Even a thunderstorm couldn’t stop the S.S. Evian on Sunday as clouds cleared just hours before the boat left port. The water company teamed up with Circle Line Cruises to launch New York’s first floating tennis court in celebration of the U.S. Open final.
Passengers watched Novak Djokovic’s winning match as they enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and lobster rolls amid Evian pink regalia. Tennis legend Maria Sharapova hosted the cruise, partaking in a fireside chat with fellow pro Andrea Petkovic before setting sail. Sharapova gave props to U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff, who won her first Grand Slam tournament on Saturday.
“She has the ability to transcend the sport in so many ways, bridging entertainment and sport and culture and fashion,” Sharapova said. “She’s got such a great voice. Most importantly, she’s an amazing competitor.”
Sharapova, an Evian brand ambassador, also praised the company’s creative approach to marketing. She referenced her dress at the 2021 Fashion Awards, which Dutch designer Iris van Herpen made from recycled Evian bottles.
Sustainability is a particularly important cause for the brand, which became certified carbon neutral in 2020. Proceeds from Evian’s U.S. Open cruise were donated to the Billion Oyster Project, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring Oyster reefs in New York Harbor.
Following the question-and-answer session, Sharapova stepped onto Evian’s waterside court to volley with one lucky fan. It was her first time playing tennis in heels. “It’s fashion week. We’re watching the U.S. Open final. It’s like bridging sport and fashion,” Sharapova told WWD.
After working with Evian for over a decade, Sharapova cites the importance of hydration as one of her primary reasons for sticking with the brand. Following her retirement from tennis in 2020, Sharapova says those healthy habits came in handy when she became a mother.
“Going through the process of breastfeeding, it’s like, ‘Are you eating the right things? Are you constantly drinking water?’ All of those little reminders throughout my career kind of came back to life,” she said.
Sharapova won her first Grand Slam tournament at age 17. Two years later, in 2006, she became a U.S. Open champion.
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of equal pay at the U.S. Open. In 1972, Billie Jean King threatened to withdraw from the tournament if they didn’t compensate men and women equally. The following year, the U.S. Open complied, becoming the first Grand Slam tournament to give the same amount of prize money to female players.
1973 also saw King defeat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes, which is widely credited with raising the profile of women’s tennis. These days, players like Gauff, Naomi Osaka and the Williams sisters are some of the sport’s biggest stars, though Sharapova says there is still work to be done.
“We’re still nowhere near where we should be in terms of equal play,” she explains. “I would love to see individual athletes be celebrated for their grit and power instead of some of the headlines that are out there.”