With last weekend's completion of the 2017 Australian Open, it has now been four straight Grand Slams since Maria Sharapova last played a match in a major. The Russian, still suspended for using a banned substance, is scheduled to make her return to competitive tennis in late April. Recently her social posts have not been concerned much with tennis, but rather with the marketing of her candy brand, Sugarpova.

Sugarpova marketing -- same old, same old

Sharapova's marketing efforts for her candy brand are nothing new. About three months ago, in early November, I opened an article on Sharapova with the following quote: "There hasn't been much about tennis in Maria Sharapova's social media posts of late" and further noted that they had "more to do with her Halloween costume and her efforts in the marketing of #Sugarpova" (November 7th, 2016).

Now writing in February, not much has changed in that regard.

Since November she did participate in an exhibition match against Monica Puig, one that came from Puerto Rico. Puig won the match in front of a partisan crowd and the loss is one of the isolated headlines regarding tennis for Sharapova in recent months. That may be good for her candy brand, but as her return date nears, tennis fans are going to want to know where her game is at. It's hard to attribute much importance to the loss in Puerto Rico, as the exhibition matches are more of the hit-and-grin kind of matches. However, Puig did not play well in the South Pacific to open the season. With nothing else to go on, Sharapova certainly isn't looking smashing at this point.

Sugarpova tweets repetitive

Sharapova has a total of six tweets or retweets from her verified Twitter account this month. None of them speak to her tennis career or where she is in regard to her training.

Five of the tweets reference Sugarpova directly or feature a picture of Sharapova with the candy brand in the background, as per the picture referenced in the tweet below.

But for tennis fans, the question with Sharapova is what her level of play will be like when the 2017 French Open starts.

Certainly there will be tennis practicing behind the tweets, even if she isn't marketing the athletic side of her celebrity life at this point. She is considered the 5th favorite to win the French Open (source: BetVictor) at odds of 20 to 1. With a loss to an off-form Puig recently and in the absence of any kind of updates from the Russian, chances are that she's over-rated at that -- even as a two-time former champion.

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