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Sweet Sharapova

TENNIS: Russian-born superstar thrills crowd with her big play and antics with McEnroe, but Breakers fall 24-14, to end their season.

July 26, 2007|By Matt Szabo

NEWPORT BEACH — A lucky fan during halftime of Wednesday night's Newport Beach Breakers season finale bid $15,000 for an exclusive trip for two to this year's U.S. Open.

Maria Sharapova doesn't need to rely on luck. She plans to be there, too — as the defending women's singles champion.

Sharapova, the No. 2-ranked women's player in the world, was at sold-out Breakers Stadium on Wednesday, making her only appearance of the season for Newport Beach. And even as the Breakers lost 24-14 to finish the year 3-11, Sharapova, in her fourth year with the franchise, gave the 2,358 fans — the largest crowd of the season — a show.

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"I'm very happy to be back," Sharapova said. "Newport has all of the people I saw a few years ago, and seeing those same people after you've come back and won some tournaments and achieved those things, that's pretty nice."

Sharapova, the two-time Grand Slam singles champion, was wearing her trademark white dress and her long blonde hair in a ponytail. During mixed doubles, the 20-year-old from Russia proved a worthy adversary for the tennis legend of the Sportimes (6-8), John McEnroe.

On the set's second point, McEnroe smashed a volley past Sharapova, giving her an exaggerated fist pump and a long glare.

Several points later, Sharapova smashed a volley off McEnroe's left foot, and the 48-year-old proceeded to limp around the court.

"Go get her, Johnny!" a fan yelled.

"Hey!" Sharapova, objecting, yelled back.

Sharapova didn't play in singles because of a minor foot injury.

"A few days ago I had a freak accident with my foot," Sharapova told the fans before the match. "Typical of me."

But the fans were obviously willing to forgive Sharapova for that. She hit a backpack with the ball during a break in the action, winning airline tickets for some fans.

Those fans packed the stadium. World Team Tennis co-founder Billie Jean King, who was also in attendance, said many who wanted to buy tickets had to be turned away. The Breakers had stools put at the base of the grandstands on each side of the stadium.

"We put down stools and sold those in two hours," said King, who grew up in Long Beach. "I had to turn some of my friends away; I couldn't get them tickets."

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