Maria Sharapova was in Stuttgart, Germany, a few weeks ago when she turned 27. So she went on a birthday outing, complete with desserts and stuffed animals and amusement park rides.
Her trip into the city also happened to promote her upcoming appearance at the WTA tournament there, whose title sponsor, Porsche, also happens to be one of Sharapova's sponsors. The car company also makes the Porshe 911, which happens to be the shape of the new candy flavor that was launched at the event by Sugarpova, the candy line that Sharapova happens to own.
Other people throw parties, Sharapova throws promos. Had she been booked to play her first-round match during all this, Sharapova would probably have won that, too, all in between smiling for cameras in the traditional German dress she wore for the occasion.
As it was, Sharapova began her Stuttgart campaign the following week, winning her third title -- and third Porsche -- to continue her unbeaten run at the event. After a slow start, the victory has helped kick-start her season.
Another title followed at Madrid, and she won 12 clay matches in a row before an in-form Ana Ivanovic to beat her at Rome the week after. It was the Russian's first defeat on clay to anyone expect Serena Williams since 2011, but she still feels ready for the French Open after doing better than anyone on the surface this year.
"It doesn't take anything away from the last two weeks and the way that I've played," Sharapova said after the match against Ivanovic. "So I'm quite excited about the weeks coming up at the Grand Slams."
Until she got back on clay, Sharapova's season had in some ways been more significant off the court than on.
After sitting out most of the second half of 2013 with a shoulder injury, she fell in the fourth round of the Australian Open and then played the indoor WTA event at Paris, which was notable not as much for her semifinal showing as for Sugarpova making its first appearance as a tournament sponsor. Sharapova then switched sporting arenas to serve as one of the faces for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, her childhood hometown, and carried the torch during the opening ceremonies.
Returning from that memorable experience at Indian Wells, she exited early and admitted a few days later that her shoulder was taking some time to regain the strength it needed for long, three-set matches. But almost right away, she won a two three-setters in a row while reaching the semifinals at Miami and left that tournament feeling more encouraged by her play.
The next time she made headlines, however, they were in the business rather than the tennis section. The four-time Grand Slam champion announced that she was becoming a spokesperson and investor in a cosmetics company specializing in skincare, her first time taking an ownership position with a company she endorses.
Her agent, Max Eisenbud, told Bloomberg that it would be a more time-consuming commitment than Sharapova had previously been willing to make, but that she now wanted to get more involved with her sponsors.
"The last couple years, as she's started to get near the end of her career, I began to focus on what kinds of relationships could she start now and then be with when her career is over," Eisenbud said.