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Eddie Herr hopeful Zoe Howard wins chance to hit with Maria Sharapova

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Zoe Howard (left) won the Sugarpova sweepstakes and got to meet and hit with her favorite player, Maria Sharapova

More than 1,300 competitors from over 80 countries descended on IMG Academy for the 2013 Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships. This year, Sugarpova, the premium candy line of international tennis sensation Maria Sharapova, held a promotional sweepstakes for Eddie Herr participants. Hundreds entered, and the winner was 12-year old French American Zoe Howard (pictured left, serving to Sharapova). Howard was awarded with an opportunity to hit with Maria Sharapova and attend a practice session.

“I was kind of in shock – I was really excited when my dad first told me and I thought he was joking,” Howard said of when she found out that she won. “I’ve hit with retired pros before, but nothing like this… I mean, she’s my favorite player so it’s kind of a big deal for me.”

Howard started playing tennis at the age of three, with her first tournament at age eight. Howard had hit with a pro before, but this was a chance to hit with her favorite player. During the hitting session, Howard got to warm up with Sharapova, then played a few points before checking in for a 3:30 doubles match.

“It was amazing… it was really fun to hit with Maria,” said Howard after the sessions. “I was really nervous, I just hope I made a good impression on her.

She added, “This was definitely among the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

Sharapova, an IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis alumnus and past Eddie Herr champion (Girls 16s, 2000) was impressed with young Howard. Afterwards, Sharapova remarked, “It’s always great to meet young, aspiring tennis players like Zoe, as they represent the future of the sport.”

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