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July 22, 2009

Maria Sharapova

THE MODERATOR: If you would like to start with any opening comments, then we'll open it up for questions.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Questions are great.

Q. How would you say your return from injury is going?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's been wonderful. I went to Europe. I was there for seven weeks, then didn't have to come back earlier than planned. You know, I obviously was a little bit disappointed with Wimbledon. It was a tough match. With the way my arm held up, I was really happy.
You know, I came back. I went to work. I went back on the court, started working.

Q. As far as today goes, what was the best part of today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The best part, you know, is California is like my second home. It's always great to come back and know that I can play a match before the hard court season begins, and go out and play doubles, which I don't do very often.
I've had great experiences in my previous World TeamTennis matches starting when I was very young. That's what draws me to coming back every year, is the atmosphere, the team atmosphere, being on a team, which we don't get to do, and having a little bit of fun with it, as well.

Q. Do people ever confuse you with Anna Kournikova? How do you react to that when that happens?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, actually over the years, you know, I think my dog is actually more popular now. I was walking my dog the other day. Is that that famous dog? I'm like, Are you looking at the dog (laughter)?
It's funny, I feel like people recognize my own brand and the name Maria Sharapova. Before it was like, Is that her? Maybe. Now it's like, That is Maria Sharapova.
It's still strange no matter how many times people ask me for an autograph or ask me if it is me, it still comes as a surprise. It's always very flattering.

Q. Can you talk about the hardest part of rehab. Did you lose faith ever that you were going to be able to get back playing like you want to play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I never lost faith because I knew the things I had already accomplished were way beyond what I ever dreamed of in my life. So to already have that in my pocket and look forward to getting back and playing, doing what I love was a challenge.
But I had a great team around me that kept me really positive. By no means was it easy, an easy flow. Definitely I had ups and downs. I had days where I had to push myself more than I've ever had to mentally than physically.
It all pays off. Obviously just getting to be able to play tennis again is an achievement in itself. Now it's about preparing myself, forgetting about what I went through, just preparing my game, getting back into the form where I was, and even better.

Q. Seeing Venus and Serena in the finals, were you champing at the bit, Let me get out there, be better, playing those two?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, absolutely not. I was in the draw. I had my chances. I played against a tough opponent on a tough day, and it just didn't go my way. I certainly had my opportunities.
Who knows what would have happened if I won that match. I scrambled through a few at the French Open. I got myself into a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam my second tournament back. You never know. You obviously never know what can happen.
But you get prepared as best as you can and you have to let things go and they're gonna happen. When they do, it's wonderful. When the times are tough, you've just got to keep going.

Q. What are you looking for from the summer hard court season?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Playing matches. Going out there, playing, performing. That's what I didn't do. In a few weeks it will be a whole year, basically since I hurt my arm really bad. So just enjoying being out there and really with every match working on getting myself better and, you know, playing. Just playing tennis.

Q. What is the current status of your shoulder?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It feels really good. After Wimbledon I went back to Phoenix and I kept working on it. It's not something that you just stop when it feels good. You have to keep working on it. You have to keep getting it stronger.
For the rest of my career I'll be doing shoulder exercises. It won't be as fun as I want it to be. It's all a routine. But you know what, everyone has to do it. Everyone has injuries. It's part of the game. If you want to be back out there, you've got to work hard, not just through tennis, but many other things.

Q. Do you expect to be a hundred percent by the time the US Open comes around?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. A hundred percent with my arm, yes. Yeah, for sure. I mean, if I wasn't at that point, I certainly wouldn't be playing. That's why I took my time and gave myself a chance to really go out there and to feel like I didn't have any excuses.

Q. Do you know your next tournament?

Q. Are you worried about back-to-back tournaments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I've really built my arm up pretty well. I did it going from Poland to Roland Garros in pretty difficult conditions with heavier balls. I did it going from Birmingham to Wimbledon.
I mean, listen, it's not that none of these tournaments are going to be tough. I feel like a lot of the upcoming matches are going to be tough. I'm still getting the rustiness kind of away from me.
But absolutely, I'm gonna take each tournament and just try to build on that and build on my game and build on the confidence in my arm that I can do it over and over.

Q. How do you approach a match like this knowing that you're not a hundred percent?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I am a hundred percent.

Q. You're a hundred percent?

Q. Do you ever stop and think that you're young to be staging a major comeback like this?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Because in a tennis athlete's world, I started when I was very young, I started playing professionally when I was 14 or 15 years old. Absolutely not. At 22, you consider you've been playing on the Pro Tour that many years, it's definitely not a surprise.
It is a little surprising to see so many girls kind of coming out of the woodwork and there's so many years younger than you. You're like, Where did the time go?
But, you know, I enjoy every single year of it. As I get older, I become a much wiser person on the court. I learn a lot in life. A learn a lot from my profession, from what I do. I'm definitely not sad that the years are going by.

Q. Did you have to rebuild your serve at all? Is the motion different? Take us through that process.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: After surgery I definitely had to shorten up my motion to make it easier on my arm. That's something that I'm still working on and still tuning up. Is it where I want it to be? I still think that I have work to do. But I think it's gonna come along. Like I said, there's nothing that hard work can't achieve.

Q. How old were you when you first started World TeamTennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I believe I was 15.

Q. Was it with the Breakers?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. It was in Delaware. I did the full season.

Q. Talk about your past experience with WTT, what you get out of it. Does it help your game? Break from the grind of the tour?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. Remembering when I was young, it gave me so much experience. I remember I played junior Wimbledon and I went straight to Delaware. It was a whole new format for me, a whole new experience. For the first time, because tennis is such an individual sport, I felt like I was part of a team. You have teammates on a bench, the coach on a bench. It's definitely developed. Now you have the challenge system. World TeamTennis itself has developed and has become so much more fun.
The schedule is definitely grueling. That's what I think taught me so many things. At 15 I was so happy to be playing against someone like Amanda Coetzer, who at the time was a top player. To have the opportunity to play against those girls, it gave me experience that I don't know where else I could have got. After that I actually went up to Canada and won a pretty big tournament.
It definitely helped me.

Q. Most memorable World TeamTennis memory?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it was that year. That year I got to play so many top players. I was just thinking to myself, Wow. Apart from playing Monica Seles in Indian Wells, which was my first big match on the professional circuit, that whole experience was really gratifying.

Q. Talk about Carson. You had a win over Petrova. Manhattan Beach. Must be nice to sleep in your own bed.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It is. It's so nice. I love this time of year because I feel like all the tournaments are fairly close. California is my second home. My coach lives here. I have many friends and supporters here. I feel like I can get everyone tickets and everyone can watch me play 30 minutes away rather than having to travel all the way to Europe or somewhere like that. It makes it a lot easier for them.
Yeah, I've kind of been unlucky in a way. I've either gotten injured or this and that. I remember I was in the semis a couple years ago, had to default. I'm excited to be back. I love playing it. I was just training there a few days ago, getting used to those courts. So, yeah.

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