Tennis ace faces the oddest competition of her career on 'I'm a Celebrity ...'

Jungle's Martina will be hoping they call 'Out!'
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The Independent Culture

On the face of it, it is a bit of a struggle to understand what Martina Navratilova and the other contestants in the new series of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! are going to have in common.

Among the 52-year-old tennis ace's achievements are 18 Grand Slam titles and the longest winning streak in tennis history. Among her jungle rival Nicola McLean's achievements are being engaged to a Peterborough United midfield player. Since the height of her career in professional tennis, Navratilova has written three successful thrillers. Since the height of her career presenting Channel 4's The Word, fellow I'm a Celebrity... companion Dani Behr has done a voice-over on the Virgin Atlantic website. Billie Jean King called Navratilova "the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who has ever lived". Fans of her new friend Joe Swash call him "that bloke out of EastEnders".

What on earth will they find to talk about through those long nights in hammocks in the Australian jungle?

It is easy to see what the programme makers, her camp mates and the viewing public will get out of Navratilova: she lists her special skills as hand-to-eye coordination and telling jokes, which with her strength, agility and insider knowledge of eastern European politics will make her both handy and entertaining. But what, exactly, is she expecting to get out of the experience?

She has said she has no time for whiners, ignorant people or anyone who doesn't listen. Oh dear. Is the next revelation going to be a violent allergy to any part of a male kangaroo? Ms Navratilova admits she has never seen I'm a Celebrity. Unconfirmed sources say she has been paid £30,000 for spending weeks in a jungle clearing with has-beens, nonentities and Esther Rantzen.

It is not enough! Navratilova earned an estimated $21.6m in her tennis career and is an international sports commentator and best-selling writer. She has houses in Florida and Colorado. Like the American actress Traci Bingham, who said it was "truly an honour" to be invited on the show in 2006, having never seen it, she is in for a shock.

For her fellow contestants on the annual ITV spectacular, there is more at stake. Naturally, each thinks he or she will become immeasurably more popular when the public finally sees "the real me". Sadly, this is not true. For David Gest, who came fourth in 2006, it was a calculated risk: he had nowhere lower to sink. By contrast, in 2004 Natalie Appleton started off as a cute blonde from a relatively successful girl band. We now know her as a paranoid little weirdo. Her career did not prosper. Instead of encouraging bets on the likely winner, bookies should draw up odds on the likely increase or damage to a contestant's earning potential. Esther Rantzen, starting at about 50 per cent popularity, could go either way. Nicola McLean can hardly get any less stellar. Robert Kilroy-Silk might beat the odds and leave even more despised than he started.

Martina, on the other hand, is an enigma. If she has any sense she will stay that way, and leave the jungle before she starts.

Bushtucker partners

Brian Paddick The ex-Met honcho received some 10 per cent of first-preference votes for London Mayor. Can he get less popular?

Carly Zucker The fitness instructor and ... that's it.

Dani Behr According to her website, she has one of the most recognisable voices in the UK. Stand by to hear a lot more of it.

Esther Rantzen Outspoken older women can do well, but our own Janet Street-Porter, a former contestant, says Esther is "too dreary".

George Takai At 71, he is the oldest ever contestant.

Joe Swash Known for his nice-guy role in 'EastEnders', he says: "When I'm bored I aggravate people for pleasure." Get Him Out!

Nicola McLean She may be smart. She says: "I don't think people are going to know who I am."

Robert Kilroy-Silk
Sacked from the BBC for lashing out at Arabs, he may think he can't get less popular.

Simon Webbe
Making women swoon will not be a problem for the former member of the band Blue.