March 17, 2005
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
Q. It was a tough match out there tonight.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, yeah, it was. You know, the first few games were very tough. She came out, you know, hitting some really good shots. I thought I served well. So in the beginning, I held my serve pretty easy, and I think some of her games, you know, went to deuce and breakpoints. I think she had a lot of pressure on her because she knew I was serving well. It was important for me to serve well today.
Q. You were also pressuring her on her serve with 11 breakpoints.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was. I couldn't convert the first few breakpoints that I had. But, you know, as the match went on, I think I converted more than I did at the beginning.
Q. Sometimes you hit the ball with the forehand. Can you explain how you did that, with a reflex?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, because naturally I'm a lefty. Sometimes I hit a running lefty forehand.
Q. But why do you play with the right hand?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. Because for some reason I started with right-handed, and then I used to play both handed. I played two hands on both sides when I was younger. I played a little bit of lefty. Then I played with righty.
Q. But you are writing with your right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I write with the right. I used to when I was little, I could write with my right. I eat with my left. Anything I do, like with soccer or anything, is all with my left.
Q. How eager were you to avenge last year's lost?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't really worry about what happened in our previous match. Just try to focus on today. You know, I think I served really well throughout the whole match, and that was very important. I was calm, you know, even when she came up with really good shots. So, you know, I think she played a great match. I was just able to -- you know, in the first few games, I didn't take my chances when I had the breakpoints. But I finally converted one and it sort of opened up the door for me.
Q. Did you see Mary when you were a little girl in Florida?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No.
Q. Mary served 75%, yet she won less than half the points when she was accurate with her first serve. That says a great deal about your returns. How much bearing on your victory do you suppose they had?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I took away some of her big serves today. You know, she has a few favorite spots out there, and I think I picked those up quite well today. You know, sometimes you're a bit caught off guard with somebody's serving big. But today I felt like that I knew where most of her serves was going, and I attacked her second serve, which was also important just to put some pressure on her first serve.
Q. Did she tip off where she's going to serve? Does she give you an indication of where the serve's going?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, no, not really. I've seen her, you know, in our last match, and I've seen her play a few matches. I think her best serve is usually down the T. And, you know, whenever somebody is in a tough situation, you know they're not going to go for their weak serve. So, you know, I basically tried to cover that serve. But, you know, you still have to make it and you still have to win the point.
Q. Do you study tapes of your opponents?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, no. That's the last thing you'd see me doing.
Q. You just get it from match experience, playing them?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, uh-huh.
Q. Another key against Mary, which she even admits to, is just to get her moving side to side. But it's not that easy to do. Talk about how you were able to do that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's not easy, especially with a slower court. You know, the ball goes through the air quite fast. And especially when you're playing with someone that hits so hard, you want to make sure that, you know, you try to get the opportunity to open the court. But that is one of the important things. But I think a lot of people, you know, they run well side to side. They can run all day like that. It's a little bit more of trying to have more of a pattern out there rather than just hitting the ball side to side without a purpose.
Q. What do you remember from the only time you played her? How did you try to change that today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I was getting impatient in my last match with her. I was just trying to -- you know, I wasn't -- you know, I wasn't expecting her to hit so many winners, which is very stupid of me. You know, I didn't get frustrated today. I knew that the door would open somehow, somewhere, and I took my chances when I needed them.
Q. That might have been the last bad match you've played in five or six months, that US Open match. After that, you pretty much picked it up and have been somewhat unbeatable. Would that be pretty accurate?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, pretty much. You know, I think I learn a lot from losses, and I think losses make me a lot tougher. You know, they make me want to go out on the practice court and work a lot harder. So probably, you know, I was very disappointed, and I went out there and I worked really hard. You know, I thought about the things I needed to work on. After Serena's loss, I knew I had a tournament next week, and I was just so mentally ready and I wanted to win. I didn't want to lose any more, especially after having match points. I didn't feel like losing any more, and I didn't want to lose. So it was just mentally and physically trying to get prepared to win.
Q. If you do well here and then do well in Miami, you could take over the No. 1 ranking. Is that a goal of yours?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's my future goal. But I'm not -- you know, I'm not putting pressure on myself that it has to be in two weeks or three weeks or in the next six months. Whenever it comes, it will come. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
Q. If you look at the last five or six months, has your confidence ever been higher than it is now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, yeah, I think confidence is a part of it. I think experience plays a big part in it. I feel that, you know, I'm a much more experienced player when I'm down Love-30 on my serve. You know, it is the confidence obviously. You know, I know it works well and it's like I have a lot of experience behind my back and I feel good about myself, even when I'm down Love-30. Obviously, it has a lot to do with confidence and having matches behind your back. But it also comes with experience. That's what I feel. A year ago, when I was down Love-30, I would panic and think, "What do I do now? I'm serving and I'm down Love-30."
Q. Talk about Lindsay. You've beaten her the last two times, both close, especially the last one. She's No. 1. She's going to be very psyched up to go out there and finally get a crack at you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: For sure.
Q. How big of a showdown is it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's going to be very interesting because the last two appearances we've played on really fast courts. You know, Tokyo was just really fast. I don't think we had a lot of long rallies in the match. It was about, you know, serving well and returning well. But I'm really excited. It's definitely not going to be an easy match. But, you know, playing her two months ago, I feel that I think I know what I need to do, and hopefully I'll go out there and play as well as I did today. But, you know, she's playing well, too. I'm expecting a really good match.
Q. Roger Federer has been dominating the men's game. Do you enjoy watching him? Do you get inspired at all by watching his talent, the way he plays the game of tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, well, you know, it's like he's Mr. Perfect and nothing's going wrong for him at this point. But, yeah, he's so talented. He just plays so loose. It seems like he's playing without any effort, you know, plays always by instinct, I feel. It's great to see such a champion on the court and off the court, as well. Of course you admire people like that.
Q. Almost every night here you play soccer. Is that part of a training or just to get your mind off the tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it's good laughter because I'm so bad. I just laugh at myself all the time. It's good to get out there. I hate being in my hotel room all day, just sitting around, waiting, doing my homework. I'd rather be out in the fresh air, you know, being competitive and having fun with my team.
Q. How do you practice your return?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My return?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, the men usually have a bigger serve. Yeah, I train it with my sparring partners.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.