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Ekaterina Bychkova thinks Maria Sharapova-Grigor Dimitrov relationship is a PR move

Maria Sharapova Grigor Dimitrov

Russian tennis player Ekaterina Bychkova doesn’t make a whole lot of noise for her play, but she’s made some noise for questioning the relationship between Maria Sharapova and Grigor Dimitrov.

In an interview with Tribune Russia, Bychkova didn’t necessarily question whether the two tennis players were in love, but she did suggest that the relationship is a PR move.

Here’s how the interview Q&A went based on Google Translate:

- There was talk that she is not acting for any other reason …

- Pregnancy? Nonsense! Do you believe that Sharapova and Dimitrov …

- … Sharapova Dimitrov and love each other, and there are fears that this may adversely affect their professional careers.

- Love is love, and that’s fine, but this love PR still gives a bit … (laughs)

Tennis World had an even harsher translation of the comments.

“Love is love, but the one between her and Dimitrov seems like public relations stuff… It’s difficult to have relationships when you constantly travel around the world.”

If Sharapova and Dimitrov are together to enhance their images PR-wise, it wouldn’t be the first time celebrities got together for that reason. Many have said that’s what’s going on between Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods. But I don’t necessarily think that’s the case with Sharapova and Dimitrov.

If their relationship were just for PR purposes, then why didn’t Sharapova confirm it for several months? And if she were in a relationship to get a PR boost, wouldn’t her handlers have chosen a more marketable/well known male?

Sharapova certainly does some very creative things for PR purposes, but I don’t think this is one of them.

Maria Sharapova hires new coach – Sven Groeneveld

Maria Sharapova Sven Groeneveld

Maria Sharapova announced on Thursday that she has hired a new coach for the upcoming tennis season. The 26-year-old will be working with Sven Groeneveld (pictured far left), who has a reputation for helping to train and coach some of the top female players over the past two decades.

“I’m happy to announce my official partnership with Sven Groeneveld,” Sharapova wrote on Facebook. “We’ve been working together since I got back on the court and after seeing him on the opposing side for so many years, I’m excited to have him become a part of my team.

“It has been a very seamless transition and I have had a lot of fun with the hard work we have put in so far. Looking forward to the year ahead.”

Sharapova expressed similar optimism when Jimmy Connors was hired as her coach, but that partnership didn’t last very long. In fact, Sharapova only stuck with Connors for one match before ditching him. She missed the US Open and end of the season because of a shoulder injury that flared up in Cincinnati.

Groeneveld recently served as a coach and consultant at the Adidas Player Development Program. He most notably has coached Monica Seles, Mary Pierce and Ana Ivanovic. Hopefully for Sharapova’s sake this partnership works out well.

Maria Sharapova: Beef with Serena Williams is behind us

Maria SharapovaMaria Sharapova says the issues between her and Serena Williams are behind them.

Sharapova spoke with The Wall Street Journal in August about her candy line, and the subject of her beef with Serena came up. Sharapova was reluctant to speak about the topic and kept her response brief.

“We haven’t spoken too much about it,” she told The Wall Street Journal. “But we did [put it behind us]. We left a lot of what had happened in London.”

In case you forgot, Sharapova and Serena went at it before Wimbledon. Serena started it by taking subtle shots at Sharapova in a Rolling Stone article. Sharapova fired back by telling Serena to stick to her business and by calling out Williams’ relationship with her coach. Both players lost early in the tournament, while Marion Bartoli won it.

Though Maria says the beef is behind them, we think there is still friction between the two. Unfortunately they have not played each other since then. Sharapova has been out with a shoulder injury, though we could take a guess at how the match would go; Williams is 14-2 against Sharapova and has won every match they’ve played since 2005.

Racquet clap to Beyond the Baseline

Maria Sharapova not engaged to boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov

Maria Sharapova says she is not engaged to boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov, contrary to what a gossip report speculated last week.

