Sharapova winning, staying busy

"This is something I see doing in the future as well," Sharapova agreed. ''For me, it's not about making revenue today or tomorrow, but I believe it's a company that started on a really good note and it will continue to grow."

But if the newly turned 27-year-old is starting to think post-tennis, she is showing no sign of it on the court. Along with Sochi, Sugarpova and sports cars, there has been plenty of sweat. The new season began with a new coach, Sven Groenefeld, as well as a new phsyotherapist and trainer to help her work her back toward the top of the game, and it doesn't hurt to have a tennis-playing boyfriend in fellow pro Grigor Dimitrov.

Sharapova's transformation on clay, from a heavy-footed novice to 2012 French Open champion and now a consistent force on the surface, is perhaps the best example of Sharapova's continuing tennis ambition. In some ways, her clay-court success is built on the same approach that has turned Sharapova into a commercial enterprise worth $23 million a year -- developing skills that allow her to use her existing strengths in new situations.

Her baseline hitting and intensity previously made Sharapova competitive on the surface, but improved fitness, smoother movements and more gears on her serve have allowed her to win consistently on clay. She has also benefited from the lack of clay-court specialists at the top of the game the past few years, allowing her and other power players to play their normal games more easily.

"I really trained myself to become better," she said before Rome. "I realized I had no choice but to try to get stronger, prepare better, recover better and work on those things, because they don't just come automatically."

Sharapova's French Open prospects look bright, except for two clouds on the horizon. The first and most obvious is Serena Williams, whom Sharapova has not beaten in their past 15 matches, including three on red clay. The second is the weather, with the Russian remaining vulnerable on the surface in heavy or unsettled conditions.

She was challenged frequently even during her title runs at Stuttgart and Madrid but has showed her mental toughness in pulling out three-set wins. Once the tournament begins, Sharapova's attention will once again be on tennis.

In the meantime, there is the business side to attend to, starting with a photo shoot for Porsche in the past few days. Other players build toward a Slam. Sharapova builds around it.

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