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March 15, 2004

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria. This is Maria's first fourth-round appearance at a Tier I.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thanks, I didn't know that (smiling).

Q. Seems like your gripe was bigger than her mouth today. Was this enough incentive to kick her butt?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Excuse me, what was the second part?

Q. Was this motivation enough for you to beat her?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I come into a match being positive, and I always want to win, no matter who it is. Yes, you guys made a big controversy out of this, and you guys had a lot of fun. But, unfortunately, it's over, so it's time to move on to the next round. I'm just looking forward to that. This was just a little bump on to the next round. I passed it. You know, I'm really excited. I think Myskina is losing right now, but she might pull it out. I'm looking forward to playing the winner of that next match.

Q. It seemed like it took you almost a set and a half to find your game. Was it nerves in the first set or what was it? You missed a bunch of forehands.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right, right. No, I wasn't nervous at all. I think I was a little rushed. I was trying to get the point over with very fast, which I didn't need to do at all. And I just slowed myself down in the second set. I said, you know, "Hey, you've been doing the wrong thing for the last set and a half, why don't you change something?" I think I did. Slowly things were starting to go my way. I thought a few balls I missed here and there, were really close, you just think, "Well, when are they going to get in?" They finally started to roll in a little bit.

Q. Were you impressed at all by parts of her game? She hits her backhand pretty well, moves pretty well.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she's definitely a great young player. She has a great future ahead of her, no doubt about it. Yeah, I think her backhand is definitely one of her weapons.

Q. It appeared that you were trying to keep the ball away from her backhand.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, I think at the beginning, especially in the first set, I think I thought about it too much. That's why I rushed myself a little bit. I was trying to do something extra, which I didn't need to do whatsoever. And then I just said, "You know, you're down a set. You got to change things around a little bit and do something different." I just started to play a little bit more smarter.

Q. You missed a million forehand service returns. The minute you started to get your forehand service return in, the match was over.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes and no. I think it's definitely something I have to work on. In a match like this, when you have these kind of opportunities, definitely. I mean, there are times when her second serve went really slow and I didn't take advantage of it. I thought I should have, because those are the games that are very important, you know. In a crucial match like this, a crucial point like I had in the second set, you need to finish those points off when you have a chance. I thought I did have a lot of those chances, but unfortunately I missed a few.

Q. Last year when you first came and started playing a lot of pro matches, you'd go to your return of serve. Almost all the time now it seems like you're thinking a little more on what you're trying to do there.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank God this year I'm more experienced player (smiling).

Q. Sometimes does it work a little the other way, when you should be more aggressive on the return, too?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think that's a very important key in the return, is being aggressive, putting pressure on the service opponent. I mean, it depends. It depends who you are playing, what circumstances, you know, when you need to attack, when you don't. I think that just sometimes you need to trust your instincts on that.

Q. Whose game do you admire most among the women at the top of the game?


Q. Yes.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, gosh. I respect a lot.

Q. You can throw the Williams sisters in there as recent players.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, definitely I respect a lot of the players. I wouldn't call names because everybody has their own special thing that they do best. I think I can learn so much from just looking at their game and seeing little things that they do here and there. I don't think everybody has such a perfect game. That's why I'd rather just enjoy a match and see the positive things and see the things that I can learn from each player.

Q. Press and spectators will watch like Justine and have a great appreciation because of the versatility and variety in her game. Can you afford to look at that and like it that way, or is it really just about what they're doing winning and losing-wise?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, everybody has a different game style and different game plan. But, you know, it's whatever works best for the players. If you have a great serve and a big serve and you have a lot of easy points, then why change and try to make it with a lot of finesse and stuff? I really just think it depends on the player.

Q. You've had a lot of matches against the big names in the game. Basically you've been a young player with tremendous promise, with not too much to lose if you go down to defeat. Today you played a younger player who was going after you as the hunted. What is the difference between being the hunter with nothing to lose versus being the hunter?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It actually felt like I was 10 years older because, you know, she was younger than me. I did feel like I had more experience, and I was in those kind of situations before. These kind of matches just make all the difference. When you're down, you have to figure out a way to win. I think today I did find a way to win because at the beginning my game was an absolute debacle. I figured out a way to win. That was just the bottom line.

Q. That helps you for the future?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. It doesn't matter who you play, younger, older, you want to compete, you want to win. You just have that feeling. I mean, the most important thing is you want to play good. You want to feel good about your game. You're not going to always feel good about your game, but sometimes, yeah.

Q. Were you concerned when she saved the three match points or did you sense she was getting quite tired?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, but I can never think about that because you never know what can happen. She might just come back all of a sudden. She did make a few unforced errors, which was very surprising, from her forehand in the third set which just gave me a big lead, 5-Love. Yeah, I made -- I was -- I went for my forehand at 5-Love, 40-15. But, you know, if you go for it, you miss it a little bit, I'm not going to stop going for it. I mean, of course, she can come back. You never know what can happen. Thank God I finished it off.

Q. Did you have a chance to talk to her about the sort of war of words in the media?


Q. You didn't have any conversation about it?


Q. Had you ever seen her before?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've seen her at the academy a few times, but just walking by.

Q. Haven't seen her play?


Q. Does this kind of win going into the next round give you more confidence because you fought hard or are you concerned about your level of play, that it's not where you want it to be?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I'm not concerned the way I played. I mean, it was a very different situation today. I think that I was just rusty. I mean, I picked up my game at the end, which is the most important thing. I finished it off. I felt good about my game towards the end of the match. So, you know, coming off that, I do feel pretty confident. And, yes, there are a few things I have to work on. But I think, you know, there's always going to be something in your mind where you still have to work on and you have to improve. But I'm definitely looking forward to the next match and seeing if I can raise my level, because that's what's going to count.

Q. So if it's Myskina, if she pulls out the victory, what's going to be the difference between your match against her here and Australia where you had some problems there in the third set?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to the match. I've been looking forward to that match. I never like to lose twice to a player. You know, I don't know how she's doing right now, but I heard she lost the first set. But, you know, she's a tough girl. I think maybe she can pull it out. But we're very good friends. I have a very good relationship with her. So, I mean, hopefully we can put on a good show out there.

End of FastScripts….

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