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August 29, 2005

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria, please.

Q. After the first two games, your level seemed to pick up and you got your confidence and were hitting your shots. Talk about how you felt.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was good. You know, the first few games was a little bit tough. Haven't played a lot of matches, so I'm just trying to get used to the conditions, the stadium, the wind, playing under the lights for the first time in a while. So, you know, it felt good. It felt really good. You know, when you're out for a little while, you go out there and, you know, really felt like I missed it. So it was a good feeling to be back on the court.

Q. Power-wise, your serve was pretty close to where you want it? Groundstroke-wise, you seemed to be hitting pretty much the way you want to, is that right?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I felt pretty good speed-wise. Still think I can hit my serve a little bit bigger. But I think I really needed it today. I don't know the percentage of it, but I felt like I was hitting my spots pretty well whenever I needed to. You know, I'll keep improving, I think, as you get more confidence with your shots. You know, first match you're a little tentative. The injury, you don't know how it's going to be. So far it's okay.

Q. Do you feel physically stronger?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I actually do. I feel a lot stronger in my arm. And I moved quite well today. I don't think I moved that well in quite a while.

Q. Even if the first games were pretty close, you managed to win them all. How do you feel mentally?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was very important. I was down 15-40, Love-40 on my serve. But I was cool. You know, I didn't let that bother me. I felt like I was in control. You know, mentally felt good.

Q. Movement-wise, you hit some nice defensive shots, all that. Is that from the off-court training you had to do?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think so. I did a lot of strengthening, a lot of running. I'm still working on it during the tournament. I'm running in Central Park like every single day, getting my movement, still trying to get my arm stronger. But I definitely feel it on the court.

Q. It seemed like you were grunting a little less today. What controls whether you grunt or not?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Nothing really.

Q. Is it control?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't pay attention to it.

Q. You've talked about the events over the last few months. It has to give you some confidence that you played some good defensive points, that you can stay in there against some of the elite players.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I felt like I hit a few shots automatically. I didn't really think about them. Once I hit them, I'd say, "Woops, that's good." Don't do too much of that. It kind of worked, especially with her one-handed backhand, she doesn't really like that.

Q. Some players get a bit bored with the physical work you have to put in. How are you with it? Are you okay?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I hate the gym. Yeah, I hate the physical work, I truly do. But I used to hate running about eight months ago, but I started running, got my running play list on my iPod now, so that really helps. No, I'm not a huge fan of going to the gym. I think when I retire, I don't know what I'm going to do to keep in shape because I'm just going to get so sick of the gym.

Q. What songs have you got?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Really up-beat ones that keep me going and make me run faster. I think 50 Cent is really good to run to.

Q. How did you find the heat tonight?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was humid. It was really humid. I was sweating. I usually never really take a towel on my side of the court. But I had the towel. Yeah, it was pretty humid.

Q. Is that a concern for the tournament?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. As long as it's not -- when it's sunny, I think it's more heat because not only is it humid, but the sun's, you know, totally, I don't know, on you. Feels a lot hotter. But the humidity, I'm pretty used to the humidity.

Q. Earlier today Svetlana lost. She almost seemed in a sense relieved to get the pressure off her. You are somebody who also won a major at a young age. Can you relate a little bit to the pressure she felt? Have you observed her a little bit this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really think it had a lot to do with the pressure. I think she's been pretty injured. So, uhm, it's kind of tough to come in as a defending champion. You know, I'm sure she's not the kind of player that even though she's injured, she knows she's going to a Grand Slam, and, you know, you don't want to pull out because of, you know, injuries and things. That's what I felt. I mean, she had a back problem, right, in the last few tournaments. That's the way our sport goes. I don't think she was -- I mean, we're not talking even about mentally. I don't think she was physically ready, and that's tough.

Q. She herself said that mentally it's been very draining on her this year.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, uhm, you know, that's the way it is. It's not just a physical sport out there. You know, I've gotten a little bit of everything in the last year, being a defending champion at Wimbledon. You know, I thought I got through it pretty well. But, you know, it's hard when people expect you to win all the time. Of course, it's difficult. I was in that period right after I won Wimbledon. The next four months I felt like I had to win every single match. It's just a matter of yourself -- just telling yourself that, you know, it's impossible to win everything no matter what people say. You can't control people's actions. You can't let anybody bother you.

Q. Can it help sometimes, providing you recover, to have had a bit of an injury going into a Grand Slam? Maybe that takes a little bit of the pressure off. Maybe your expectations and people's expectations of you...

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I'd rather -- you know, I'd rather have a few matches under my belt going into an important Grand Slam. I mean, I don't know. I don't think -- I just think once you feel like you have to take things away from your mind once you start playing. If you just think about it, think about how injured you are, there's no use going out and playing.

Q. Has it affected your expectations at this tournament?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, because -- it was getting better. Since I didn't get enough match play, I was kind of looking forward to seeing how it does. That's the hard thing, is you don't have the matches going in. Practice and playing, the tournament is so different.

Q. When you're struggling with confidence like Kuznetsova, what do you actually do to win matches?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. My big thing is going out on the practice court and just working on the things that -- just keep working, keep working hard, you know, because one day you're going to go out on the court and you'll win a match and you'll look back and you realize that the hard work paid off. And that's exactly what I did after last year. You know, I lost here. I just went out and I worked my butt off.

Q. Do you have the No. 1 spot in the ranking on your mind?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I obviously know that I was No. 1. I was (laughter). I know I'm - how do you say - I'm not used to saying this. I know that I was No. 1. But it's not like I think about it every second, no.

Q. Wimbledon is always going to be a special place for you. What would it mean for you to put two weeks of good tennis here, standing on that court with the trophy on the final Sunday?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It would be an amazing achievement. I love coming back to New York. I love playing in front of these fans. I mean, every tournament's so different. But the people here, I think it's the toughest Grand Slam to win, you know, just because of the traffic, getting here (laughter). It's just a busy city. You know, it's hard to kind of keep your mind onto what you have to do. Even if you don't do any appearances or anything like that. Just going back to the hotel, it's like always rush hour. It's like always rush hour. But it would mean a lot. You know, like I said, I don't think I've showed New York how I can play tennis. Hopefully, you know, I can put some good matches in here for my New York fans.

Q. When is the last time you took the subway?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it was in Moscow about four years ago.

Q. I mean here in New York.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think I ever took a subway.

Q. Not even as a Junior?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I never took the subway. I didn't spend a lot of time in New York when I was a Junior.

Q. Who were your favorite players growing up?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I never -- I know it's weird, but I never had an idol. I never really looked up to anyone. No offense to anyone. I just didn't really pay attention. I wasn't like, "Wow, this player is amazing." I just took good things from some players. I looked up to how they did that. They kind of set good examples. It wasn't like there was one that was, "Wow, I want to be just like them."

Q. There seem to be an endless amount of Russians arriving year after year. What does Russia have that other countries don't?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's the mentality, their tough mentality, their hard work and dedication to what they do. They're fighters out there. They don't want to lose.

End of FastScripts….

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