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A Princely Sum: Sharapova Drops Company Stencil, Retail Racket
CNBC.com | September 01, 2010 | 02:24 PM EDT

At 5:47 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Maria Sharapova took the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium to play her first round match against Jarmila Groth. She was carrying two bags. One, a Nike Cole Haan designer bag. The other? A bag with the words “Prince” on it.

There was nothing strange about either bag. But there was something different about what the 23-year-old took out of the Prince bag. You see, the company’s most marketable tennis player –- who has what is termed as a “lifetime deal” -- wasn’t playing with a Prince racket that you can actually buy on the shelves.

Whether she was playing with a disguised competitor’s racket or something Prince has made for her remains a mystery, but what is clear is that Sharapova hasn’t played with a racket whose strings are stenciled with the company’s famous “P” since March.

While a consumer might not notice the difference, insiders in the business are abuzz about the change because of the stakes involved. Sharapova’s deal, signed in 2006, was reported as a 10-year, $25 million deal.

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