This appeared as the cover story in the June 29 "Revenge of the Jocks" issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Sharapova on fixing the sport of tennis
Send in the clowns
When I go to sporting events, I enjoy the entertainment that surrounds the game. Tennis fans never get that experience. Tournament organizers need to play music or invite dancers and clowns onto the court during side changes. It's too quiet during those breaks.
Don't let the dogs in
Everyone knows I love dogs (I have a Pomeranian named Dolce), but the players' lounge is not a vet's office. Players carry around their dogs in little bags and let them run all over the place. They put bowls of water on the floor, and it spills everywhere. It's a tournament -- leave the pooch at home.
Get rid of the riffraff
And while I'm on the subject: The players' lounge isn't a nightclub, either. It's hard to get ready for a match when there's a bleached-out blonde in six-inch stilettos and a denim miniskirt hanging out. Who is this person, and why is she here?
Quit while we're ahead
The WTA schedule is too long. We start in January and go full speed all the way through to the U.S. Open in September. Then we have to keep going until the Sony Ericsson Championships at the end of October. I'd end the season with the Open.
Plug in and plug us
I would use the Internet, Facebook and Twitter more effectively to market our sport, and I would make all the athletes participate. Raising the popularity of individual players raises the popularity of tennis.
Give on-court coaches the boot
I would ban all contact with coaches between sets. I'm sure when the male players see coaches walk onto the court during our matches they laugh.
Accept a good challenge
Now a player is allowed three unsuccessful challenges per set. Obviously, a player shouldn't be allowed to challenge every call, but if she is out of challenges and the umpire appears unsure, why shouldn't she be allowed to ask for a replay?
Don't hide the game face
While I was sidelined with my shoulder injury, I watched a lot of tennis on TV. Sometimes I thought, Why do these girls wear so much makeup? I can't even figure out how they keep their eyeliner from running. Athletes should play au naturel.
Ignore the pain
Limit on-court injury timeouts to two per season. I've asked for a trainer twice in my career, but I've played against girls who call for an injury timeout in every match. They're just buying time; it's laughable.
Once every two or three years, Wimbledon should let us wear something besides white. It would add a spark of fun to a very traditional place. Of course, style has its limits, so I would also…
…Recruit fashion police
In my tennis, a board would approve all outfits before players could wear them on the court. There are some tacky outfits out there!
Throw a surprise party
I'd create a tournament in which you wouldn't know whom you were playing or on what surface until the start of each round. You might get the first round on grass, the second on clay and the third on hard court. This is unrealistic, but it would be interesting.
Sharapova gives advice to other athletes
My wife's birthday is coming up. Any suggestions for a romantic dinner? -- Derrick Mason, Ravens
Stick to foods she likes; this is no time to experiment. And set the mood with candles and roses. A picnic-style dinner is always nice too.
I have a hard time saying no. How can I do it without upsetting anyone? -- Curtis Granderson, Tigers
Stand up for yourself, man! It's important to set boundaries. But you have to be smart about it, too. So have other people say no for you. You don't want to be the bad guy; that's what your agent is for.
Will you come to DC to watch me play next season? -- Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
What advice are you asking for exactly? I love hockey. And a few weeks ago, I met this chef, José Andrés, who has several restaurants in DC. So I just might make a trip for dinner and a game.
There's a girl I'm into, and I know she likes me. But she has a friend who's in the way. What do I do? -- Daniel Dhers, BMX
Be brave. At the end of the day, any relationship won't be about the friend; it will be about you and this girl. If the chemistry is there -- and it sounds like it is -- go for it.
What does a woman of your caliber look for in a man? -- Daniel Gibson, Cavaliers
Although you may think I live a glamorous life, I'm pretty simple. Little things make me happy. I love to laugh. I love going to dinner or to a comedy club. I like guys who are polite and quirky. Oh, and you have to be tall.
What's the best way to help young girls find success through sports? -- Jessica Mendoza, USA Softball
Encourage them to play as many sports as possible. That's the great thing about America: Kids can play for many different kinds of teams. That's not the case everywhere else.
