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It All Clicks for Sharapova

Russian, with plenty of money and attention but craving more titles, rolls into quarterfinals.

August 04, 2006|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

CARLSBAD — Maria Sharapova doesn't turn her head when all the cameras click. Her eyes don't blink. Her back stays straight and she just keeps moving.

Fame is nothing to Sharapova. She has had that nonstop since she won Wimbledon two years ago as a wide-eyed 17-year-old with pretty blue eyes, long blond hair and a noisy forehand accompanied by a surround-sound grunt.

There have been no more Grand Slam tournament wins, though, and Sharapova wants them. Still, she is listed as the biggest moneymaker among all female athletes and has eclipsed the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, who are never a guarantee to show up at tournaments anymore.

She is rumored to be dating Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion. The two were seen arm-in-arm recently at a sports television show in Los Angeles and a gossip magazine is on the grounds here for the Acura Classic. When it was suggested Thursday that there might be a point where she might not need more money, just more tennis titles, Sharapova glared and said, "It's never enough. I'll always look for more. Bring on the money. Seriously."

Sharapova, seeded second, was serious in her 6-4, 6-4 drubbing of fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva on Thursday in the third round of the Acura Classic. Next up for Sharapova is 31-year-old Mary Pierce, the defending champion, who was equally impressive in her 6-2, 6-1 win over Finland's Emma Laine.

Top-seeded Kim Clijsters took a second-set sabbatical before dragging herself to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Serbia's Jelena Jankovic. Clijsters will next play eighth-seeded Martina Hingis, who beat No. 12 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

It will be the third quarterfinal meeting this year between Clijsters and Hingis -- the other two were at the Australian and French opens and Clijsters won both.

In today's other quarterfinals, 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic will play unseeded Russian Anna Chakvetadze and fifth-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland will face No. 4 Elena Dementieva. Vaidisova, seeded seventh, beat No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova, 6-4, 6-2; Chakvetadze upset No. 14 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1; Dementieva knocked off Sania Mirza of India, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; and Schnyder eliminated Paola Suarez of Argentina, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Sharapova was recently ranked No. 4 on a Sports Illustrated list of sports' top moneymakers for having earned more than $25 million. No other woman was in the top 20.

She would give up all those millions, though, to win another major. "At the end of the day," Sharapova said, "the thing I get most excited about is winning tough matches. When I don't have that inside me, that's when I'll stop."

But the money is nice, too, Sharapova said. Being near the top of an earnings list is "a cool fact. When I was working my way to the top of tennis, I didn't say, 'I want to be No. 2,' I wanted to be No. 1. And there's no limit to how much money you can make. I enjoy a lot of things I do off the court. Of course tennis has added opportunity to my career."

Sharapova may be headed to a meeting in the final against Clijsters, who is finding herself most comfortable on American hard courts. Her win over Jankovic was her 22nd in a row on the surface, though Clijsters blamed tired legs for her second-set letdown.

"My legs felt dead," she said. "In the third set I just tried to forget about everything and start over again. So I kept fighting."

Clijsters had to wait out a light rain that delayed the start of play three hours.

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