At the Net: Sharapova's rich; Melzer hangs 'em up

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Updated: 8/15 10:49 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - For a 10th straight year, Maria Sharapova topped the Forbes list as the top-earning female athlete on the planet. And Iveta Melzer (nee Benesova) retired from professional tennis this week.

According to Forbes, the 27-year-old Sharapova pocketed $24.4 million on and off the court over the last 12 months.

Sure, some other women have earned more prize money, but when it comes to off- court earnings ... Maria's in a league of her own.

Hip and shoulder injuries sidelined the Russian superstar for the second half of last year, holding back her on-court winnings to a modest (for Shaza) $2.4 million, but they did little to detract from her off-court moneys.

Sharapova's tennis, charisma and photogenic quality have made her one of the most sought after names in all of sport and the face of brands ranging from Nike to Porsche. In June, fresh off her second career French Open title, Avon came calling and became the latest addition to her ever-expanding endorsement portfolio. Avon has Sharapova on-board as the face of its new fragrance for men and women, Avon Luck, in a deal worth more than $1 million a year.

And proving that she's more than just a pretty face, over the past few years, the five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova has also tapped into entrepreneurship, launching her own brand of candy, Sugarpova, and more recently claiming a stake in a skincare company, Supergoop, where she will promote sunscreen and anti-aging goods.

Tennis dominated Forbes' female athletes list once again, with Li Na ($23.6 million), Serena Williams ($22 million), Victoria Azarenka ($11.1 million), Caroline Wozniacki ($10.8 million), Agnieszka Radwanska ($6.8 million) and Ana Ivanovic ($6.4 million) joining the former world No. 1 Sharapova in the exclusive top 10.

Also this week, the aforementioned Melzer, known to tennis fans for many years as Iveta Benesova before marrying ATP star and fellow left-hander Jurgen Melzer in 2012, announced her retirement from the game after 16 years as a pro.

The 31-year-old announced the news on her Facebook page.

"So this is the end of my journey as a professional tennis player. This wasn't an easy decision because tennis has been my life since I was a little girl, but it's about the right time. I feel it in my heart. Being out for over a year and still facing continuous shoulder problems has not been easy for me, so this thought has been on my mind for some time. The truth is also that after so many years on tour, it is hard for me to find the determination or desire to make tennis my number one priority in life.

"So deep down inside me I know that this is the right time for me to move on."

Melzer's career was highlighted by a pair of WTA titles in Acapulco in 2004 and Fes, Morocco, in 2010, a career-high ranking of No. 25 in 2009, and a more-than-respectable 14 WTA doubles titles, including 10 with good friend and fellow Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. She also reached six other WTA singles finals, but perhaps the most meaningful of all was winning a Grand Slam mixed doubles title at Wimbledon in 2011 -- with her soon-to-be hubby.

Unfortunately for Melzer, she never reached a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal.

The aforementioned shoulder injury derailed her career in 2012. And after a year-and-a-half out of action, Melzer returned earlier this year and played in five more tournaments, without much success, going 0-5, including what turned out to be her final match, a loss against American Coco Vandeweghe at the French Open.

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