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Sharapova Makes Dough -- But Will She Win?

Wednesday, 16 Jan 2008 | 2:44 PM ET
Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova trounced a resurgent Lindsay Davenport on Wednesday at the Australian Open.

The drubbing gave Davenport only four games in a match that was deemed as an unfortunate second-round draw for the tennis world's most marketable star. Yes, folks, whether it's fair or not, Sharapova will pull in more dough off the court this year than Roger Federer will.

Canon and Tag Heuer have renewed the three-year deals they signed after Sharapova won her first major -- Wimbledon in 2004.

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Sirens of the Courts:

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Prince signed her to its only lifetime contract and Nike pays her enough so that there's not one other on-court advertisement on her body during matches.

She's still being paid to drive a Land Rover; last year she signed on with Gatorade/Tropicana and she recently changed phone deals -- from Motorola to Sony Ericsson -- for a huge payday, we're told. Over the four-year term of the deal, she'll pull in more than the $10.2 million she's won on the court from the folks at Sony Ericsson (a JV of Sony and Sweden's Ericsson) to be the face of the brand.

There's always going to be a debate over whether Sharapova must win: Anna Kournikova supposedly did her sponsors well enough and didn't win a single WTA tournament.

For the record, the 20-year-old Sharapova has won 16 WTA singles titles, including that Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2006.

But I'm thinking, given how small a role tennis plays in the U.S., that this has to be Sharapova's year in order for her to influence the buying public, at least here in America.

My take is that Sharapova -- who was hampered by injuries, and starts this season ranked No. 5 -- must make her way back to No. 1, where she has spent 11 non-consecutive weeks in her entire career.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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