June 30, 2005
THE MODERATOR: Maria Sharapova for you.
Q. Has it occurred to you that the reason why Venus Williams played better than she played in years today, in fact, probably the best she's played in her life, is that her sister Serena being out of the tournament made her conscious of the fact that she had to carry the flag for the Williams family and put her demons to rest and play her best tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I don't think it has anything to do with family or anything like that. It was Venus out there. It wasn't Serena. I just played against a really good opponent. You know, I thought we played a really good match. Today it went to the better person.
Q. Did it surprise you how well she played?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. You can't be surprised in a semifinal of Wimbledon. Everybody's going to play their best tennis. Everybody's going to go out there and perform their best. It's absolutely normal.
Q. What did you think about your level of play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I don't think I played my best tennis. But credit to her for, you know, not making me play my best. She had a lot of deep balls - hard, deep balls. She was serving consistently big. On the contrary, I don't think I was serving as big. But I don't have as big a serve as her. I don't think I had a really high percentage. I don't know what it was, but it didn't seem like it.
Q. Was that a more physical match than your match against Serena in the final here last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, yeah, it was a totally different match. I think the level of tennis was a lot higher today from both of us.
Q. A lot of running and defense. Was it exhausting?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really feel tired right now. Maybe I'm mentally tired. But I think the quality of the match, yeah, we had a lot of long points.
Q. Was there a problem with the rescheduling of the matches?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no problem.
Q. What was the delay for?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, just because we were second match on. They were ready to play their first match. So when the courts finally got opened, you know, we were told that there's going to be a change. The other two players were ready to go on court, while we thought we were still playing second match. We had about 20, 25 minutes to get ready, to warm up and get ready.
Q. You were both fully ready to go on, were you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, we were all dressed. We just needed to warm up. That's why it took 25 minutes.
Q. Up until today, you haven't really been pushed in the tournament.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't been pushed (laughter)?
Q. You hadn't dropped a set.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. But the matches were still not easy.
Q. This was a totally different level.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right.
Q. Did you find that counted against you? Do you think maybe she was ready for a tougher match than you were?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I'm always ready for a tough match. It's normal. Like I say, it's a semifinal. You have to be ready for a tough match. If you're not, might as well not go on the court. You know, like I said, it's just one of those days where she played a great match, and maybe why I do as much as I could have done.
Q. A lot of people are surprised she still has that in her. Are you surprised that she still has that kind of force and precision, that she can play like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, if she's still playing out here, I think she's always trying to give the best that she can and always trying to compete and be better. I don't think -- if she was on the court, I don't think she'd just want to go out there and not do her best and not perform well. I mean, why be here if you don't want to be the best?
Q. Can you at all compare Venus' level of play against you today to the Venus you played the two times previously?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, like I said, I think it was the best she played of the previous encounters. She wasn't making as many errors, and obviously serving a lot bigger and more consistently. You know, that put a little bit of pressure on my serve. And I wasn't serving consistently. So she had the advantage on the return and wasn't making many errors.
Q. What did you think when she missed that first match point? Did you think you had a chance to get back in?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. It was just kind of funny, because I thought it was absolutely over. I mean, I was almost saying hello to the person watching the match. So, you know, I mean, the whole court was open, she made an error. I guess the match is still continuing.
Q. You said it's important to hold on to what you have. What are your feelings now with the loss of your greatest crown?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm obviously very sad. I mean, you know, this tournament means a lot to me - more than any other tournament. I guess there's many more years to come. You know, it's just one of those things where, you know, you want to win, but you can't.
Q. You'll return to hold up the trophy again on the final Saturday?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I will do everything I can, yeah.
Q. In the first set you were behind continually throughout that set. You had to fight hard to stay in the first set. You started off the second set down right away. It seemed like you maybe started going for more shots, making errors. Was there a reason that you found you started trying to do more? Her play was too good or you felt you had to do that much to be able to take control of the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, when I was down 5-2 in the first, you know, it was just one break of serve. But she was just playing, you know, too good, I thought. And then I was able to break her back. The game where I broke her, she didn't make as many first serves. I don't know if it's either nerves or whatever it is, you know, to win the first set. But I felt like, you know, I still had the chance to make it even because she wasn't serving as well as she was in the previous games. So once it got to 5-All, you know, I felt good. Then once we started the tiebreaker, I just -- I was down 1-0 and I'm serving and I made two errors that were about one inch wide. That's the way it goes with tennis. If I would have made them, you know, who knows what would have happened. We would have been back on serve.
Q. Was there any point in the match when you divorced yourself from the score and actually just enjoyed the tennis which was great?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I really try to do the best I can, you know, fight. I don't know.
Q. But did you enjoy the quality of the tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yeah, of course. When I came off the court, I knew the quality was good. But you also know that you lost the match, so it's hard to think that way.
Q. Looking forward, what are the things you feel you need to maybe improve a bit in your game or do differently in order to go a couple of rounds further?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think I need to be stronger. The stronger I get, the bigger my serve will be, the easier it will be for me, you know, to maybe hold serve and get more free points. But at 18, I don't think it's possible to have a huge consistent serve, and I realize that and I accept it. I know with hard work and practice and repetition it will get bigger and stronger and more accurate.
Q. What about taking advantage of the big groundstrokes that you hit and trying to end the points a little earlier with volleying? Today she had success coming in at times. If you were able to come in and get more easy points with the volley.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you. Thanks for the coaching (laughter).
Q. How difficult was it with the rain delay to prepare with sort of eating, drinking, warming up, psyching up, that sort of thing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was pretty boring. Not much to do. Just eat and wait around, read. I mean, try to walk around, but there's -- you realize there's really nowhere to go.
Q. Have you ever played in a match before where the balls just kept coming back so hard and deep and in as relentless a manner as it did today against Venus?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I've played really tough matches before, even in the juniors. It's hard to say because they're totally different opponents. I mean, you know, Justine is the kind of player that, you know, likes to play defense, gets a lot of balls back and waits for opportunity, you know, to go for a big one. Whereas, you know, Venus today was hitting, you know, big shots, big on the offensive. You know, sometimes that works and sometimes you're making every shot and you feel like you can make every shot from any part of the court, and sometimes you can make errors. You know, it's different to say. But I have in the past, yeah.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.