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Sharapova flays WTA over publicity shoot

Sharapova could be fined $700,000 if she declines to do the shoot, which is part of the WTA's multi-million dollar marketing campaign.

sports Updated: May 03, 2008 13:45 IST

Maria Sharapova hits out at the ruling body of women's tennis (WTA) on Friday for making her take part in a publicity shoot on the eve of the Italian Open.

Sharapova could be fined $700,000 if she declines to do the shoot, which is part of the WTA's multi-million dollar global marketing campaign. The tournament begins on May 12.

<b1>Since she does not wear a WTA patch on her clothing, the fine for skipping a tour promotional event would rise $400,000 from the standard $300,000.

"To ask me, or any of the other players, to do a long shoot like this is not right. Do you think the NBA would ask their top players to do a five-hour shoot the day before a playoff game?" Sharapova told Reuters from her home in Los Angeles.

The 2008 Australian Open champion said she understood the importance of supporting the tour and that she wanted to do the shoot. The issue was the timing.

<b2>"For them to threaten me with a $700,000 fine is just not right. The tour does not care what any of the players think, not just top players," the world number three added.

"The tour will say: 'We have done all these amazing things that the players wanted'. But trust me, these things they wanted as well and financially benefited from, including this shoot.

"I want people to understand that I took this action because this is one in a long list of things that the tour has ignored the players. This is not about just one shoot, I could not just sit back anymore."

Flexibility

The WTA said Sharapova had the option of doing a two-and-a-half hour shoot, allowing for transport time.

"We will be as flexible as possible to accommodate all the player schedules, but we are not making exceptions," said WTA spokesman Andrew Walker.

The WTA was working to raise the profile of the players, something their agents had been striving for, he added.

"This is an opportunity to do it as we are putting millions of dollars into this worldwide campaign. It's important for women's tennis and while we are sensitive to the demands of the tournament on our players, they've known about it for some time.

"It's in the rules."