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Sharapova, racket maker ink sponsorship deal

At the age of 19, Maria Sharapova is committing to a "lifetime" of sponsoring the only tennis racket brand she's used as a pro.
/ Source: The Associated Press

At the age of 19, Maria Sharapova is committing to a "lifetime" of sponsoring the only tennis racket brand she's used as a pro.

Sharapova and Prince Sports Inc. have agreed to an endorsement deal that will last until the end of her playing career and beyond, The Associated Press learned Monday.

The contract is worth about $25 million over the next 10 years, according to a person in the tennis industry who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the parties didn't want the deal's terms disclosed.

Sharapova will earn royalties from sales of various Prince products, and there are clauses tied to tournament appearances, success and rankings.

The contract succeeds the five-year deal Sharapova signed with Prince when she was 14 and is the latest step in the marketing of the 2004 Wimbledon champion. It's estimated she earns between $23 million and $25 million annually, including sponsorships and prize money. Sharapova's off-court activities are managed by the same agency, IMG, that works with Tiger Woods.

"I've been pretty good in the past balancing my time with my sponsors with my tennis, because I know my priority," Sharapova said at the National Tennis Center, where she's scheduled to play her first-round match at the U.S. Open on Tuesday. "At the end of the day, what I love doing is competing, and that's where my heart is at: on center court."

But what's it like to be a global brand at an age when many are just out of high school?

"Very awkward," Sharapova said. "It's weird, because there are a couple of sides of me. There's the Maria that's a tennis player. There's the Maria that is a normal girl. And there's the Maria who's a businesswoman. And that's where the 'Maria Sharapova brand' comes into play. I've been lucky to be associated with amazing companies that have given me experience about all that."

Within months of her victory at the All England Club at 17, Sharapova began signing multiyear, multimillion-dollar deals — with a camera company, with a cell phone company, with a company that launched her perfume. She has contracts with a watch company, a carmaker and a toothpaste brand. She recently launched a personal Web site.

Sharapova is seeded third at the U.S. Open, where she reached the semifinals last year. She's made it to that stage at five of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments as she bids to collect her second career major title.