Maria Sharapova wants to bring top-tier professional tennis back to Los Angeles.
To that end, the world's second-ranked player will announce her own event Monday to be held at the L.A. Tennis Center in December.
The two-day exhibition will include Andy Roddick, formerly the world's top-ranked player; Kei Nishikori, runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2014; and Michael Chang, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008, in addition to celebrities such as comedian Chelsea Handler.
"There's actually a big tennis community in L.A.," Sharapova said, "but we haven't seen a high quality of tennis here or big-name athletes come and play in front of crowds."
Once a key stop for the sport's elite, the men's professional tour event in L.A. moved to Bogota, Colombia, in 2012 and the women's tournament relocated to Carlsbad in 2009. Both events struggled to attract top players in their final years.
Sharapova sees an opportunity to reconnect the country's second-largest media market with the sport and, in the process, allow fans to get to know the personalities of high-end players as well as witness what they're capable of on the court.
The 28-year-old is taking an active role in planning the event, billed as Maria Sharapova & Friends, one she hopes is as competitive as it is accessible and entertaining. She loves to dive into the details to make her long-discussed idea a reality. That includes arranging disc jockeys to play music between points and selecting gifts such as customized bicycles and Porsche-designed luggage for participants.
The planning has been a learning experience.
"You're presenting an idea creatively that's never happened before," said Sharapova, who would like to make the exhibition an annual event. "It takes a lot of talks and meetings and convincing people."
The exhibition is the latest venture in the five-time Grand Slam champion's burgeoning business empire. She has her own line of candy — Sugarpova — in addition to deals with Nike, Cole Haan, Evian and a slew of other companies. Sharapova even has her own app — launched in March — that offers live chats and videos for $5.99 per month.
Earlier this month, Forbes named Sharapova the world's highest-paid female athlete for the 11th consecutive year with estimated earnings of $29.7 million.
Reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2008 — when she started to think about life after tennis — helped kindle her interest in the business side of the sport.
"It's something I've been able to learn through the brands and corporations I've been able to work with," Sharapova said. "Its something that's always fascinated me, the creative process of what works and what doesn't."
When her career on the court ends, she wants to remain involved in the sport. Coaching, however, isn't a passion. The exhibition, which will direct some of the proceeds to her charitable foundation, could provide one avenue to stay connected.
"There will be a time when I stop," Sharapova said, "and you have to look further down in your career."
VIP tickets for the event go on sale Monday; the remainder are available starting Sept. 14.
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