Sharapova: Best ads come on the court
As she reaches her 21st birthday, tennis commands her focus despite lures of fame
By AKILAH IMANI NELSON - firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLESTON — She has been featured in television commercials, magazines and print advertisements seen by millions.
But for Maria Sharapova, taking center court in front of thousands is still the greatest thrill.
“My priority has always been tennis
,” said Sharapova, who enters this week’s Family Circle Cup ranked fourth on the WTA Tour. “I play tennis because of the competition; it’s where my personality gets to come out.”
Sharapova, who won her third singles title of the season on Sunday at Amelia Island, is seeded No. 2 in the Charleston tournament and has a first-round bye, which means she will not begin play until Wednesday.
That her name sells cameras and shoes and magazines is lovely. That her star is still rising after seven years on tour is a dream come true.
“There are a lot of glamorous things that go along with being successful in tennis. ... but my family and I didn’t just wake up one day and they were brought to us on a golden plate,
” said Sharapova, who would spend her 21st birthday here if she advances to Saturday’s semifinals.
Her ascension to tennis stardom has been far more grueling but offers greater rewards than the glittery trappings that stardom has afforded her.
Her tennis ability, combined with her striking good looks, catapulted her to celebrity status shortly after she began her career in 2001. The 6-foot-2, Russian-born beauty signed a contract with IMG Models at age 16, a year before she won her first Grand Slam title, at Wimbledon in 2003.
Sharapova has little trouble keeping her celebrity in check, and tennis at the fore.
Because tennis, not fame, was the reason she moved to the United States at age 7.
Tennis, not fame, was the reason Sharapova trained at the Bollettieri Academy, beginning at the age of 9 and went without seeing her mother for at least two years.
“There were a lot of difficult days,” Sharapova said. “But those are things that everyone that is here doing interviews had to do, sacrifices that we all make.”
She did it all with her eyes on victory, even when fame was nowhere in sight.