Wimbledon showcases million dollar babes
With their supermodel looks and superpowered tennis, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova are braced for a multi-million dollar battle of the babes at Wimbledon.
Ivanovic, who deposed Sharapova as world number one after her breakthrough French Open triumph, has earned just over five million dollars in her career so far, a figure dwarfed by the Russian's 12 million.
But a victory here on July 5 will surely boost the army of corporate callers desperate for an endorsement from the 20-year-old Serbian with the girl-next-door charm.
When Sharapova won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004, her bank account swelled virtually overnight and, with an estimated 23 million dollars in off-court earnings alone, she is comfortably the world's richest sportswoman.
A Sharapova-Ivanovic final would be a heaven-sent opportunity for the women's tour to step out of the shadow of a men's circuit driven at breakneck speed by the rivalry of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Both have an ingrained competitive streak forged from the harshness of their childhoods.
Sharapova famously left her mother behind in Russia to make the grade in Florida while Ivanovic practised tennis in an abandoned swimming pool during lulls in the NATO bombing of Belgrade before leaving for Germany.
"It makes you stronger," said the Serbian who was a semi-finalist here last year.
Sharapova, who beat Ivanovic in the Australian Open final in January for her third Grand Slam title, has not returned to a Wimbledon final since her 2004 triumph over Serena Williams.
She was a semi-finalist in 2005 and 2006 and a fourth round loser to eventual champion Venus Williams last year.
The Russian comes into Wimbledon on the back of another French Open disappointment where she squandered a match point before losing to compatriot Dinara Safina in the fourth round.
"The great thing about being a tennis player is that there are some opportunities that you're going to get during the year, and it's really up to you to take those opportunities," said Sharapova who had been hoping to fill the void left by the shock retirement of Justine Henin.
"But don't get me wrong, I'm going to work hard and it will eventually pay off."
Ivanovic's fellow Serbian, Jelena Jankovic, is now the world number two but has never got beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon while Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former US Open champion, can only boast a quarter-final place.
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