It's official - Burnley, Lancashire, has come down with a severe case of Sharapove mania. Unemployed wasters in the town - famous for having Britain's cheapest house - have taken to Maria Sharapova, and huddle around TV sets whenever the Russian tennis ace takes to the court at Wimbledon. Or anywhere else for that matter.
So popular is Sharapova in the east Lancs mill town that the Mayor of Burnley, Kevin Otterthwaite has invited her to attend a civic reception in the town, irrespective of how she performs in the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Final. It is doubtful that Miss Sharapova will be in attendance.
The 6'3" star is said to be flattered by all the attention bestowed on her by the people of Burnley and is rumoured to be dedicating her Wimbledon victory, should she win, to the people of Burnley.
In an ironic twist of fate, locals in neighbouring Blackburn - bitter local rivals - are being swept by Petra Kvitova fever, as the ladies square off in the showpiece Venus Rosewater Dish Wimbledon Ladies Singles Final. Interestingly, neither town was too impressed by Andy Murray, who is widely regarded in this neck of the woods as "shite,"
Sharapova may have been widely criticised for her unladylike screeching and grunting when she plays her tennis shots, but it certainly isn't putting off her legions of Burnley based fans.
One told us:
"Aye lad. I must admit that all the grunting and squealing put me off a bit at first, but then I got used to it. There's nowt not to like about Maria. She's bloody lovely, she is. Personally, I don't care how tall she is - it doesn't matter when she's lying down. Her height might be a bit restrictive, like, if I were to take her in an old pub with a low ceiling, but I expect she gets that all the time. Me and all me mates have life sized cardboard cut-outs of her in us bedrooms, yer know. We'd rather have t' real thing like, but a cut-out will have to suffice for t' moment. It's called make do and mend."
So, will it be unrestrained celebrations in Burnley or Blackburn after the match? The smart money is on Burnley, but we'll bring you...
...more as we get it.