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Sharapova shadow over Williams family fortunes

Maria Sharapova smiles down from billboards across the globe, endorses blue-chip businesses and commands over six million Internet search results every day.

sports Updated: Apr 07, 2009 18:18 IST

Maria Sharapova smiles down from billboards across the globe, endorses blue-chip businesses and commands over six million Internet search results every day.

Sadly for the WTA Tour, the world's highest-profile, and biggest earning sportswoman, has been nursing a shoulder injury since August.

With the Russian sidelined, Justine Henin in retirement and two Serbs who suffer vertigo anywhere near the rankings summit, one Miami newspaper last week suggested the WTA should now be rebranded the 'Williams Tennis Association'.

It was only slightly tongue in cheek.

Ten years after Serena Williams won the first of her 10 Grand Slam titles, the American, only 27, is number one in the world, a position she first occupied in 2002.

She may have hobbled to defeat in the Miami final against the improving Victoria Azarenka, but the feeling persists that the women's game struggles to supply the sparks generated by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer's epic confrontations.

Serena and elder sister Venus, five in the world but who also reached number one seven years ago, currently hold three of the four Grand Slams and could clinch a family sweep at Roland Garros in June.

With 74 titles and almost 50 million dollars in prize money between them, the sisters can afford to be virtually part-time players.