Behind the story

When an athlete commits to working with a writer on a feature story, that commitment usually means, in the most time-consuming of instances, an interview or two, a few days of interaction and a couple of weeks or months of intermittent contact. In Maria Sharapova's case, it meant much, much more. When she signed up to be editor-in-chief of our third annual Athlete's Issue, she did so with an enthusiasm and work ethic unequaled by our former guest-EICs. Although Matt Leinart and Chad Johnson were committed leaders, Maria told us she wanted to help with every aspect of the issue, from the design to the photo sessions to the stories themselves. And she didn't care how long it would take. She sounded believably eager, but she also had shoulder rehab and a packed summer schedule on her plate. We were skeptical. A 22-year-old athlete with a diva-esque reputation was going to return to competitive tennis and run ESPN The Magazine?