Shara­pova aim­ing for rare dou­ble at Key Bis­cayne

The Pak Banker - - INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS/SPORTS -

Af­ter a year of closed-door meet­ings with ten­nis play-ers seek­ing a greater say in the sport and a larger slice of Grand Slam rev­enues, the US Open is ready to make big changes.

The New York-based tourna-ment plans to in­crease its an­nual prize money to $50 mil-lion by 2017 - roughly dou­ble what it was last year - and per­ma­nently sched­ule the men's semi-fi­nals on Fri­day and men's fi­nal on a Sun­day as of 2015, The As­so­ci­ated Press has learned.

"Roger Fed­erer said it per­haps best of all: It's time for us to work to­gether, as op­posed to work­ing against each other," U.S. Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor and Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Gor-don Smith said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

As part of an un­prece­dented five-year agree­ment with the men's and women's pro­fes­sional tours, the USTA also is mak-ing an ad­di­tional $4.1 mil­lion in­crease to this year's prize pool, on top of a $4 mil- lion jump an­nounced in De­cem­ber. That brings the 2013 to­tal pay­out to $33.6 mil­lion from the $25.5 mil-lion in 2012.

The USTA planned to an­nounce the changes on Wed­nes­day, a day af­ter they were for­mally pre-sented to the "Th­ese tour­na­ments are al­ways really tough be­cause they're close to­gether," the No. 3-seeded Shara­pova said.

"As soon as you're done with the first one (In­dian Wells) you're onto the next one and you're here.

I'm look­ing for­ward to try­ing to take it a step fur­ther (here) this year."

Shara­pova came close to achiev­ing the back-to-back vic­to­ries in 2006, win­ning the In­dian Wells tour­na­ment and reach­ing the fi­nal at Key Bis­cayne.

Over­all, she's been in four Sony Open fi­nals, in­clud­ing last year when she lost to Ag­nieszka Rad­wan­ska of Poland.

For Shara­pova, who moved to the United States from Rus­sia as a 9-year-old, the Sony Open is the event where she first watched pro­fes­sional ten­nis.

"I have a lot of his­tory here," Shara­pova said. Mi­ami "is the city where I first landed when I came to the United States.

I've been a fan of this tour­na­ment since I was young be­cause I came here with my fam­ily to watch it.

"And then I was able to play in it and be a part of it and I've been to three or four fi­nals here. So, hopefully, I can lift the tro­phy here one day."

There were 10 main draw women's matches played on Tues­day.

Veteran Ja­panese player Kimiko Date-Krumm beat Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa 6-2, 6-0. Two former top 10 play­ers - Flavia Pen­netta of Italy and An­drea Petkovic of Ger­many - were in ac­tion. Pen­netta won her firstround match 6-4, 6-1 over Johanna Lars­son of Swe­den.

Petkovic, play­ing in only her sec­ond tour­na­ment of the year fol­low­ing a knee in­jury at the Hop­man Cup in Jan­uary, de­feated Bo­jana Jo­vanovski of Ser­bia 6-3, 6-1.

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