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Maria Sharapova: Beauty and the Backhand

Sex sells, but winning earns respect. Tennis phenom Maria Sharapova has seen both sides of the coin. Digital Journal looks at the titillating tennis star that is known to be in it for the money.

By Michael Traikos, Special to Digital Journal

Sometimes I wonder about Maria Sharapova. I wonder if she grunts as much in the bedroom as she does on the tennis court. I wonder if any man is capable of taming the self-proclaimed “Renaissance Woman.” But most often, I wonder if sportsaholics would be as obsessed with the long-legged beauty if she looked like Rosie O’Donnell rather than a Siberian supermodel.

I don’t think so. Which is why it’s perfect that 19-year-old Sharapova looks as good on the tennis court as she does in the spotlight.

Sharapova is a Russian tennis star who actually takes home trophies. She became the third-youngest woman to win Wimbledon in 2004, and last summer added a second Grand Slam to her résumé when she defeated Justine Henin-Hardenne at the U.S. Open.

With that win, she stepped out from the shadow cast by Anna Kournikova, the blonde we salivated over before realizing an athlete should probably notch a few victories to earn our respect. Kournikova loved the camera more than the tennis court, prompting a then 14-year-old Sharapova to tell a journalist, “Kournikova hasn’t won a tournament yet, so it’s hard to admire her.”

But it’s easy to admire Sharapova, the California resident who is seeded as the No. 1 female tennis star in the world. Even her opponents whom she handily defeats feel compelled to praise her.

“She’s very focused,” Elena Dementieva said of Sharapova. “She plays every ball like it’s the last one.”

Sharapova lives up to her reputation. She has won on all surfaces, but is perhaps toughest on hard courts, where she rounds out an explosive attack with a powerful serve and two-handed backhand.

Still, the press spills more ink about her physical attributes than her tennis skills. Maxim named her the hottest female athlete for four straight years. “I would like it if people spoke more about my tennis than about my looks, but I can’t control what people say and think,” she told UK’s Telegraph.

One of those priorities is accumulating enough wealth to buy small islands. Through product endorsements with companies such as Nike, Motorola, Canon and Gatorade, her off-the-court income is estimated at $19 million US.

“It’s never enough. Bring on the money,” said Sharapova. “There’s no limit to how much you can make.”

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