Tennis Girl model revealed

image captionMrs Walker said she was not a keen tennis player and had to wear her father's plimsolls.

She has one of the country's best known bottoms.

But few people outside her family and friends would recognise the face of Fiona Walker - the woman whose cheeky lift of her tennis skirt became famous on the Athena poster.

It went on to become one of the shop's best selling prints, yet there are many surprises behind the story of its inception.

For instance, Mrs Walker said she has little interest in tennis and the balls lying on the court were actually ones used to throw for her pet dog.

Nevertheless, the picture is set to be at the heart of a special exhibition on tennis as an art form.

Mrs Walker is now a 52-year-old freelance illustrator and mother of three.

But in 1976, aged 18, her then photographer-boyfriend Martin Elliot persuaded her to let him take a shot of her on court hitching up her dress to reveal a bare bottom.

The setting was a university tennis court in Edgbaston, Birmingham, the area where the modern game of tennis was pioneered in 1859.

Mr Elliot sold the image to the poster chain Athena and more than two million copies were sold worldwide.

Mrs Walker said: "I think my children tell people that it's me but most people don't believe it.

"I was very naive and was paid nothing, and I think it's the biggest-selling poster ever."

She said she had no regrets about doing it though.

image captionThe photo spawned copy-cat poses by celebrities like Pat Cash and Kylie

"It never ceases to make me smile when I see it sometimes. I see it in very strange places."

The photograph will be part of an exhibition in Birmingham's Barber Institute from May, which the organisers said would be the first exhibition to treat lawn tennis as an artistic subject.

Curator Professor Anne Sumner said Tennis Girl was the image "most associated with tennis in this country."

Works by LS Lowry and Stanley Spencer are also included in the exhibition.

Mrs Walker said she thought it was the lighting in the photograph that gave Tennis Girl its magic.

The model said she had no idea at the time how popular it would become.

"My mother has a very faded copy in what used to be my father's study and I just have it in the form of a very small postcard."

She did not play regularly and had to borrow the tennis dress from a "friend of a friend", which she wore with her father's plimsolls, using the "the dog's" tennis balls as a prop.

"[The photo] has a place in the history of tennis. I think Martin Elliott would be very proud of the fact that his picture is in the exhibition," she added.

Mr Elliot died in March last year aged 63.

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