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June 21, 2005

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Maria Sharapova. We'll take questions in English, please.

Q. You could make an argument that your serve is the most improved part of your game over the last year. Can you go into some detail about when you really started working very seriously with your serve and how it's developed over the last 12 months.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I don't think -- I don't think my serve is as powerful as I would like it to get yet. But I think that's not just going out on the court and trying to serve big, bigger and bigger. I think, you know, it's also going in the gym and working certain muscles that will help you create a bigger serve. But, you know, it's also very important to mix up the serve and, you know, to place it well. And I think I do a better job of that rather than have a huge serve. I don't serve, you know, consistently -- you know, I don't serve like maybe 105 average first serve I have. But I think it's more -- I think I still need to work on the consistency. But I think it's always been about placement for me rather than a lot of power.

Q. What is the feeling to walk out on Centre Court for you as champion and how would you compare it to the feeling last year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was so amazing. I was just smiling. I usually don't smile when I go out on the court. You know, the people are clapping. You're just taking it all in. You're remembering last year. This is where, you know, magic happened, I guess. So it was just really good to feel that again.

Q. Did you feel it was a comfortable enough victory for you today? Were you happy with the way you played?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, first rounds you never know what to expect. You know, I played her three weeks ago on clay. It was totally different, obviously. The pace of the court here is a lot different. I think she struggled with that a little bit. But other than that, yeah, I mean, I can get a lot better from here obviously. I did enough to win and, you know, pretty satisfied.

Q. I think your grunting may have reached record levels today. Do you think you were particularly loud?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: You always ask me the same questions (laughter). Like I told you already, I don't pay attention to that, and I never have and probably never will.

Q. Can you talk about the difficulty in making a transition from clay to grass? Not many players have been able to win both. Nadal and Justine are coming in. Some people think Nadal doesn't have a chance. Can you talk about why it's so difficult to make that transition.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, because they're absolute opposites, I mean, pace-wise, stability-wise. The movement on the court is so different. On the clay, when you move side to side, you know, you have to be able to grip yourself because you're going to slide into the shot. And on grass -- and I think that's one of the problems that players have is, you know, good players on clay, they like the sliding, they like hitting their shot, they like sliding into the shot. And then when they change to the grass court, you grip on the grass, and you have to recover faster. I feel better, you know, with the grip. I grip, and I feel like I recover a lot faster. And also if you hit high angles on this court, basically these angles are going to be like a short approach shot. And on clay they're effective, you know, if you put more spin on them. But here they just stand up and the point's over. And I think that's, you know -- if a person likes to play defense, like Nadal, he has a much better chance on clay obviously because clay, a big part of it is defense. And on grass I think you have to start the point off well and you have to be in control from the beginning of the point.

Q. You mentioned working out in the gym quite a lot. How intense has that been to improve your strength and power this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, it's been -- it's been really important strength-wise and, uhm, endurance-wise moving on the court. You know, I'm a tall girl and I grew really fast in a short period of time, that was like two or three years ago. But it took me a while to get used to my body. You know, I still have to move a lot better. And, uhm, strength-wise, sometimes I feel like my arm is like a swan's neck, it is so weak. But I'm getting there. I'm working on it. You know, I'm trying to find as much time as I can. But, you know, it's hard during tournaments because you don't have a lot of time if you're winning or if you're far into the tournament.

Q. It's shaping up to be an interesting women's tournament this year with such good players. Would it mean more to you to win this tournament this year with the caliber of players who it looks like you'll come up against?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, you know, without or with great players, I think it means a lot just to win this Grand Slam. Obviously, the competition's very high, and that's great because that's what the sport is all about. That's why I play, because I love the competition. I love going out there and having a player, you know, that has the weapons, that has a big serve, you know, whatever it may be to beat me. And I love going out there and challenging myself, you know, trying to compete and do the best I can.

Q. What is it like to play in gold-trimmed tennis sneakers?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I just need some wings and I feel like I can fly off (laughter). It feels good. They're great shoes. I've been getting a lot of compliments. But everybody's offering me a safe these days.

Q. Did you check if any of the studs have fallen off?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, they haven't. They're pretty secure.

Q. The last time you were on that court was the end of the tournament, semifinals and finals. It was a little different I would think from today. It was pretty chewed up, was it?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it's greener, so it's a little more slippery.

Q. I mean, last year it was chewed up by the final.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Oh, yeah, of course.

Q. You could sense a great difference?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, the first rounds of this tournament, it's usually a bit different. The courts at Aorangi are, you know, different because everybody has been practicing on them for a week already, so they're very chewed up and the ball bounces faster and there are a lot more weird bounces rather there on Centre. There aren't as many bad bounces, but it's a little more slower and more slippery.

Q. Do you think this year will be harder to win than last year? Everyone's probably out to get you as defending champion and also it's maybe more competitive.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, of course. Everyone's trying to beat the No. 2 player in the world. It's absolutely normal. But I just go out there and no matter who I'm playing, no matter how hungry they are to beat me, you know, on the other side I want to beat them as well. So it's not like they're happy to go out and play me, you know. But I love the competition. I love when, you know, people want to beat me or underestimate me. I love that because I love that challenge.

Q. There have been a lot of stories in the papers about the stalkers at Wimbledon. I know you talked about the issue on Sunday. I wondered today if it crossed your mind at all when you were on court?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not at all. It was the last thing I worried about.

End of FastScripts….

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