Designer Sharapova says tennis is priority

The Russian tsarina said at the Australian Open that, despite branching out into fashion design, her hunger for hitting tennis balls, was undiminished.

"I'm not in a place in my career where I need to prove something, to the outside, to myself," Sharapova, the world's highest-paid sportswoman, said in an interview.

"I've done that numerous times with Grand Slams and being number one in the world," added the 23-year-old, a huge diamond ring glittering on her finger. "But bottom line: I play because I really love it. I had so many opportunities to think that I didn't."

Sharapova, a three-times Grand Slam singles champion and Melbourne winner in 2008, underwent shoulder surgery later that year and is still looking to rediscover her best form.

She knocked out one of her 'models' in German pin-up Julia Goerges in the third round of the year's first Grand Slam to set up a meeting with another German, Andrea Petkovic.

In her day job, Sharapova has biffed and grunted her way to Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon (2004) and the US Open (2006) as well as in Melbourne three years ago.

Only a French Open crown stands between her and a career Grand Slam. "The French is always a motivation, ever since I won the Australian Open and knowing it's the one I haven't won," said Sharapova, earrings dangling almost to the top of a red T-shirt.

"I don't know if I've been fortunate that I haven't won three of one Grand Slam, but absolutely I've found the French to be my biggest challenge.

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