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June 24, 2004

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Happy with your play today?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I am. I thought from correcting my mistakes in the first set, I played pretty solid in the second, and I was able to dictate many of the points in the second set. But the first set was definitely tough. She definitely came up and played some great tennis out there. Didn't give me a lot to work with in the first set. Just had to find a way, and I did.

Q. Your next match is against Daniela Hantuchova. What do you think? Have you played with her before?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've played against her once at the beginning of the year in Japan, and I lost to her. It was on a totally different surface. It was on carpet grass in Japan. So that was a little bit different. But you know there is -- when you go on court and play her, you know that you have to expect a good match from her side because she's been playing very well. And just got to go out there, like I've been doing for all my career, go out and play my game.

Q. Hantuchova has been someone who has been under a lot of pressure over her parents. How do you think she's coped with that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think you've got to ask her about it because she's the one that knows best about it. But, I mean, in tennis -- the tennis life is never easy. Some things just come up that you have to go through, and actually some of these things make you a stronger person and make you aware. And it's never easy on the tour. You're never gonna get -- you're never gonna be happy. There are always gonna be times where you're gonna have to fight through them. And I think that she did that very well and she learned a lot of things.

Q. Speaking of tough life, how difficult has it been for you to be away from your parents while you're developing your tennis game? Obviously, it's paying off. This past year has been incredible.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, my dad, I see my dad every day because he travels with me. But my mom I miss a lot because she stays home. It's very difficult not being able to see her. But I was in that situation from when I was very little, so kind of getting used to that now. And this is just part of the tour, you know - you either want to do it, or you don't.

Q. What was the most difficult time when you think back to, you know, your early days - you said you've been going through this for years now - when you think back to those days, what was the most difficult point?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: The first two years of when I came to the US. Not seeing my mom for two years, being away from my dad, living by myself and developing my tennis. It's very difficult at seven years old, but I managed to get through.

Q. As you get better and better as a tennis player, the pressure's going to come on you more. Do you think that's made you able to cope with it better?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. I've -- I'm in a different situation last year than -- this year than I was last year. It was obvious that I was a wildcard here last year, and this year I'm a seed. I'm in those situations this year where I actually have to defend points. I mean, I'm getting -- I'm in totally different situations that so far I've been handling very well. I mean, actually, when you do well in the last year, you're really excited to come back and do well again. So I think that kind of takes the pressure off me, and I always think about that.

Q. Was Anna Kournikova an inspiration at all to you when you were younger?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I actually never watched TV. I never read anything about tennis. I really had no idea what was going on (laughing).

Q. So you didn't know really who she was growing up, playing tennis?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't -- not until I was older. But when I first moved to the US, I didn't really know. But of course when I started thinking a little bit more professionally and actually thinking that tennis was something -- realizing something was going to develop off my tennis career, then of course I knew a lot more players at that time.

Q. But she didn't have any significance because she's Russian, and you didn't look at her career and think, "I could do that. Maybe even exceed that"?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I never really had an idol throughout my whole career, no.

Q. Can you just talk about, you said this year has been -- obviously, you were a wildcard last year, you're a seed this year. You've jumped 100-something in the rankings. Can you talk about this year. Is it what you expected? Has it even been a little bit better than what you expected?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the first thing I want to say is that hard work always pays off. I know that whenever I'm training in the off-season or I was training before the clay court season, I knew that I had to work hard, and I knew that good things would happen if I did so. And I'm always aware how my body feels. I'm kind of taking care of myself and enjoying. And of course if you don't enjoy it, you're never gonna be good. So that's what I've been doing, and I've been having a lot of fun. I think when you have fun out there, plus you're smart on the court, those things, they add up. I mean, you win matches.

Q. Do you get the sense that there's more responsibility for you, even more than just the tennis because people are looking at you maybe differently than some other tennis players, as maybe a person that they can market to the tennis public more than maybe another player?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Whenever I go on court, I just think about my tennis performance. I don't think about what I'm gonna look like or what people are thinking about the marketing side. This is why I'm here. I'm here to play tennis, and I'm not here to think about anything else.

Q. Even off the court?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Off the court, my number one priority is tennis.

Q. Does your coach travel with you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes. My coach? Well...

Q. I mean Robert.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Robert, no, he's never travelled, no.

Q. Have people come to you and wanted to do commercials or anything like that?


Q. And would that be a part of your life? Is that something that you would look forward to, being a commercial endorser as well as a tennis player?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, these things, these things come with tennis. And if you're great, you're gonna get a lot of these options. And, I mean, it's the decisions you make. You either -- you commit only to tennis, or you commit to tennis but then you -- if you have an opportunity and you are really excited about doing something, a commercial, and you don't want to let it get in the way of your tennis, of course you can do that. But in my mind, tennis is always my number one priority. If I've got an offer to do a really exciting thing, and I can, you know, I can try that, then I would. But in the back of my mind, like I said 20 times before, tennis is my number one priority.

Q. You're back this year as a seed. How far are you aiming at Wimbledon this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I really want to win the tournament. If it's not this year, I want to win next year. I just want to win it. It's my goal. And I'm here, I'm here to win it.

End of FastScripts….

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