Scottish Daily Mail


Maria Sharapova is a business marvel. Ten years after winning Wimbledon, she’s gone from . . .

- by MIKE DICKSON Tennis Correspond­ent

Maria Sharapova had hardly stepped off court after her stunning triumph at Wimbledon 10 years ago when the phone of her longtime agent and business mentor Max Eisenbud started ringing off the hook.

a star was born, one with a golden combinatio­n. Talented, articulate, driven and extremely photogenic — small wonder that the queue of potential sponsors equalled the line of those seeking her autograph.

Eisenbud recalls how they took a hard-headed view: ‘after she won Wimbledon, her life changed. We were offered everything going but we didn’t want Maria to end up like anna Kournikova.’

Ten years on, that appears to have been a wise course of action. Sharapova, while curiously not having added to her Wimbledon tally, is still winning Grand Slam titles but has also acquired riches beyond most athletes’ dreams. Kournikova, meanwhile, is largely forgotten.

Only two weeks ago, Sharapova was posing with her second French Open title in front of the Eiffel Tower. She couples this with topping the Forbes list of highest earning female athletes.

The 27-year- old russian’s net worth is estimated at $150million (£88m) and her annual earnings at around $27m (£15.9m). Her dual success on and off the court is a phenomenon. as Sharapova admits, she had little idea what that 2004 triumph at the all England Club would bring.

‘at 17 you’re not too businesssa­vvy,’ she tells me in her calm, matter- of-fact way. ‘My parents helped me and their support and understand­ing kept me realistic.

‘i lived in a very real world. i had just won Wimbledon but you go back to Florida and the barista is still making the coffee. One of the reasons i have been able to keep that success and carry on with all the things i do is that i love going on the court and love competing.

‘But i also have opportunit­ies to do things that make me happy. if you don’t have that passion you are never going to be really successful. Things are always going to be a drag and pull you in so many directions when you are a 17-year- old who has won Wimbledon.’

Eisenbud played tennis on the american college circuit and graduated to become the manager of iMG’s junior talent programme.

‘i saw her play for the first time at Bradenton ( Nick Bollettier­i’s academy), aged nine,’ he says. ‘it was like when you look at that video of the young Tiger Woods. She practised non-stop for an hour and a half and didn’t even drink any water.’

He remains her manager and has helped her launch Sugarpova, her own sweets (Sharapova responds t o questions about whether she should be promoting sugar products with the same disdain that meets inquiries about whether the yelp she lets out when hitting the ball is an attractive trait).

‘For the last four to five years she has wanted to own something herself,’ says Eisenbud of the burgeoning Sugarpova project.

‘We talked to a guy called Jeff rubin who owns a successful candy business. He kind of blurted out ‘Sugarpova’ over dinner one night.

‘Maria is great at compartmen­talising the tennis stuff and all the stuff off the court. She is going to be very successful in business when she is done playing. When she has 300 days per year to devote to it, it will be good, and she is putting all the foundation­s in.’

asked when that day might come, he replies: ‘about four or five years, it could be less.’

Sharapova has suffered injuries and gone through dips in form. Yet her love of competing sees her address her on-court career with an ability to shut out distractio­ns.

Eisenbud makes an interestin­g observatio­n about how she maintains such focus: ‘Most of her friends are not in tennis. Some players meet someone for the first time and the next thing you know they are in their player box. But in there you want people who have been working with you in the trenches. She is firm about that.’

it was notable in Paris that Shara Sharaa- pova’s entourage amounted to three, no more than when she won Wimbledon 10 years ago.

Her first time at SW19 was in 2002, when she lost the Wimbledon junior final: ‘i remember the junior final was on the Sunday, after the men had finished. i was one of the last people leaving and it was quite late and nearly dark, a bit eerie.

‘i was driving away and thinking how special it is. i was upset because i’d lost and i was thinking about the match, but i looked back and thought, “How beautiful is this”, and that i couldn’t wait to be back and i’d really like to win it.

‘in 2004 it was a bit of a mess because our housing situation didn’t work out,’ she recalls.

‘We ended up staying with a family with three young kids. There were a lot of 6am wake-up calls from the kids.

‘i still wonder how i coped and the morning after the final just holding my replica trophy with them in their garden like it was no big deal. al.

‘The final was surreal, something mething that as a young player you think of as the Mecca of tennis. i had ad horse blinders on, i didn’t think k about anything. That’s why i was fearless. earless. i took it as if i was playing on court No 20, although i was on Centre re Court in front of thousands of people playing for the championsh­ip. ip.

‘i’d got to the quarter-finals finals a couple of weeks before in Paris aris and that was a thrill for me. and nd with every match at Wimbledon n i felt i was playing better. i remember mber the match against (Daniela) Hantuchova was one of my best. i got that form and didn’t let it drop.

‘Playing Serena in the final, al, it had been an accomplish­ment getting there, and i just went with it.’

it is a surprise to her that she has not won again at the all England Club, but twice in Paris on clay to add to US and australian Open titles, which for years her movevement looked so unsuited for. it seems hard to believe that it was all 10 summers ago.

‘if somebody had asked me e then if i would win all four Slams and be No 1, i don’t think i would believe it, because you almost believe at 17 that everything is such big luck,’ she says. ‘But here i am.’

 ?? GETTY IMAGES/AP ?? Courting success: Maria Sharapova struts her stuff in London on Thursday, and (inset left) winning Wimbledon in 2004
GETTY IMAGES/AP Courting success: Maria Sharapova struts her stuff in London on Thursday, and (inset left) winning Wimbledon in 2004
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