'Call me Sugarpova': Maria's not-so-sweet US Open wheeze
Why Maria Sharapova wants to change her name for duration of Flushing Meadow tournament
DISAPPOINTMENT looms for tennis fans at the forthcoming US Open in New York for there may be no Maria Sharapova, the willowy Russian star whose long legs and blonde hair have wooed a generation. Actually, that's not strictly correct: the woman will still be at Flushing Meadow, only she might be playing under a new name – Maria Sugarpova.
The 26-year-old Russian, a former world No 1 and the world's richest female athlete, is planning an "extraordinary ruse", as The Times puts it, by requesting a legal name change for the two-week duration of the US Open, which begins on Monday, 26 August.
Sugarpova, if you didn't already know, is the name of Sharapova's range of sweets. A quick glance at her website reveals that the former Wimbledon champion "has created her own candy business to offer an accessible bit of luxury, interpreting classic candies in her own signature style".
The sweets carry a range of names, from "flirty" to "quirky" to "sassy" but all are in the shape of a pair of puckered lips, the Sugarpova logo. The Times says that the logo will "feature somewhere on her attire" during the US Open but it's Sharapova's bid to change her name that threatens to set a questionable precedent in the ever more rapacious world of sport.
Apparently Sharapova has inquired at the Supreme Court of Florida (she has a base in the Sunshine State) about the possibility of a name change for the duration of the US Open, which begins next Monday. If the paperwork can be completed in time then Sharapova, the third seed, will be introduced and addressed throughout the tournament as Miss Sugarpova.
Tennis authorities have yet to react to the news but the stunt will be viewed by many as distasteful, even if the sweets aren't.
Recently named the world's richest female athlete with earnings of $23m - $8 million more than Serena Williams – Sharapova sold more than 1.8 million bags of her sweets in the first year of their launch. At $5 a packet, that's a tidy profit for a woman who invested just $500,000 of her own money in the venture.
The Times says the Sugarpova brand celebrates its first anniversary tonight with a party on Fifth Avenue in New York. Not only will Sharapova unveil the next stage of her quest for world brand domination during the festivities - a range of accessories - but an announcement is likely on how she will be known during the US Open.
As John McEnroe might say, "You cannot be serious." ·