I'd like to improve my lateral quickness. Any tips? -- Delonte West, Cavaliers
I can't believe I'm giving an NBA guy athletic advice. I work with ladders a lot, I do crossover step drills, and I spend a lot of time with my trainer chasing down balls.
What's the best way to market yourself? -- Stephon Marbury, Celtics
Stay true to who you are, and surround yourself with people who have similar interests. You never know what opportunity is around the corner, so stay connected to your sponsors, and get out from inside your own bubble.
I paint my toenails with pink and black polish. Problem is, I get more paint on my toes and on the carpet than on my nails. Any advice? -- Chuck Liddell, MMA
Nail polish? Don't you beat up other guys for a living? I don't know how to answer this.
Sharapova makes over 2009 NFL Draft pick No. 1 Matthew Stafford
Let's face it, pro athletes don't have the best record when it comes to style. As guest editor of The Mag, I decided to stem the tide by making over one of tomorrow's stars, Matthew Stafford. With my help, the NFL's hot new QB would skew way closer to a natty Tom Brady than a frumpy Ben Roethlisberger. (Sorry, Ben.)
Matthew was already at the photo shoot in LA when I arrived. It was just days before the NFL draft, and he was dressed like the college guy he still was: baggy jeans, brown polo, brown belt, white Nikes. It was no way for the consensus top pick to present himself, but it could have been worse. "At least I'm not wearing my favorite hoodie," he told me soon after we met.
As the photographer took some "before" pictures of Matthew, I excused myself to change for my own cover shoot. When I walked out of the dressing room in five-inch heels, the look on Matthew's face said he wished I'd gone with flats. "You're going to tower over me," he said. (We're both 6'2" barefoot.) "You need to get used to powerful women," I replied. "Stand on an apple box."
I brought him into the fitting room to show him the outfit my stylist, Becks, and I had picked for him: trendy (read: tight) black jeans, white T-shirt, black pullover, military boots and a cool black jacket. It was just the right casual look for a newly minted millionaire, but he stared at the clothes with skepticism (I'm guessing it was the skinny jeans) before agreeing to play along. I could tell he felt a little weird about being fussed over, for good reason: When he took off his jeans, I noticed his boxers. The new face of a franchise, maybe a league, in boxers?! "C'mon, Matthew," I said. "Brady wouldn't be caught dead in those." Becks agreed. Matthew griped about being abused, loud enough for the whole studio to hear, but where was he going to run in that underwear?
While we were getting our hair and my makeup done, he said his mom was more excited about her son's getting to meet me than about his prospects in the upcoming draft. "She keeps e-mailing me links to those old Canon commercials with you and your dog," he said. That's sweet, I thought, before I broke it to him that it was a doggy double, not Dolce.
Clothes and makeup covered, I had one more favor to ask: "A little haircut, my dear? Please?"
"No," he said. "This is getting to be too much."
"Adir, my hairstylist, charges $550," I coaxed. "He'll do yours for free."
A half-hour later, there was so much hair on the floor it looked as if Paris Hilton's dog were lying at his feet. With those brown locks out of Matthew's eyes, Adir and I are certain he'll make all the throws this season. And doesn't that qualify us for a piece of that $72 million rookie contract?
Sharapova's list: the ten best (and worst) dressed personalities in sports
Click the athlete's name for an example of their style.
LeBron James, Cavaliers
David Beckham, LA Galaxy
Tom Brady, Patriots
Dwight Howard, Magic
Nastia Liukin, USA Gymnastics
Tiger Woods, PGA
Lewis Hamilton, Formula One driver
Dwyane Wade, Heat
Sean Avery, NY Rangers
Chris Fowler, ESPN anchor
Matthew Stafford, Lions
Mark Cuban, Mavericks owner
Craig Sager, TNT NBA reporter
Charles Barkley, TNT NBA analyst
Radek Stepanek, ATP Tennis
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Michael Phelps, USA Swimming
DeAngelo Hall, Redskins
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Amanda Beard, USA Swimming
Brad Gilbert, Tennis coach