March 13, 2004
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.
Q. Very tough match, but the last two games you played pretty well, six or seven winners.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. You know, I had to step in. She played an amazing match, you know. Sometimes you just got to expect that. It's not easy when you know that you haven't played a match and she already has. She's got a little bit more feel to it. But she definitely played -- I mean, she played as maybe one of the Top 20 girls today, that kind of level. So I thought I really had to step up and play better than I usually would in a first-round match. But I was happy to get it through, you know. It's just one of those days where, you know, you never know what it's going to be. But today turned out to be pretty high.
Q. Were you happy how you closed the match out?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was. I kind of calmed down. You know, I don't know why, but all of a sudden, you know, I won 12 out of 13 points in the last three games. So that was pretty good.
Q. What kind of instructions do you give yourself when it's that tense part of the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just be positive. Just go out there and play your game and, you know, be tough. I don't know. Just keep saying positive things to yourself.
Q. Were you surprised how well she returned your serve or do you not feel you served as well as you could have?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I mean, I served pretty hard. I mean, in the third set, I thought I was serving as hard as I could. Like, you know, I couldn't serve any harder. But she still got the ball back. But, you know, that's what you have to expect. She played a tremendous match. There's nothing that I can say. I had to definitely step up my level, just the serve and everything.
Q. Did you hear what Sesil said?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No.
Q. The 14-year-old from Bulgaria came in and said a couple weeks ago you were scheduled to play her at Bollettieri's. She said you backed out two hours before the match because the agent said that she said she was going to kick your ass. Then she said she was going to kick your ass when you play in a couple days.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Really? No, I didn't have a match scheduled with her. I thought when I came to the academy, I thought I would play a few of the Bollettieri girls to get a few matches in, but I didn't schedule a time with her or anything, no.
Q. So what do you feel like when a young player, you're a Top 20 player now, a 14-year-old says, "This girl is afraid to play me, I'm going to get her when we play"?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm sure she's a great young player. There are many right now that's here. But, you know, I'm going to wait till Monday and play her the Monday.
Q. Is it hard when you get to your level of being well-known and famous, something which might be a little bit of an argument in the locker room becomes something that we're all talking about?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it's not an argument. I mean, tennis is a business. I know that. All that matters to me is when I get on the court. You know, my next match is Monday, and that's what I'm looking forward to.
Q. Do you know her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No.
Q. Do you know anything about her at all?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I mean, I've seen her play a little bit. But, no, I don't know her.
Q. Do you think maybe somebody in your camp could have scheduled a match, a session against her, forget to tell you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I mean, I told somebody at the academy that I wanted to play a few girls there before coming out here, before coming to LA - I was going to LA. That was right after Memphis - I said I'd definitely like to play a few of the girls. But I didn't schedule. I didn't give them a date. I didn't give them a time. I didn't give them any of that information. I did end up playing a few matches with the other girls and boys.
Q. Do you find it offensive when a player uses a vulgarism concerning playing you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no. I mean, like I said, this is a business. All I care about is when I go on the court and when I perform. And that's what I'm all about. When I got off the court, anything can happen all around. What matters to me is when I get on the court. That's why, like I said before, I'm just going to wait till Monday. That's where all my business happens.
Q. You seem like such a lady. Have you ever said anything like that about one of your opponents?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I never think about that. But thanks for the compliment.
Q. Are you amused to hear she used that expression "kick your ass"?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, you know, I mean, like I said, she's a young player. You know, sometimes that's just what happens. I mean, like I said, it doesn't bother me at all. I know who I am inside of me. I just can't wait till Monday just to play. So doesn't really bother me at all.
Q. I would assume it would give you a certain measure of extra motivation. You have a lot of motivation anyway, but it gives you a little bit more.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't really care. When I go on the court, doesn't matter who it is, it's just numbers. A not ranked player or ranked player, No. 1 in the world, I just want to win. That's what I want to do with every player. I don't care who it is.
Q. Did you have a similar motivation when you were coming up, that you could beat everyone?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, no, I didn't think I could beat everybody. But I did have in my mind that I could win. I don't think I've never in my life went to a tournament and thought that I really don't think I should be here. I mean, unless I was sick or something, or if I wasn't feeling well. But other than that, when I go to a tournament, you know, I know that I want to win, that's the bottom line. If that's not my attitude, then I don't know what I'm doing there.
Q. When Monday is over, the tennis business is done, is it something you would consider talking to her about? Once the match is over, is it something you might consider having a chat to her about this?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: With her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I think there's a lot of WTA Tour staff, and there are a lot of programs and media training. I'm sure, because she is young, she's just come on the tour. I mean, they have a program where they teach about everything. I went through this. I mean, you have to learn about everything. I'm sure she will. I wouldn't worry about it.
Q. Something perhaps you could sort out between you personally to make sure there's no hard feelings?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not offended. I don't need to solve anything.
Q. With all that said, you're not afraid to play her, as she claims?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Afraid? Afraid of what?
Q. To play her. She said you were afraid to play her.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I am afraid?
Q. To play her.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That's what she said?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I've never even known her before, so I don't know. I've never even thought about her in my life.
Q. Back to Memphis, a match most of us didn't see. What happened against Vera?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was a while ago.
Q. Two weeks, right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was battling a flu. I really ran out of gas in that tournament. I mean, I fought well in the first set with her. I had so many chances in the first set, just experience. But I did run a little bit out of gas in the second. I thought I could have pulled out the first.
Q. How do you feel about your chances here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm going in here pretty confident. I think I've worked pretty hard in the last few days, few weeks. I'm looking forward just to competing and getting some matches in again and working on my game, doing the same thing as I always do at tournament.
Q. Is Robert out here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, he came out today.
Q. When you were at Nick's, do you have any personal interaction with Nick, or is it just people on his staff?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I mean, sometimes, yes, Nick, I see. Sometimes when I'm practicing, Nick comes on the court, you know, just talks to my dad a little bit, gives him some advice. Yeah, definitely. But usually, you know, I either hit with a sparring partner from there or a kid that's practicing there.
Q. How different are you from the player who burst on the scene last summer? Do you feel in terms of your mental profile as well as perhaps your game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I definitely think my game has improved. I definitely got a lot more experience. That's what I'm very thankful for. That's the only thing that I think I'm looking for while I'm 16 years old. I definitely got it, and I feel more experienced. I feel in certain situations I can pull it out. Like today, I thought the experience counted a little bit more. I've been in a lot of those situations. I feel I'm mentally strong, you know, because I am, what, 24 in the world right now. I'm very happy because I've been able to show that I can play at such a level. Hopefully, you know, I can keep up with that throughout the year.
Q. Can you remember what you felt like, what you were thinking when you came here two years ago as a 14-year-old wildcard?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. When I think about it, it just drives me crazy. I could never imagine that I would be here, you know, No. 24 in the world two years later. I just don't think that would be in my mind two years ago. But, I mean, what can I say? That was my first big match. I was playing on Stadium Court. I won in three sets. I don't know. Then I played Monica, which was even greater. I lost like 0-2. I felt really good. The first thing when I came out is, "I played so unbelievable, but the score is 0-2. I think I played my best match ever, and it's 0-2." You're thinking, "What should I do next?" But I was very happy to get the opportunity to play her.
Q. Were you nervous? Were you walking around the locker room kind of looking at people thinking, "Oh, my gosh"?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no. I remember myself being very focused. I was very determined to play this tournament. I mean, I remember losing the first set of that first match, then I thought, "I can really do it, I can pull it through." I did. Then I got to play Monica.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.