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July 2, 2004

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria, please.

Q. You've now had a night to sleep and think about yesterday. Looking back, what are your emotions now, 24 hours later?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I'm pretty calm. I've just been enjoying the moment. And every time I think about it, that I'm in the final, it's really -- it's an amazing feeling. Like it gives me goosebumps because I believe I'm in the situations and I feel like nobody can take it away from me. But on the other side, it happened so fast that it's still kind of new to me.

Q. When you were in this room after your match yesterday, you did not yet know who your opponent would be. Now you do. Can you describe the challenge ahead, and specifically what you need to do to do well against Serena.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, she's been playing some great tennis. She had a challenge yesterday. I think Mauresmo was very close to winning that match. But Serena again pulled it out. She's a very tough girl and she's a fighter. And we share those similarities, so I'm looking forward to a very tough match.

Q. How about technically, what do you need to do in your game and what in her game is the biggest challenge?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Like I've been doing in every single match, just going out and playing my game. I don't really worry about the technical side of the game.

Q. When you first came to Nick's academy, you may know that Serena and Venus occasionally practiced there. Had you ever run into them on a back court or seen them practice there, had an opportunity to hit with them at any time when you were very young?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I never got an opportunity to hit with them. But I did see them practice on one of the courts. I was practicing, as well. So I did see them.

Q. Did you find yourself just being mesmerized by how good they were, instead of actually practicing yourself?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't really watch them practice because I had my own schedule. Of course, I was trying to concentrate on my work. I don't remember myself watching them, no.

Q. You were talking about your coach, about your father, growing up technically. What was the role of Nick Bollettieri when you were growing up?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the Bollettieri Academy was the place I went to when I first went to the United States. It was kind of our destination in the US. That's where we wanted to go, and that's where we came. And Nick was there, of course, at the time. He helped us out a lot. He gave me the opportunity to practice, as well as with IMG, to give me a scholarship at the academy. He was on the court with me. Still he's a great supporter. He gives me and my dad a lot of advice all the time.

Q. Can you tell us about the sacrifices that your father made to get you to the position you're in now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've talked about this for so long. Well, I mean, moving to the United States, also without my mom, but, of course, it was my parents' decision, both of them. And then having to find a job in the United States while my mom was away and me having to live by myself and just developing my career.

Q. Is it true that when you were in the Chernoble region, you moved away -- your father moved the family away from that?


Q. Was it true he didn't have a job to go to, but he still did it? Is that the case?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was born in Siberia. The reason we moved from Siberia was Chernoble when I was two years old. My dad was still going back and forth because of the job opportunity there. And he had a very good job actually over there. So, you know, for the family, he was making a good amount of money in Russia. My mom and I were living in Sochi. But, of course, he was with us but occasionally had to go to work.

Q. Do you feel more American as a mentality now than Russian probably?


Q. Not as a mentality, no, because you're growing up there?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I'm still Russian.

Q. Is your mother with you at the moment?


Q. Is she still in Russia?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, she's in Florida right now because that's our home right now.

Q. You've never been back in Russia sometimes? You spend some times there?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. I still have a house there, and my whole family is there. My grandparents, my cousins.

Q. What is the reaction in Siberia when you come back?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't live in Siberia any more.

Q. Where exactly in Russia?


Q. You're a friend of Kafelnikov?


Q. How will you deal with the nerves that will inevitable accompany a first Wimbledon final?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I haven't been nervous throughout this whole tournament. I've just been enjoying myself, so I'm just going to go out and what I've been doing the last six matches, just play my game and enjoy. And nerves is part of tennis. I like that part of it. It keeps you motivated, keeps you wanting to be in the situations and get out of them by winning.

Q. Did they affect you in the first set against Lindsay Davenport yesterday?


Q. Does it irritate you when people obsess about how you look and your image and write about that in the newspapers rather than just talking about your game?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't read the newspapers, so I don't know.

Q. Because of the selection deadlines and rankings, you didn't make the Russian Olympic team this time around. Are you disappointed about that and is that a big goal for you in the future?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I would definitely want to have played the Olympics. But this is just the beginning of my career, and I know that four years is just going to fly by like in no time. I feel like last year I was just here like a week ago, playing as a wildcard. So I'm sure that time will go by very fast and that I'll hopefully make that team in four years.

