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March 31, 2005

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. We all thought you played very well. Venus said she was tired. Can you elaborate on that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I'll just say that I thought I played really well. I was in control for most of the match, and I was serving really well, and I was getting a lot of advantage from them, and I was able to break her in the first set when she tried to hold her serve at 5-4. I think she was making a lot of errors from her forehand side, which gave me the confidence of knowing that even when I'm in trouble, you know, one way or another I thought that she might make an error. You know, I was really positive, even when she started to try to fight back and try to run and get everything back. I was just trying to fight out there, knowing that I, you know, I wanted to do my best and just fight till the end.

Q. Can you tell us, it's two minutes before the match, you're going out to play Venus Williams, what's your mental checklist?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really have one (laughing). It's pretty boring. I don't -- I'm just happy to be, you know, out on center court, thanking God that I can have this opportunity I guess, I don't know. I mean, there's nothing in particular that I think about.

Q. You're not thinking about things, like you want to keep the points long to exploit whatever...

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I just worry about that when I'm on the court.

Q. You really had her running back and forth all day long. I mean, how are you able to get her on the run so much?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I don't know. When you're dictating, I guess the person's going to always be on the run. You know, I was able, I was able to hit the first ball. It's either you or her that's going to start dictating. She's not going to give back and she's not going to let you get in a game. I knew that from the first ball I had to take advantage of it, you know. If I was going to hit down the middle of the court, you know, an easy shot, she's not the kind of girl that's gonna give it to me.

Q. Were you disappointed not to play Serena in this semifinal? Or you don't care?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It didn't really matter to me. I'm just happy to be in the final.

Q. What are your plans for the season in Europe, the clay court season?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: You mean schedule-wise?

Q. Yes. Beside of course Roland Garros.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right now I'm planning to play Berlin and Rome.

Q. Two days ago you had some difficulty with your serve, double-faulting when you were up 40-Love. Today you were serving almost impeccable right up to the final game. Did you make some adjustments in the last two days?


Q. Do you have any explanation for what happened today?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, tennis is a game which is very -- it's actually very hard to explain because I'll give you a good example of what happened in Indian Wells, is the day before I played Lindsay I played against Mary Pierce. I thought I played great tennis. The next day, I come out, I was serving really well, I was returning really well, I was doing everything well except I wake up and I play against Lindsay and basically I go down the drain. So this is just tennis. You wake up, you either step on your right foot or your left, and, you know, hopefully you step on your right.

Q. What do you tell yourself after a loss like that with Lindsay?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: There's not much to say. I mean, I don't know. You know, it was a long time ago to me. I just -- I'm just worried about being here right now.

Q. Finals, it could be Kim Clijsters or Amelie Mauresmo. Can you talk about how you match up with each of those.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't played Amelie before. I played Kim once a long time ago, before her injury, obviously. You know, just I'm sure it's going to be great tennis with whoever I play. It's going to be a tough match either way. I feel that I've been improving with every single match that I've been playing, and I feel like I'm in pretty good shape. I'm, you know, I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be in the final. Doesn't really matter to me who I play.

Q. Can you talk about Kim and her comeback. Have you been able to watch her play this week?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think, you know, it's quite incredible, after being out for so long, you know, and almost not to be able to play tennis again in your life, you know, is a scary thought, and a lot of respect to her for being able to fight back and to stay positive and, you know, to win a title last week. She says -- she has such a great personality. To see her back is great.

Q. Will you be playing for Russia for Fed Cup?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Who else would I be playing for?

Q. I have read that in the past, Dementieva, other people didn't want you on the Fed Cup team. Is all that in the past?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that's definitely in the past.

Q. How would you assess Venus' game right now? There's always talk about is she up, is she down, can she win a big one again. Having just played her, what would you say about Venus?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it's hard for an opponent to talk good about, you know, who you're playing. But I think she's got a lot of fighting spirit out there. She just fights till the end. She really wants it bad. You know when you play her, you know it's not going to be an easy match. She has a big serve, which is one of her biggest weapons; a great backhand; and she's fast. There's not too many weaknesses in her game, you know. But it's just a matter of going out there and trying to win, and trying to fight, no matter how good she is.

