There is no woman in professional sports that makes more money in endorsements than tennis player Maria Sharapova. She is beautiful, has sex appeal and yes, she’s hot, but make no mistake the “Siberian Express” can play some tennis.
At age 20, Sharapova won her third Grand Slam title, beating 20 year old Serb Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 6-3 to win the Australian Open. Sharapova now is a French Open away from completing a career Grand Slam.
In 2004, Sharapova arrived on the scene in stunning fashion, routing Serena Williams in straight sets to win Wimbledon. Soon after, the endorsement money began to flow and most thought Sharapova might become the next Ana Kournikova and never win much else after the shocking win at All-England.
Not so. Unlike many, the lanky Russian kept her grit, kept her determination and kept her drive. Sharapova is a regular semifinalist at the majors, showing that even when she doesn’t win, she can put consistent matches together at the Grand Slam events. In 2006, she reached the U.S. Open Final and routed world number one Justine Henin in straight sets to win major number two.
Winnng one major is a feather in the cap of any player’s career, but one major can be fluky. Anyone seen Gaston Gaudio around lately? How about Andy Roddick? Winning a second major makes you a great player and more importantly legitimizes the first major. After winning the U.S. Open in 2006, Sharapova really didn’t have to prove anything to anybody anymore.
Last January, Sharapova made the final in Australia, but this time, she was routed by the surging Serena Williams in straight sets. Williams simply blew Sharapova off the court. The rest of 2007 was not kind to Sharapova, as she battled various maladies, particularly her right shoulder.
She came to Melbourne in 2008 in better shape and with a better serve and for two weeks steamrolled her opponents. Her 6-4, 6-0 dusting of Henin in the semifinals was about as perfect a match as one could play.
In the final, Sharapova started strong, but Ivanovic had a chance, leading 5-4 and love 30. But, nerves seem to get to her, and after Sharapova rallied to win the set 7-5, you could sense that she would move in for the kill and that’s what she did, winning set two 6-3.
Sharapova now has three Grand Slam championships in four tries and in those three titles, she has not lost a set. Sometimes, nerves get the best of tennis players, but not Sharapova.
Three slams, millions in endorsements, and sex appeal. That’s not a bad triple crown to have. But, it’s the three slams that have to be listed first. The rest is petty.