Q. Next week will be four Russians in the Top 10. Is that type of rivalry that could help you or it doesn't matter about the other Russian players or is something that rivalry could help you in growing up, improve?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I would never call it a rivalry in the first place. But it's great to see so many of your country women be in the Top 10, for sure.

Q. How difficult has it been for you to juggle the studies with the tennis? I think you said before the semifinal, you were still finishing a piece of course work. Have you had course work deadlines as well as tennis deadlines?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I just have a year to finish the course. I can take my time and do the exams. That's kind of why I can handle the school with the tennis.

Q. What do you appreciate most when you watch Serena play? Forgetting for a minute you are playing against her now, but when you just see her game, what are the elements of the way she performs that you most appreciate?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the way she fights and the way that she figures out a way to win. Those are the two key things in tennis, you know, trying to find a way to win even when you're down. And she figures that out.

Q. Which members of your family are going to be watching you here tomorrow? If your mother's not coming, why not?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, because she hasn't been here for the last six matches. I don't want to jinx it (laughter).

Q. You told her to stay away?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, no. But she wasn't planning on coming, no. I mean, she's so excited for me. But, I mean, it's not like she's going, "Oh, my God, oh, my God, I have to go see my daughter play." For her, she's really excited for me. It's just another great moment in life, and I'm going to see her in two days, so I'm very excited about that. You know, she doesn't have a problem with staying home.

Q. Is she not tempted to come here to the final?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I didn't really ask. We didn't talk about that.

Q. Are you thinking about the huge money you're starting to earn after this tournament, because of the final, all the sponsorship? Is something that you start to be involved in, money.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't think about money. I just think that I'm in the final of Wimbledon.

Q. You have a very outgoing personality. Nick said when you arrived in Bradenton, you were very small, very thin, and very, very shy. Was there a tournament victory that made you become more outgoing and more vocal?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think it had anything with tournament victory. When you first come to the United States, to a whole different country and a whole different culture, when you're just seven years old, everything just takes you by surprise. You hit a wall where you've never seen this wall before. I just think that I didn't speak English the first four months that I was there. So, of course, I couldn't communicate with many of the people. But, you know, I spoke -- I learned English in about four months, and then I wasn't shy.

Q. Four months?


Q. Is your image and looks very important to you? For Serena, it is very important what she looks like.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think it's very important to feel good about the way you look and to feel confident. When you go on court and you feel like something is messed up and something's not right with the way you look or you don't feel confident with something, I think that can definitely hurt you a little bit, and make you even more uncomfortable out there. I mean, feeling good, just inside of you, the confidence of feeling good. I don't know if it's about the look or whatever, but just feeling good, I think that's very important.

Q. You're a pin-up now, especially in England. Is that good? Do you enjoy that? Is that something you're uncomfortable with?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't pay attention to that at all. I never considered myself as a pin-up. I never will.

Q. Obviously a great win yesterday. Did you sleep well last night?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I did. I slept very good. Had a good 10 hours' sleep.

Q. Do you get any sense that overnight you've almost been catapulted into a new level of attention on you? All of a sudden from now on in, your life is going to be a great deal different, getting to the final now, taking it up another notch.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't think about I'm the same person. But, yes, I'm in the final of Wimbledon. So, of course, a little bit has changed. But I'm still the same. I don't notice these things that happen in the outside world. I just concentrate on the things that I have to do.

Q. Are there things you feel you can't do, being a 17-year-old at a Wimbledon final that other 17-year-olds might enjoy - going out, learning to drive?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, I know how to drive. That's not a problem. I love driving.

Q. What about going out?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Going out? I'm not really a big fan of going out. I like to go to dinner, have fun, have a laugh. But I know my bedtime. I need to keep that. I like my sleep.

Q. Have you ever closed your eyes and dreamed of winning a Grand Slam title?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I never really closed my eyes and dreamed of it, no. But I've always dreamed of it. Yeah, I mean, of course you think about it. You never expect things to happen in the day. It's the future dreams.

Q. Have you done some schoolwork this morning?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not this morning because I kind of woke up late. Had to get ready for practice, you know, the routine, eat.

Q. You said you were shocked to get to the final at such a young age. Are you shocked by the reaction you created, the reaction you had in the last few days?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know what the reaction is.

Q. Everyone is very excited.


End of FastScripts….

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