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January 15, 2005

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.

Q. How are you feeling before this Australian Open? After winning last year your first Grand Slam, how are you feeling now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I am very excited to get the new year underway and going finally. I've had an amazing year. I've learned a lot. I've had a really good off-season. I worked really hard at the things that I thought I needed to improve. You know, I definitely hope I'm ready. I feel ready mentally and physically. I hope everything works out.

Q. How do you rate your chances here in Australia?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I always focus a match at a time. I'm always focused, you know, on my first round rather than thinking how I'm going to do in the tournament. It's not for me to decide; it's more for the media.

Q. Obviously it's not that long ago that you were playing the junior final here.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it seems like -- yeah (laughter). It really is amazing. Only two years ago, yeah.

Q. You said that you were working on some things in the off-season. Is there anything specific? Have you set any goals for yourself this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've been physically working very hard. That's been the main thing in my off-season, I've been concentrating a lot on my fitness. That was the hardest part. You know, after a few weeks, I got into playing a little more tennis and working on little things on the game, but I mainly was on fitness. Do I have any particular goals? I wouldn't really say I do because last year I didn't have any. Most importantly, I want to be happy and healthy. And if I'm that, then everything will be good.

Q. What sort of things were you doing in terms of fitness? Have you been doing anything in particular to keep it kind of interesting and to keep you motivated?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Unfortunately, fitness isn't very interesting (laughter). Even though I'd love to make it interesting, there's just no way out of it.

Q. Some players do kick-boxing, various different things to freshen things up.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I've been working on, you know, basically getting a little bit stronger. I've been running on a beach a lot. You know, a lot of sprints. I mean, there's a lot of things that I did. Nothing in particular. Just mainly I want to have -- work on my endurance a lot more where, you know, I can stay out in the heat and play against top players for two weeks.

Q. Is that something that you sat down with your coach and thought, "This is an area that really can take me on to another level"?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it's not that we really sat down. That was always sort of my goal, is to get stronger, and it still is. I don't think there is a lot in my tennis that needs so much work. I mean, obviously I do need to improve in any ways that I can. But physically, you know, that was the most important part. You cannot work hard physically and also work hard at the game at the same time, so you've got to try to balance it out.

Q. Do you feel any more extra pressure this year compared with last year, the way you felt at the start of last year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't. I guess, you know, since I was younger, I've always been expected to do well because everybody thought that I was going to do well. But now that I have won a Grand Slam and won the Masters, I don't feel like I need to prove anybody, you know, nothing more. You know, I know what I can achieve, I know that I can do it. And I've always said it's a matter of time. When time comes, it will happen.

Q. How important, looking back, was winning The Championships just to prove to yourself as much as anything that Wimbledon wasn't a one-off; that you are here for the long haul?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't need to prove anything. I've never have needed to prove anything. I've always played the game because I've loved it. I never thought that I needed to prove to the world or myself that I am good. You know, I knew that I had a tremendous talent at what I did. But I was only 17 years old, and I still am. Obviously a lot of people expected me to do well, but at 17, it is impossible to win everything you play and everything you compete in. So, you know, I don't think that people really understand that I am only 17.

Q. Has your success affected your day-to-day life in any way?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, no, not really. I don't think that will -- I mean, obviously I get stopped a few more times than I did before - just a few more (laughter). But other than that, no. I still do, you know, what I love to do.

Q. Last year was a year which no one really dominated the tour. Do you see that happening again? Do you see someone dominating this year? If so, possibly do you think you could do that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. Time will tell really. I can't predict the future, what is going to happen. You know, I would have never predicted that I would have won Wimbledon last year, so why predict what's going to happen this year?

Q. Do you think the tournament itself on the women's side especially is wide open? Obviously, on the men's we have Roger Federer, who seems to be winning everything. But on the women's side, there seem to be more different winners. Do you think it is wide open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I think women's tennis at this point is very competitive. Everyone that is in the Top 10, you know, are very good players, and that's why, you know, you know that when you're going to play a Top 10 player, you know, you never know. You know the person's weaknesses. You know the person's strengths. You know who the media thinks is going to win or everyone thinks is going to win. But you know it's going to be a match that you're going to play and you never know what's will happen. It's not going to be an easy match. It's very competitive tennis.

Q. Especially with some of the players out with injuries, it does seem there are quite a few possible winners. Obviously, yourself and some of the other Russian players, a winner could come from anywhere.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess it could, yeah (smiling).

Q. Do you find the attention you get these days, is it a distraction at all to your tennis?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Hasn't been so far, and hopefully won't be.

Q. Is it still fun or does it get to wear a bit thin after a while?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be playing tennis. You know, I'm an individual who if I don't like to do something, I would just drop it and never do it again. Either if it's with, whatever, writing papers or playing tennis or anything, if I don't like it, I'm not going to do it.

Q. That goes for this kind of stuff, the flashbulbs and the attentions as well?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it's part of what I do. I obviously understand that. It's part of the life that I'm in, the business that I'm in. You know, when you achieve many things and when you win, you're going to get more attention. And that is normal. You just have to accept it. You know, if I was losing, I wouldn't be here, so I'm glad that I'm here.

Q. Seven Russian girls in the Top 15. That's really impressive. Do you girls help each other out become even better as the Russian group or is everybody following their own path?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think everybody has been following their own path. You know, I have. I've always wanted to be my own self, my own individual. I've always wanted to go my own way rather than trying to follow someone else.

Q. Is it important for you to be the best Russian because now Myskina is still in front of you in the rankings?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's not as important as being No. 1 in the world, I'll put it this way (smiling).

Q. How would you describe your relation to the other Russian players?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I get along with a lot of the players. You know, obviously it's hard when the players are three, four, five years older than you. We obviously have different interests in what we do. I'm really good friends with Maria Kirilenko because she was around my age. It's more fun because we share the same interests. But I do get along with many of the girls.

Q. How important is it for you to be No. 1?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's very important. You know, if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to, you know, die. I mean, it's important. But that is my dream and I hope I can achieve it. But, you know, many things can happen in life. You know, someone can get injured, you can get injured, and your career is over. So, you know, I'm just taking a day at a time, enjoying life, enjoying what I do, and just working hard, hoping to be No. 1.

Q. What does it say on your top?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: "Seventy Two" (smiling).

End of FastScripts….

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