Commentary

Player Web sites tell the story

Updated: May 1, 2009, 9:41 AM ET
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

MariaSharapova.comMariaSharapova.comMaria Sharapova's Web site keeps readers au courant on her various off-the-court endeavors.

When Roger and Mirka became Mr. and Mrs. Federer, the 13-time Grand Slam champion utilized his official Web site to spill the beans. The Swiss' vehicle for disclosing he'd become a dad this summer also turned out to be his site, available in English, Swiss and German, by the way, which is what you'd expect from the worldly and multilingual 27-year-old.

Maria Sharapova's venomous rant (think fine and Rome photo shoot) aimed at the WTA Tour last year emanated from her ultra-sleek site, while the still sought-after three-time major winner, who's rehabbing a worrying shoulder injury, has shown a penchant for comedy via her blog. Sharapova discussing the culinary scene in Sarasota, Fla., for instance, was a hoot.

Simply put, fans no longer need to scrounge to keep up to date on their favorites since virtually every top pro is armed with his or her own official site. Then there are the numerous unofficial sites, such as Vamos Brigade, a tribute to, who else, Rafael Nadal.

"For us we kind of use it as a clearing house because there's so much said about Maria and written about her on the Web," Max Eisenbud, Sharapova's longtime agent, said. "It's got to the point where fans know that if it's not on her site, then it's probably not accurate. It's how we make our announcements, and we built that trust with the fans over time. I think it's worked out good for everyone."

Federer's site, which displayed his wedding photos, boasts more than 230,000 registered members. (It's free.) He pays for the site himself -- what with the cost of hosting, developing and maintaining such sites, they're rarely money-making ventures.

"Roger has always been surprised at the number of loyal and registered members," his agent, Tony Godsick, said. "His goal was always to form a destination for his loyal fans to congregate, chat, get exclusive news and pictures."

Here's a peek at a few of those versions on the vast Web.

Roger Federer (www.rogerfederer.com)

Did you know Federer's favorite flavor of ice cream is strawberry? And that he plays the piano?

Well, you can access that type of info perusing Federer's replies to fans' questions, which spans about a dozen pages and includes answers from years ago, before the newlywed reached double digits in majors.

Frequent visitors know the color of the site changes frequently, with clay-court orange now in vogue. Federer's site also lists weather conditions in the city he's featuring in -- for example, Rome, this week.

There was so much interest in Federer's site during February's Australian Open final, he was forced to get new equipment.

"A lot of you have noticed that my Web site was slow after the final Down Under," Federer wrote on his site. "The reason for that was the enormous amount of traffic -- more than we had ever experienced before. New hardware for the server has been ordered, and will be installed as soon as possible so that you can enjoy rogerfederer.com without hassles in the future!"

Maria Sharapova (www.mariasharapova.com)

The design and graphics, as one would expect from a fashionista such as Sharapova, are top quality. Sharapova's "weekly doodles" (not so weekly, really) routinely entertain.

Here was Sharapova describing a road trip, which included a stop in France, last summer.

"Everyone was walking around with this wine glass in a little red purse and a booklet of coupons for each wine tent," Sharapova wrote. "They had all these different food stations, each serving certain specialties such as cheese, different meats, freshly baked bread and homemade waffles (my idea of heaven)."

Uniquely Sharapova.

"She has a certain style, and you know that it's her voice, and can't be her publicist," Eisenbud said. "She's involved in the look and the feel and that kind of stuff."

Jelena Jankovic (www.jj-jelenajankovic.com)

"Honest, Spontaneous, Natural, Emotional … I believe these words describe me as a person."

That phrase greets visitors to Jankovic's blog, along with a picture of the Serb, sporting a snug black dress, seated at what appears to be a pretty posh restaurant.

Call it different and a nice touch.

The Serb's blog posts are honest, humorous and relatively frequent.

"I also have to tell you about a commercial I did for my sponsor, ANTA," the former world No. 1 declared last week. "The billboards are apparently up in Belgrade already. … That's what my friend told me, anyway! I'm not sure where else they'll go up. It'll be nice to see how they've turned out. A commercial will be out in a few months, too. I'm really excited about it. It's something new and different."

Jankovic's site was temporarily derailed by hackers last fall.

Ana Ivanovic (www.anaivanovic.com)

For sheer volume, Ivanovic's site is difficult to surpass. It's updated almost daily.

In April, the reigning French Open champ posted a pair of diary items and answered a flurry of questions from supporters.

Ivanovic, who bought a home in Mallorca last year, is learning Spanish.

"I was inspired to learn Spanish during a trip to South America when I was a junior; even then we would use a dictionary and try to say some things in Spanish," Ivanovic said. "I also watched some Spanish soap operas, which helped me get a feel for the language."

No help from former beau Fernando Verdasco?

When Ivanovic was named the 11th sexiest woman on the planet by FHM magazine, her Web site said it was quite the achievement "considering that she is so often pictured during intense competition, whereas others on the list, for example, models and film stars, are photographed when at their coiffured best."

Andy Murray (www.andymurray.com)

With hoards of British journalists feverishly following Murray, he's rarely ever out of the news, especially since the dazzling 21-year-old became part of the Big Four.

His site is filled with humorous anecdotes and pics of the Scot half naked in ice baths.

Murray's training regimen gets top billing. Coach Miles Maclagan, fitness trainers Matt Little and Jez Green and physiotherapist Andy Ireland share the spotlight.

Little recently sported a women's wig at the Lawn Tennis Association's National Tennis Center near Wimbledon after losing a training duel.

"It's become such a regular thing that nobody at the NTC bats an eyelid," Murray's site proclaimed.

Kei Nishikori (www.keinishikori.com)

A newcomer to the Web, Nishikori's site, decked out in green, wouldn't look out of place as part of a swanky multimedia presentation. There's video (Nishikori's first hit in five weeks, courtesy of arm injury, was posted two days ago) and the customary blog.

The 19-year-old, who rose to prominence by winning a title as a qualifier in Delray Beach, Fla, in 2008, hasn't played since early March.

"Sometimes I think it's OK to take a rest for this long period, and sometimes I don't," Nishikori, already a phenom in his native Japan, said. "I actually appreciate tennis these days. It is still hard for me, but not such a burden anymore."

Nishikori's site is actually a money maker, said his agent, Olivier van Lindonk. He's blessed with sponsors that'd make a world No. 1 proud.

"I don't believe many players actually have a positive return on investment from their Web sites once you look at all the costs," van Lindonk said. "There are some exceptions for clients such as Kei, for whom we've been able to do endorsement deals for and in relation to his Web site."

Serena Williams (www.serenawilliams.com)

Williams' redesigned site, incorporating shades of purple and light brown, emerged in March. Not content to stop there, the 10-time Grand Slam champ appears to have her own Twitter page, serenajwilliams.

"The "J" stands for my middle name … LOL … Someone took serenawilliams, which is awful," Williams -- we think it was her -- uttered.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.