Q. When she dug in there that last game, those were the only breakpoints she had. I assume you were happy with the way you responded in that situation, you had some of your best rallies.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was. It was, I thought, the best game in the match. You know, being Love-40 down is not the best situation you can be at when you're up 5-3 serving for it. So, you know, I didn't want to be -- I didn't want it to become 5-4 and then all of a sudden I'm not up in the match again. It's a whole new battle out there. So I guess I just -- I was very proud of myself for being able to win that game. It was a tough one.

Q. You have a lot of things going on, potential things going on in your life. Have you told the people around you, your team, "This is my tennis schedule, this is when I'm going to train, I don't want to be disturbed between these particular hours. That's number one. If I have any time, I'll take care of the other things"?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I usually tell them on the spot if I'm really pissed or I'm really tired, I'll just tell them to get out (laughing). No, you know, I have a pretty well-based schedule. I think -- it's a calendar with, you know, with all the days of the week and, you know, you have to sort of place, you know, where you're going to play tennis and where you have time for your sponsors, and then there's off time, which is probably only ten days of the year. But there's a whole team behind it - obviously, me, my parents, my manager, and a lot of people involved with trying to figure out what's best. And of course tennis, tennis is always the top priority on that schedule.

Q. You were very young when Venus was invincible. What was it like the first time you walked on to the court with her?


Q. You were very young when she was invincible. What was it like when you first walked on to a court with her, opposing her?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Same as a walk with any other player. I mean, I'd have the same mentality in my mind that, you know, I wanted to beat them no matter who it was on the other side. I knew that it's not going to be easy to get that, but I was going to do everything I was capable of doing to win.

Q. No awe?


Q. When you hear a player say that they're busy with other things or not really focusing on the game the way they might, there's a lot going on in their life, is that a copout? When an athlete says it, does another athlete say they're not coming to grips with what they've got to do?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think it's an individual's decision. It's either you want tennis to be your No. 1 priority and, you know, you set the other things on the side, or you prefer doing other things than playing tennis. But, I mean, there's also a lot to it that can be mental with saying that, you know, you have many interests, but you're still playing tennis and you're kicking everyone's butt so...

Q. Which loss was harder to come back from, bounce back from, the loss to Serena in Australia or the loss to Lindsay last week?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the one with Serena was a lot -- the first day was a lot tougher to get through because you're so close to being in another Grand Slam final. But I shook it off really fast. Against Lindsay, I just -- I forgot about it right after that. It was no point in talking about it because there's really nothing to talk or think about.

Q. Since Wimbledon, have you found it harder to sort of fight off the distractions?


Q. How do you stay focused on tennis?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've always been really, really happy on the court. You know, when I'm on the court, everything around me goes away. All my worries, all my things that I do off the court, those things go away. I don't think about what I did five minutes ago when I was off the court. I think that's what really motivates me, is when I have five days off and I'm doing shoots or I'm doing whatever I am for my sponsors, and I'm really hungry to get back on the court, because that's where I feel, "That's what I do, this is my job, and I love doing it." So, I mean, everybody's different, and I respect that, but I've always felt really anxious and really hungry to get on the court after being, you know, off it for so long. I take it as just a job that I really, really enjoy. It comes naturally. If I was forcing myself to be on the tennis court, then obviously it wouldn't be my No. 1 priority. But at this point it is.

Q. Maria, I've got to ask you, what's in the bag? I keep waiting for a dog to pop out of there.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't have a Chihuahua yet, but I have my cell phone, and I have my iPod and...

Q. You know what, never mind.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: (Laughing). John Grisham (holding up a book), and I have sunscreen if anyone needs some, and I have a Sharpie (laughing). No dog, but maybe soon (laughing).

End of FastScripts….

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