The Daily Mail shared a photo last week of Sharapova with a ring on her ring finger and speculated that she might be engaged to Dimitrov, who is the No. 29 ranked male tennis player in the world. The report was a huge stretch because the ring on her finger looked NOTHING like an engagement ring. Still, there was enough substance behind the report that Larry King asked Sharapova whether she was engaged during an interview this week.

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Maria Sharapova reportedly had dad fire Jimmy Connors

Maria SharapovaMaria Sharapova’s partnership with Jimmy Connors lasted about as long as a lead when Brandon League’s in a ballgame.

Less than five days after raving about Connors, Sharapova fired her new coach. She lost to Sloane Stephens in the second round of the Western & Southern Open last week after blowing a one set lead. By Friday, reports had said Sharapova fired Connors, who was hired in July. According to Tennis.com’s Matt Cronin, Sharapova had her father make the termination call to Connors.

Cronin says it was Sharapova’s father, Yuri, who initiated the hiring of Connors, which might be why Maria asked him to make the call to chop the head.

Sharapova is without a coach entering the US Open, which begins next week. Cronin says some observers at Cincinnati believe Sharapova’s problematic shoulder was affecting her again. No matter how you look at it, Sharapova’s in a bad spot leading up to the major.

Racquet clap to Beyond the Baseline

Maria Sharapova trying to change name to Sugarpova

Maria Sharapova Sugarpova

Maria Sharapova is attempting to take marketing to a new level.

The Russian tennis star has plans to temporarily change her last name to “Sugarpova” to promote her new candy line of the same name, The Sunday Times reports. Sharapova’s move would only be for the duration of the US Open, which begins next week.

According to The Times, Sharapova is attempting to do the temporary name change through the Supreme Court of Florida. Sharapova is based out of Bradenton, Fla., and began training and living in the state at a young age.

In addition to changing her name, Sharapova wants to place the Sugarpova lips logo on her clothing during the tournament.

Would a court really allow such a move? It was one thing for a guy like Chad Johnson to change his name to Ochocinco, which is weird enough, but it’s completely different to change a name for marketing purposes.

If this gets cleared, then that would open the gates for a whole new avenue of sports marketing. You thought stadium sponsorship deals were bad? Just wait until Novak Uniqlo starts taking the tennis courts.

Sharapova first marketed her candy line in the US last August. She invested $500,000 in the project and has already seen big returns, according to Bloomberg. She entered the gummy candy market, which is estimated at $28 billion, and often sells bags for $5.99 apiece. Very little money has been spent on marketing and advertising; most of the product awareness has come through fan and media interest in all things Sharapova.

Even if this move doesn’t go through, Sharapova just got all the publicity for her brand that she could have wanted.

Maria Sharapova likes work ethic Jimmy Connors is preaching

Maria SharapovaMaria Sharapova seems happy with Jimmy Connors in her first month working with her new coach.

Sharapova announced her hiring of Connors in July, three weeks after she lost to qualifier Michelle Larcher in straight sets in the second round at Wimbledon. She is playing in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this week, marking her first tournament under the tutelage of the eight-time major winner. In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Sharapova said some of what Connors can offer is “priceless.”

“His philosophy is there’s no substitute for hard work,” Sharapova said Monday. “He certainly emphasizes that in every single practice.

“At this stage of my career, no one’s going to come in and change something drastically. But his experience and work ethic are priceless. It’s been nice.”

Sharapova worked together with Connors briefly before the 2008 Australian Open, back when Michael Joyce was her coach. She has won four majors and been ranked No. 1 in the world, so she’s not exactly looking to reshape her game. She recognizes that and hopes Connors will make a difference with smaller things.

“Certainly I know what it takes to accomplish something. I’ve been there. It was more about the work ethic that I knew he was going to put in, and the experience. He’s been there, done that.”

The biggest obstacle Sharapova will look to overcome is her struggles against Serena Williams, against whom she has lost 13 straight matches. It’s extremely early in their coach-player relationship, but maybe Connors will be the difference for Sharapova, just like Ivan Lendl has proven to be with Andy Murray.