, and maybe he even took a few pointers from the bird of prey – the Serbian’s career has since soared, with Djokovic developing a ruthless killer instinct and building himself into the best player on the planet.

1. Anna Kournikova – almost every animal, ever

Anna Kournikova Unsurprisingly, Anna Kournikova has featured in her fair share of animal photos, having posed with almost any animal you can think of, whether it be Australian marsupials, aquatic and African wildlife, big cats, and one creature that … well, we don’t exactly know what that is she’s reaching up to pat. Anyway, when it comes to players and animals, the Russian leaves the rest of the players on the men’s and women’s tours in her dust.
Anna Kournikova

Anna Kournikova

Anna Kournikova

Anna Kournikova