TENNIS star Mark Philippoussis is to wed his teenage model girlfriend Alexis Barbara after a whirlwind five-month romance.
Bride to be ... Barbara.
Pic: Tony McDonough
Philippoussis has told close friends he proposed to the wealthy property heiress in the US late last week, but the news of their engagement is supposed to have remained secret.
"Obviously it has come as a bit of a shock but Mark is very much in love with Alexis," one friend said. "We're all very happy that the relationship has gone to the next level.
"It might come as a shock to a lot of people but those of us who know Mark are aware he is very loyal to his family and loved ones."
Barbara is the latest in a long line of glamorous girlfriends for Philippoussis, who broke pop queen Delta Goodrem's heart when he ended their nine-month relationship late last year.
At the time, Philippoussis had been linked with hotel heiress Paris Hilton, but he began a relationship with Barbara over the Australian summer.
The tennis star nicknamed "Scud", "Flip", and "Poo", has previously been involved with Anna Kournikova, Hollywood starlet Tara Reid and French model Melanie Maudran.
Goodrem has moved on to a new relationship with Irish pop star Brian McFadden.
Barbara, who turned 18 in January
, is a college student and model in the US, and the couple are based in Florida, where Philippoussis trains.
The stunning brunette was accompanied to Australia by her mother, Ana, earlier this year during Philippoussis's failed Australian Open campaign.
A Barbara family friend revealed in January that Philippoussis had visited the teenage model in Florida and New York, and her family "loved him".
Barbara has a place of her own in New York as a base while she chases fame and fortune through modelling and acting.
After a bitter split with Goodrem, Philippoussis claimed he wanted to focus solely on tennis, then appeared courtside at the Hopman Cup in Perth with Barbara on his arm.
It is understood members of Australia's Davis Cup team in Sydney are aware of the Philippoussis engagement, while his manager, Brian Cooney, did not return calls last night.
The hasty engagement follows another famous announcement of nuptials in the world of Australian tennis – Lleyton Hewitt popped the question to actor girlfriend Bec Cartwright following his loss in the Australian Open final.
While his love life has mostly flourished, Philippoussis has slipped further towards tennis oblivion, with his world ranking slumping as low as 201 this year.
He ended an eight-month losing streak last week, beating German Tomas Behrend in the first round of the Tennis Channel Cup in Scottsdale, Arizona.
He then bombed out in the second round of the tournament against Croatian Mario
I'll believe both of these engagements when the weddings actually take place. She seems young, but Mark doesn't really impress me as the most mature guy around.