When it comes to sponsorship and mega-million dollar endorsements, many talented athletes who see only prize money in their professional career, think “it is not fair.” But tennis, first and foremost, is business.
Marketers’ joy as Ivanovic, Sharapova face off
THE Australian Open has its dream final, a “glam slam” decider tomorrow between Russian temptress Maria Sharapova and Serbian siren Ana Ivanovic.
The two most photogenic stars in grand slam tennis will square off at Melbourne Park in a confrontation which has left fans and television executives drooling. Seven spokesman Simon Francis last night declared: “We are over the moon. Ana versus Maria is the stuff of dreams.
“Sometimes in sports television you hit the bullseye. We’ve hit it.
“Our television ratings are up on last year and we expect Saturday’s final to deliver a massive audience.”
Dubbed the Catherine Zeta-Jones of tennis, dusky Ivanovic will clash with Sharapova for the fifth time after both claimed Rod Laver Arena semi-finals yesterday.
Ivanovic, 20, will attract most of the support for two reasons.
She has been adopted in Melbourne as an honorary Australian because she has a host of relatives in the city and is yet to win a major title.
Wimbledon and US Open winner Sharapova will seek her first Australian Open trophy after she was destroyed last year at Melbourne Park by Serena Williams.
On a wider scale, the advance of the sport’s most attractive women to the final has delivered not just a promotional godsend but marks a changing of the guard at the top.
World No. 1 Justine Henin and Serena and Venus Williams have been shoved aside to make way for a fresher brand.
Drubbed by Henin in the French Open final in June, Ivanovic yesterday rebounded from a horror start to wear down 24-year-old Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova in a gripping encounter.
Troubled by shoulder soreness for much of last season, Sharapova ignored controversy over her father and coach Yuri Sharapov’s antics to flog Serb Jelena Jankovic.
Switzerland-based Ivanovic is trimmer and fitter than ever after working for the past 18 months with Australian trainer Scott Byrnes. The Serb spent December in Sydney sprinting up stairs, hills and at the beach to improve her suspect fitness.
“It’s just great to be back in the final again,” Sharapova said.
All of Australia agrees.