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Sharapova: In love and in the final
05-12-13
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Life is good for Maria Sharapova right now. She's won two titles this year, added a new lucrative new sponsorship deal -- and has finally confessed to tennis' worst-kept secret, that she is dating young men's star Grigor Dimitrov.


They were caught kissing in Madrid the day after he beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and she playfully wrote on a television camera after her Friday quarterfinal win in the Spanish capital: "How did you catch us??"

While the 21-year-old Dimitrov was unable to follow up his shock victory, Sharapova has cruised into the final of the women's tournament after beating former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic 6-4 6-3 on Saturday.

"We're official. We've been seeing each other for a while," the world No. 2, who has been fending off questions about their relationship since January, told reporters after the 500th victory of her career.

Her partnership with longtime agent Max Eisenbud has made her the highest-paid female athlete on the planet. They met 15 years ago when Sharapova was training at the IMG Academy in Florida. "There was so much going on and so many kids, so many parents to take care of, so it was actually fun to see him juggle all those different things and maintain a very clear vision of what he wanted to do," Sharapova recalls.


Pictured here during a shoot for CNN's tennis show Open Court, they are already plotting her future after tennis but she plans to play for several more years yet.


Sharapova with two of the most important men in her life hugging her father Yuri after winning her first grand slam title at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004, while Eisenbud looks on.

That success allowed Eisenbud to court major sponsors, and helped Sharapova launch her own perfume among other non-tennis sidelines.


Sharapova has long been associated with Nike, and signed a reported eight-year deal with the sportswear giant in 2010 that could be worth up to $70 million.


Part of that sum includes royalties from her fashion collection with Nike subsidiary Cole Haan. Sharapova is pictured here at a promotional event in Tokyo in 2009.

Sharapova's "Sugarpova" candy collection is her first independent venture. "Everyone loves a treat and everyone loves candy. When I was young and I would finish a practice, what would I ask for? I would ask for little lollipops," she told Open Court.


Her portfolio of endorsements keeps growing in April 2013 she was named as a brand ambassador for German car manufacturer Porsche. She has now won the tournament it sponsors two years in a row.

Maria Sharapova won the French Open last year to become the 10th woman to claim all four grand slams. But she plans on playing for several years before pursuing her business interests.


At Roland Garros, Sharapova won her first major after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2008. Some thought she would never triumph at a grand slam following the injury.


After a win in Montreal in July 2008, an MRI revealed that Sharapova had two tears in the tendon of her serving shoulder.


Sharapova attempted a comeback in 2009 when she played doubles in Indian Wells. But she still wasn't ready to return.


Once self described as a "cow on ice" on clay, Sharapova began her clay-court campaign last year by beating Victoria Azarenka in the Stuttgart final.


Sharapova defeated Li Na in last year's final of the Italian Open, the perfect buildup to the French Open. Sharapova and Li are the two highest-paid female athletes in the world and share the same agent.


Sharapova launched her own premium candy line, Sugarpova, with individual bags selling for $5.99. She has plans to expand to more markets, including Asia.


Max Eisenbud, Sharapova's agent, first met the player when she was 12 at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Sharapova still lives nearby.


Tennis still Sharapova\'s top priority Tennis still Sharapova's top priority

"You know, it's just news to us that someone took a picture of us now after this time. It's nice to have something in life that you're able to have for yourself, because so much of your lives are in the public eye."

Sharapova has never before played in the final of the Madrid tournament, and faces a daunting task if she is to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Her opponent is defending champion Serena Williams, who has the beaten Russian in their last 11 meetings including March's final in Miami, where the American came back from losing the opening set.

"It's always tough against her," said Sharapova, who will reclaim the top ranking if she can win her 50th career WTA final.

"I haven't had a win against her in a long time, but the great thing is I'm setting myself up in a position where I can try to change that around.

"I thought I did really well against her in Miami for the first set and a half obviously that's not enough, but the goal is to keep that level for the whole match this time.

"It's been a while since we played on a clay court, too, and every match is different a different tournament and a different environment. I'm looking forward to it."

Williams won last year's event when it was held on blue clay an unpopular experiment that was later banned by the tennis authorities but she has not played in a final on red dirt since 2002.

"I feel like this whole tournament I've only played clay-court players from my first round to now, and everyone was also smaller than me," the 31-year-old said after Saturday's 7-5 6-2 win over Italian seventh seed Sara Errani beaten by Sharapova in last season's French Open final.

"So I think tomorrow will be a really good match a different game, more power obviously, but still a lot of the consistency. So I'm looking forward to it."

World No. 1 Williams is seeking to become just the 10th player to win 50 WTA titles, in her 66th final.

"Obviously I love being No. 1 in my heart I feel I'm No. 1. But I also love to win tournaments. So I think if I just win as many tournaments as I can, I'll be No. 1. Hopefully."

In the men's tournament, Rafael Nadal cruised into Sunday's final with a 6-0 6-4 win over 113th-ranked compatriot Pablo Andujar.

The Spaniard, who has now reached seven successive finals since his comeback from knee injury in February, will next face Swiss 15th seed Stanislas Wawrinka.

Wawrinka, who beat Dimitrov in the third round, earned his place in the final with a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory against world No. 6 Tomas Berdych in just under two hours.

Nadal, who won the tournament in 2005 and 2010, is seeking a record-extending 23rd Masters-level title. He was also the runner-up in 2009 and 2011.

Source CNN.com
 





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