January 17, 2004
Q. First Grand Slam of the year. What are your chances here and for the res of the year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I am really excited. I think I have had a tremendous (INAUDIBLE) and I am really psyched. I had a few months off with no tournaments so this would be my first tournament of the year and I am really excited to just get it started.
Q. What have you done in the last few weeks?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have been training. I played only two exhibitions in the two months that I was training and I have been working on my physical preparation a lot and training and doing basically I have been working pretty hard and trying to get myself ready for this year.
Q. You feel your game is up -- (Inaudible.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. I just came off of playing Hong Kong and I played two matches there, some top players, and I had a few matches in, so I am quite happy with the way I am playing. I just had a week of preparation in.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Hasn't been that hard. Right now I am very happy with my schedule coming up this year. I am going to have a chance to play some more tournaments and very happy about that.
Q. (Inaudible.) -- playing a lot more tournaments -- coming into this year, what is your goal, do you have any idea of what you want to accomplish this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really want to set any goals for myself. I never really do, but I mean, everyday you want to be No. 1 in your mind and that's the thing for me, and when I practice or when I play I always want to win, so I mean, it's not really a goal necessary to myself, well, end of the year, I want you to be somewhere here; it's never that case with me. I just want to perform and I want to be happy and healthy. If I am not and if I am up to my level I think I could have very good results when I am up to that.
Q. How would you assess Venus' form? You played her last week.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, I didn't really focus on her game. I am focusing on my game, so you would have to ask her about her form. It was a very tough match. I had a lot of chances. I think I am still a little young, I have to improve my physical strength. Sometimes she's just too powerful for me, but that just takes a few years.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You never know when you go into a tournament especially with some withdrawals, some unfortunate withdrawals here, so I am just -- hopefully it will be me and that's what I am thinking about and I am working up to that.
Q. Who are you working with? Who is actually here with you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My dad, my trainer from Russia and a coach, Erik. (Phonetic).
MARIA SHARAPOVA: He's just based in California. He doesn't travel at all.
Q. How often do you get to work with him?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I go pretty often. When I am in the United States and I am preparing for a tournament or want to have a few weeks off, I need to go to him, I go, I would say, quite often, I am there, yeah. With the schedule, I mean, like last year and this year, I don't think it will be as much as I usually do, but that's just because I am playing more tournaments.
Q. Why Erik? (Inaudible.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I am very young still and I think I have so many things to learn at this stage of my career and there are little things that I want to get from everybody. I think that's what I have been doing throughout my whole career, Bollettieri when I was little, and I went to Roberts (phonetic) and I always tried to find -- my dad, when I was young, he always tried to find the best for me that was available. He always tried to teach me new things. I feel as much as I can learn at this stage of my career, the better.
Q. Do you think Erik is the kind of guy that teaches you -- (Inaudible.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: He has been in the game for a long period of time. I definitely think he can teach me a lot about it, yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There is no doubt in my mind that I can do that. Definitely, I think about it everyday, you know. If I come into a tournament I feel like I am going to lose at whatever stage in the tournament then I think that in my self confidence is not very high at that point. If I am thinking the other way around and I am willing to fight no matter who I am playing and I am willing to win.
Q. What is the level you think you are playing at now? Do you look at the top four women players and think you can compete at that level or do you think there's still a gap?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's going to take time right now, for my body, for the experience, like, you know I said last year was like my first full year on the Tour, I just played tournaments and getting used to the schedule and this and that, but I mean, I think there's a lot of things that I need to improve in my game. This is not the peak of my career. So I am still young and I still have so many things to learn about the game and about the way I can play and I need to build up my physical strength and my endurance and stuff like that. But I think it's just like I am thinking about last year and, you know, I was in the first -- I almost didn't get into the qualies, but it was like what was missing at that stage. Just took one year and look, my body grew up, and my whole experience grew up, so --
Q. (Inaudible.) What kind of things do you do at your age to try to avoid getting injuries?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I always like to take care of my body because I know what it takes later on. Of course when you are young, it's -- I really want to make sure that my body will be okay not just now, but for later periods, and, you know, just to recover after the match, prepare well, you know, warm-up before, stretch after, just stuff like that, you know, eat healthy, work out, just --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: (Inaudible.) It was like the first professional year for me, the big professional year, I definitely learned a lot about the media, how it works and this and that, yeah.
Q. You enjoy that side or --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, there is a limit, I think, to the media, how it goes, but I definitely enjoy once in a while, you know, when you win a match and you just want to talk about it, (Laughs), you just want to tell the world hey, I won. (Laughs).
Q. Any one player in particular that -- any particular tips that you have been given in the locker room in how to handle players?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I get along great with the girls, but it's business, it's not very easy to get from someone you are playing in the first round in the Australian Open.
Q. When did you and Erik start working together, December?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: This is still a trying period so it's not -- it was a bit --still travelling in Luxembourg, last year and from there, but there was a time period where I left because I went back to the States.
Q. Did you guys start working together in the off-season?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, in the off-season, about two weeks -- I played an exhibition in Belgium, went to Spain and I trained there for two weeks.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.