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Monday, August 29, 2005

Tennis: Sharapova a marketing executive's dream

Tennis: Sharapova a marketing executive's dream (By Paul Lewis and Agencies)

"She is the face of women's tennis. And the legs, and the body and, if you'd been in Toronto for a recent tournament, rather more of her chest than her Nike tennis dress designer would have wanted to see.

Maria Sharapova White Nike  Dress
Maria Sharapova isn't just the world No 1 and favourite for the US Open which begins in New York tomorrow - she is also almost the complete antithesis of the woman who might be favoured to beat her for the title, Belgium's Kim Clijsters. While Sharapova is the femme fatale of women's tennis - Anna Kournikova with talent - and the new world No 1, Clijsters, a former world No 1, is maintaining her girl-next-door image, the unruly hair, the strong physique and an air of understatement. Sharapova, 18, won Wimbledon in 2004; Clijsters is recognised as maybe the best player never to win a Grand Slam event. Kind of like the Phil Mickelson of women's tennis - even though she is still only 22.

Sharapova wouldn't be out of place on on a catwalk. Clijsters wouldn't be out of place on a hockey field. Sharapova is already the most-photographed and most-interviewed female tennis player on the planet; Clijsters, while she does not avoid publicity, doesn't court it. Scarcely a word has ever passed her lips about the much-publicised but unexplained broken romance with the Australian uber-brat, Lleyton Hewitt. Sharapova now has a global following and a global marketing empire. She is the highest-paid sportswoman in the world, earning more than US$20 million for on- and off-court activity. In Japan, for instance, you can buy pillows shaped in the form of Sharapova's breasts and lap. The breast pillow by the firm Sharanpowan is made with a cover in the style of a tennis shirt that can be removed to reveal more intimate details. The breast pillow costs $17, the lap pillow $29. The Japanese appear to find the lower part of Sharapova's body more attractive than its upper part, according to a Russian newspaper which reported this phenomenon.

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