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June 25, 2004

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Good evening, everybody. Can I present Maria Sharapova. Who would like to ask the first question?

Q. Some celebration at the end.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was happy. First time on Centre Court, a great feeling, playing well. So just a lot of emotions out there in the end.

Q. You got yourself into such a momentum on grass. You must feel as if you have a great chance of certainly surpassing your seeding?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm feeling very confident. I've been playing very well. I got a lot of matches in in Birmingham. Coming in here, I've just been playing very well. Picked up my level from the last two matches and definitely showed that today out there. I'm just looking forward to the next match at this point.

Q. Going into that match knowing she played really well last week, in your head that must have been possibly a very dicey match going in?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the sooner I won a tournament on grass, too. I knew we both were going to be playing well. We both were on our way up at this stage, especially on grass, which is probably maybe for both of us a good surface. Definitely when I came out on the court, I was expecting a very tough match. Definitely I think maybe the score didn't really show it, but point after point, you really had to fight for it.

Q. I know this is a different surface, but what was the difference between today and the loss you took to her in February?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Today my game was just on. I served very well. I think that's the key when you're playing a good player - if you can serve and keep hold of your serve, just trying to get the momentum on the return, which I did. And she served great, too, today. But I just kind of like a snake tried to find my way in there.

Q. What does it take to make you smile on court?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I would smile. I would do anything. But I just try to keep my concentration. I mean, I'm kind of an outgoing person. I mean, I can be focused, but I don't really want to let my focus go. You know, sometimes I do want to smile, but then I think to myself, "Maybe if you do smile, maybe your concentration will go off a little bit." I don't want to let that happen.

Q. How do you like living in Southern California? Is it a place you'd like to live, say, apart from tennis?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, my house is actually in Florida, but in California I spend a lot of my time, as well. I do, I like it a lot. I made a lot of good friends there. And Robert obviously there. It's a beautiful city. I kind of don't like the earthquakes, but...

Q. Is Robert here with you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, he's not here.

Q. You seem very much at home on the Centre Court. Looked like you enjoyed it out there.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did. I was enjoying every moment. These are just the moments in life we have to enjoy because not every teenager -- I mean, not every girl, not every person gets to experience such a moment in their lives. To actually be playing at Wimbledon, I mean, it's amazing. A few hours before the match, I was watching the TV and Henman was playing. I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to be on that court in a few hours. Right now I'm sitting on the couch." It's amazing, it really is.

Q. Is it a dream come true for you to be on Centre Court and to be the center of attention like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, it is. Everybody wants to be on Centre Court. Everybody wants to have that feeling of being surrounded by an amazing crowd that wants to watch your game and loves the tennis and is really intoo it, as the crowd was today. It's a really good feeling.

Q. How would you describe the feel of that court when you go onto it compared to the other ones you've played on?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: To tell you the truth, I'm not really good at those things. I mean, with racquets or with courts, I'm not really good at that. I mean, I had to ask somebody else which one is faster or slower. So, I'm not really good like that.

Q. Just the atmosphere.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the atmosphere -- the stadium itself is just -- it doesn't look big, but it kind of surrounds you and makes you feel like the crowd is really into the match. That's what makes the stadium so great. It doesn't have to be so big and so tall. I think every seat in that stadium has a very good view. But you know that everybody's really enjoying it.

Q. With Anastasia going out of the tournament this morning, the attention and pressure will grow on yourself as the tournament progresses. Are you ready and able to cope with that increased attention?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think it's pressure. When you go through every match, you play a different opponent. Today I played against Daniela. I knew she's been playing well and I was playing well. I mean, I like these challenges. The next round's going to be a different challenge. I'm willing to take those challenges, yes.

Q. How would you describe your game and your mentality on the court, that slapping your thigh all the time, that focus, that stare?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm a tough girl (laughter). I don't want to give my opponents any chance. I just fight for every ball because I know that every ball is important, and it shows, you know. What can I say?

Q. Where does that come from?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. My desire to be the best.

Q. Anything to do with how you grew up or coming from Russia?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, yes, I think these things kind of build you up as a person, definitely. But at this point, I mean, I just -- when you're in the moment, you don't think about what happened to you in the past or whatever. You think about the present, of course. You just want to win. And that's what I want to do.

