Sharapova parts ways with Prince
Maria Sharapova will no longer play with Prince rackets after walking away from her 10-year sponsorship deal with the American manufacturer
Maria Sharapova has ended her 10-year sponsorship deal with racket manufacturer Prince by mutual consent.
"Sharapova's contract with Prince allowed the parties to mutually agree to end the relationship this year and Sharapova and Prince have decided to do so," both Prince and Sharapova announced by email. No reason was given for the end of the relationship.
Sharapova, 23, had been playing with a Prince racket since she was nine years old. All three of her Grand Slam titles - Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open - were won with a Prince racket.
Sharapova had been the postergirl for Prince's EXO3 Black racket, launched earlier this year and used by WImbledon and US Open finalist Vera Zvonareva.
But the former world No.1 began playing with a blacked-out frame following shoulder surgery with the iconic Prince ‘P' missing from the strings, as rumours abounded that the Russian was looking for a change of frame.
Max Eisenbud, Sharapova's agent at IMG, declined to comment on which racket she will use next.
Gordon Boggis, chief executive of Prince Sports, thanked Sharapova for being a "great partner". Prince will continue to have the rights to market and sell Maria Sharapova-endorsed products throughout 2011.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my partnership with Prince," Sharapova said in the statement. "Their rackets helped me to three great Slam victories and much more. I will always retain nothing but the highest admiration for Prince."
Sharapova, who ended 2010 as the world No.18, is the highest-paid female athlete in the world with annual earnings from endorsements and prize money of $24.5 million. The Russian is believed to have extended her sponsorship deal with Nike by eight years for $70 million in January.