Despite the rumors flying about, Maria Sharapova will not be changing her last name to "Sugarpova" for the U.S. Open, reports Darren Rovell for ESPN.com.
On Monday, Neil Harman of The (London) Times reported Sharapova planned to change her last name to "Sugarpova" for the duration of the U.S. Open as part of a marketing scheme for her Sugarpova candy line. The report also revealed Sharapova's plans to wear her company's logo-a pursed set of ruby red lips-somewhere on her Nike kit at the U.S. Open. The marketing stunt would mean Sharapova would be introduced onto court as "2006 U.S. Open champion, Maria Sugarpova", "Sugarpova" would be displayed on the courtside scoreboards, and scores would be called out as "Game, Sugarpova".
From the start, the whole thing reeked of a publicity stunt in advance of her Sugarpova launch tonight at Henri Bendel in New York City. A leaked story that she was "considering" the move was picked up by every news outlet across the globe, but only 24 hours later, her agent Max Eisenbud announced that she decided against it. That's some masterful p.r. work to take the attention off of her recent firing of Jimmy Connors.
But one didn't necessarily need the official denial to know Sharapova was never going to go through with this scheme. Here are three reasons why this name-change was simply never going to happen.
1. It's tacky. Maria Sharapova is many things: A four-time Slam champion, the highest-paid female athlete on the face of the planet, an intense competitor, loud and shrieky, and the face of an enviable stable of high-end luxury brands, such as Porsche, Tag Heuer, Cole Haan, Evian and Nike. You don't spend nine years building up that brand profile only to decide to engage in some juvenile and hacky publicity stunt to sell candy.
2. It's not a simple procedure. While Sharapova is not a U.S. citizen, she does have permanent resident status, which means she can use the U.S. courts to change her name. But it's not as easy as just submitting some expedited paperwork. The process takes a few weeks, would require Sharapova to get fingerprinted for a criminal background check, and attend a hearing, which can take weeks to schedule. Do we really think all that can happen with the U.S. Open less than a week away?
3. Nike would have to agree to put the Sugarpova logo on their kit: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Juan Martin del Potro all have something in common (other than being pro tennis players, of course): None of them are allowed to put any non-Nike sponsor logos on their Nike-branded kits. The only Nike tennis player who is allowed to do so is Li Na, as part of negotiated term in her contract that permits her to wear a Mercedes-Benz logo on one sleeve and Taikang, a Chinese insurance company on the other. I repeat: Li is the only Nike tennis player to have the company's permission to wear non-Nike brands on her kit.