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July 20, 2010

Maria Sharapova

THE MODERATOR: Maria, thank you for your time.
THE MODERATOR: Maria is back for a 6th season the Breakers. She started with the Breakers in 2003, was a member of the WTT championship team in 2004, and 2005 as well, 2007, and the last two years. She's a 22 time WTA tour winner, and three time Grand Slam champion.
Just want to open up with some general comments on how you feel being back in Newport Beach with the Breakers yet again?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, this is a great part of the year for me, and I love starting off the year coming and playing a match at World TeamTennis to get the summer rolling and the hardcourt season.
It's so close to my house. It's just a drive away. I get to come here, and, you know, have a great warmup before I start playing tournaments.
The format is fun. You're part of a team. So it's always fun for me.

Q. You've won three Grand Slam titles, and I know you were pretty encouraged with Wimbledon, right, how that went? I was wondering if you kind of feel like you're back on that track to kind of go deep in the second week of the Grand Slams again?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, absolutely. It takes a while to adjust to so many things after you're out of the game for such a long time. It's definitely, you know, fun for me to be out there and feeling like I was starting to play my game again and getting back into the groove of things.
That certainly gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.

Q. Do you feel you have another Grand Slam win in you? How long of a window of opportunity do you have?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. If I didn't feel like I had it in me I wouldn't be going out on the court every day and working to become a better player. I wouldn't be fighting to win my tennis matches.
The Grand Slams are the big ones. That's what we go out and work for. That's certainly something that I want to add to my collection.

Q. Maria, just wondering what your favorite part of this format is? Do you like playing the singles? Doubles? Mixed? It's a unique format.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don't get to play much doubles, so actually the doubles for me is a lot of fun. And the fact that you're just part of a team atmosphere. You know, tennis is such an individual sport. Apart from Federational Cup, you're not really in a team atmosphere.
So to be part of this, and also something that I've been part of for many years, you know, to support Billy Jean King, it's always great.

Q. Is this the only World TeamTennis...

Q. Speaking of doubles, you'll be playing doubles at Stanford, correct, with Wickmayer?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know yet. We're still deciding.

Q. Are you gonna play singles at all?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, I'm definitely playing single.

Q. Do you follow the Breakers at all?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I sometimes turn on the Tennis Channel when some of the matches are on so I'll get to watch a little bit.
Yeah, I certainly follow -- I mean, don't go every day and see everyone's score and everything. But, yeah, I do follow 'em.

Q. You have certainly been loyal to World TeamTennis. When you made your debut with Delaware, you were the youngest person in WTT history at the time at age 15. What keeps you coming back to playing World TeamTennis? And can you touch on your friendship with Billie Jean King?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you know, I've had a friendship with Billie Jean King for many years. This is something that she started and something that's so close to her heart.
To be a part of it, like you said, when I was 15 years old, just gave me a tremendous amount of experience. And as someone that was young and couldn't play many tournaments on the tour, I was limited to the amount of experience I could get.
So to be able to travel for two or three weeks and play some great players, even if it's not two sets, but to have that experience behind your back -- you know, I remember finishing the season and I remember I played a challenger or future and I won it. I felt like I had gained so much from this experience.
And now, you know, even though I don't do the full season, I love being a part of it. Like I said, it's really close to where I live. And to be able to come out and play and also have a bit of fun and play some doubles is great for me.

Q. Just a follow up to that. We have John McEnroe coming Thursday. He's still playing; still playing well. How many years of WTT do you think you have in you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I hope I get invited back when I'm retired. But it's so great to see, you know, especially past champions get an opportunity to come in, even if it's just for a few matches. You know, bring -- some that haven't played for many years, so it's kind of that excitement to see how they're doing and how they're playing.
And then you have characters like John, who you don't even need to watch play. You can just see him, and the way he interacts with the crowd and the way he goes about things, it's great for the people that come and watch.

Q. Last year, obviously your shoulder wasn't in the best of shape. Where do you rate your health, specifically your shoulder right now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm doing really well. My shoulder has come a long way. It's a lot stronger than when I was sitting here a year ago. I feel like I can play many matches throughout the whole summer and not have to worry about it as much as maybe I did previously.
So like I said, I'm really looking forward to the end of the year.

Q. Have you had to make any mechanical adjustments in the way you hit the ball, anything like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did in the beginning, but no, not now.

Q. How do you feel you're playing right now? How do you feel your game is right now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Good. You know, I had a good Wimbledon. You know, I definitely could have changed a few things around.
But been training the last week or so, and I feel good.

Q. Segue away from tennis. You recently were in Belarus for your charitable foundation. Can you tell us about that? What's it all about? What's it called? And why you're in it and how you get in there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm a global ambassador for UNDP in Chernobyl-affected areas, and I made my visit to Belarus. It's one of the three affected areas, along with Ukraine and Russia.
Belarus is where both of my parents were from before I was born. When Chernobyl hit in 1986, we fled to Russia because of Chernobyl. So if it wasn't for that, I would probably be born in Belarus.
I started working with the UNDP about three years ago. First I was kind of like the voice in bringing -- you know, the voice that's being brought to the regions in order to tell them that people around the world are very well aware of the accident and that it's still affecting many lives.
It's something that happened so long ago, but in the beginning when I really began learning about it, I realized how everyone thought that happened in 1986, but it's so long forgotten. When you say that there are so many affected families and kids in those regions, everyone is a little shocked and surprised.
Now we have eight projects going on in the regions helping those families, and now we're also gonna start working on sports centers, because they're a little bit behind in those ways.
But I also have an art scholarship program for three students right now. I'm funding their education, their yearly education in art university. So I got to meet them and talk to them about how it's going.

Q. When you say sports centers, tennis courts part of that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, but, you know, it's more about -- for me personally, it's all about having a healthy lifestyle. In those regions because of depression, because of what had happened, a lot of the families have really poor lifestyles. They really don't believe in staying active and being outdoors and really afraid and not really determined to look ahead.
I want to be able to give them an opportunity where they can go and their kids and families. Mostly it's a recreational center. This is not so much for them to become incredible tennis players, but also just to enjoy sports.

Q. Just curious, we haven't gotten the information, but do you know what event you're playing in tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, I'm playing all three. All the three I can play in as a girl. Yes. (Laughing.)

Q. Earlier this year you won in Memphis, and then you had your shoulder -- elbow injury.

Q. And then you also won on clay in Strasbourg, but you haven't had anything on tour since a month ago. What have you been doing for the past four weeks?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Has it been four weeks already since Wimbledon? Wow. Time flies.
I took a little bit of time off. I went to Belarus; I did some things for Sony Ericsson in Sweden; I took a little vacation in Italy, and then got back here and started training.

Q. Of your three Grand Slam singles that you have so far, looking back, is there one that means the most to you or you feel that played the best at that tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, think Wimbledon, because it was -- I think just having your first one and the way it happened, you know, where I never really expected it, and just because the tournament itself meant so much to me ever since I was a junior.
So I think that will always be no matter what else I achieve in my career.
THE MODERATOR: Maria, thanks for joining us.

End of FastScripts

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