It must feel so good to be Li Na right now. Not only did she make history Thursday when she became the first-ever Chinese player to reach the French Open final, she beat Maria Sharapova.
I'm not going to deny being a "hater" here. Maria Sharapova is gorgeous, possesses athletic ability I could only dream of (though you better believe I would school her in pogo-sticking), and is the highest paid female athlete in the world. She made over $24 million from June 2009 to June 2010. I brought a half-eaten burrito to work today. She is not an easy person to like.
That said, is the Li Na victory a sign that the thing that brought Sharapova fame and fortune -- her tennis game -- is on the decline? And is it because she's spending all her time off the court promoting brands, modeling, and inventing candy?
Like any star athlete, Maria has gotten her fair share of endorsements. And like any attractive female athlete, those endorsements have turned into sexy endorsements, which have turned into a brand, which has turned into boatloads of cash, which has turned into less time to practice, which has turned into the best day of Li Na's life.
What is the Queen Bee of tennis doing instead of playing tennis promoting these days? Let's see. There's her line of sportswear for Nike, which she helps design (worth $70 million). There's also her endorsement deal with Cole Haan. And Sony Ericsson. And Evian. And Tag Heuer. And Tiffany. And Head. Oh, and Unilever's Clear, the dandruff shampoo. Can't say the girl's picky.
But that's not all Maria's been doing. She also just relaunched her website to be more "sponsor-friendly" (which, coincidentally, is synonymous with "Maria Sharapova"). Now, when you go to MariaSharapova.com, you can just click on something the tennis champ is wearing and be redirected to the retailer's site. Convenient.
But, despite all the endorsing and web re-designing Maria's been preoccupied with, it's perhaps her new candy line, Sugarpova, that has been the most time consuming. Maria partnered with Jeff Rabin of famed Dylan's Candy Bar to come out with a brand of candy that will hit stores in August. I'd imagine there was lots of time in a Willy Wonka-esque lab that went along with this venture.
So, you see, how on earth could Maria have time to practice with everything else she's been doing? And if she did, which, okay, she probably did, there's no way she was able to practice as much as Li Na.
Guess everything worked out exactly as it should have, though. Li Na gets bragging rights forever, and Maria continues to get stupid rich.
What do you think of Maria Sharapova?
Image via ChrisGampat/Flickr