Q. Obviously over the last year you've improved a lot, but especially the last few months you can really see that your game's firmed up, you're more solid, you seem a little more focused. What's been working for you? What's been the key?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thanks for the compliment. I really think it's the hard work. I don't think there's anything else to it. I don't think anything in my game's really missing at this point. It's just the experience, it's just getting stronger. I don't think I have something that's so weak that I need to work on it. But, I mean, just going in day after day in the off-season or before the tournament. Of course, there's nothing you can do during the tournament, but before the tournaments, get your mentality going and just work hard. And that's what I've been doing. I've been really focused this year. I mean, I know what it takes to achieve winning a Grand Slam and being No. 1 in the world. It takes a lot of hard work, and that's what I'm prepared for.

Q. Has anything you've done surprised you as of late?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, life takes you by surprise. I mean, you never know. I think you just have to just live the day. I mean, there's going to be a lot of surprises, good and bad. You just have to go through those moments, enjoy the good moments like I did today and just toughen it up when you have a bad moment. It's just the way life is.

Q. You're on a bit of a roll at the moment. Your ranking is as high as it's been. Do you feel this really could be your year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I just want to take it a match at a time right now. I don't want to think about this is my year, this is not my year. I know that I want to win this tournament. It's like I said the last interview, if I don't do it this year, I want to do it next year. I just want to do it.

Q. How much of your drive comes from the sacrifice that your parents made to help you get into tennis and accomplish what you've accomplished?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, definitely the move to the US was an amazing sacrifice. I mean, you either win or you lose. I mean, it's a 50/50 chance that you're going to play on Centre Court at Wimbledon a few years later. So you just never know what can happen. Definitely my parents have been through me through all the good times and the bad times, and I owe a lot to them, because they're the people that care the most about me. They've been through my life, through my career. They're the ones that know me best. You know, they're my best friends, so I owe a lot to them.

Q. 50/50?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: When you have $700 in your pocket and you go to the US... I mean, it's a new country, you don't have the language, you don't know what's going to happen, yeah.

Q. Is that a lot of pressure on you to have to carry that? Your family was basically kind of putting all their marbles on you to succeed or else it would have gone backward.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, my parents from when I was born, my mom actually, while I was born, she never took me to kindergarten, I was never in school. She was always taking care of me. They always wanted for me to be happy, for me to be going in the right direction in life, and they always cared for me. I mean, it's very important. Like I said, I owe a lot to them. There is no pressure because I know that I love them, and for what they have done, I know I can give back to them by these moments like today. I mean, calling my mom, and she's excited, and she's calling my grandparents, and they're excited in Russia. They can't sleep at night. It's chaos. It's absolute chaos. But these are just the moments. It's great.

Q. Because you know how it is to be poor, you came to the States with $700, now that you've made a fair amount of money, are you still pretty tight with your money or will you go out after a big win and buy yourself gifts?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, first of all, when I was seven years old, I didn't think I was poor. I mean, we lived a normal life in Russia. I wouldn't say we were poor. We were just like average people. Of course, when you go to the United States, with $700, of course you're considered poor. I was seven years old. I had no idea what was going on. Of course, I knew there were some little richer kids than I was at that age. But in the back of my mind, I was just working hard and trying to achieve what -- you know, I'm here. So it's a very good feeling. And then after this or like after the French Open, definitely, I can go out and spend some money. I mean, these past years, it's been feeling a little bit easier spending my money. I don't feel so guilty anymore.

Q. How old were you when you first got interested in tennis and how did it come about?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I just started -- I started when I was four years old. But the interest, I always loved to compete, anything. If there were kids out, I would tell them, "Okay, let's play, we got to play." I hated hitting doing the drills, I hated hitting ball after ball, I just wanted to play, I just wanted to compete. I don't know when I actually thought this is something that I love to do.

Q. What was the connection with tennis in particular?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: With tennis? It was just a sport I picked up.

Q. Must be a pretty frightening prospect to get off the plane in a foreign land with a little about it of money. Take us through the first two or three steps. What were the first things your family did?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was only with my dad when we came because I didn't see my mom for two years because she couldn't get a visa. We landed in Miami airport, and -- I was seven years old, guys, I don't know. But I think we took a bus and we drove to Bollettieri. We came there like at 12 midnight. Somehow, I don't know, stayed in a hotel. The next morning we came to the academy. That's how it all started.

Q. Your first memories of Nick?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't have them. I don't remember anything.

End of FastScripts….

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