June 28, 2003
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, Maria Sharapova. Take the first question, please.
Q. Congratulations. There are almost five players from Russia in the last 16. Can you explain that? Do you have inspiration on each other? Do you help each other to work together to make each other better?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not really. We do our own separate thing. We've, I mean, we practice. Sometimes, yes, we do get together. But, no, we don't really talk about how we played, or at least I don't.
Q. Is there a kind of competition, you try to be better?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, it's not a competition. It's just that we like to do our own thing. We basically do that.
Q. How do you explain that so many Russian girls are coming up now the last couple years?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: They're really strong and they're really tough. They work that extra hour at the end of the day. They know that they -- I mean, if someone has a talent, they know that they can achieve it, you know, by just working hard, and that's what they do.
Q. Is the fourth round of Wimbledon beyond any expectations you had coming into the tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I come into a tournament, I mean, I'm expecting to win. That's my philosophy. I can't go to a tournament thinking, "Yeah, I'm gonna get my ass kicked today, so I might as well just leave." So basically, I mean, I'm very happy and I'm very surprised. Yes, I'm very young, I'm 16 and I'm in the fourth round of Wimbledon. How odd is that? But, you know, I know that one day it would come; one day all that hard work could pay off. I mean, I am surprised, but it's just reality.
Q. You don't seem at all fazed by playing on the show courts. Some people are intimidated by being at Wimbledon, playing on Court 1 or Centre Court. You seem to enjoy it.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I love it. That Centre -- that wasn't Centre, that was Court 1. No, Court 1 was just unbelievable. When I stepped on the court, I was like, "I'm not gonna give her a chance today. That's it," you know? "I want to be a winner today on this court, right here, this moment." When I went out there, all the fans were just crazy, the place was just filled up. You get like, "Wow," and everybody's around you.
Q. What you are telling to yourself in the critical moments when you were going to the back of the court, you were saying to yourself something, no? To encourage yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, "Come on, come on."
Q. Something else, I think. It looks like you were just --?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I'd say something in Russian, but it's another version of, "Come on" (laughter).
Q. How important has your education been in the Bollettieri Academy?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I've actually -- I have a coach in California for the past four years or so - five almost. So half of my time is in Florida, half of my time is in LA when I'm at tournaments, that's another half of my time. It's a very good balance. My house is in Florida; it's really quiet. Going to Los Angeles, California, is training hard, you're like in a hotel sort of playing a tournament.
Q. What did you think of Robert the first time you met him? Can you describe how he's helped your game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I first met him, it was a really big occasion. I was really young, so I didn't really pay attention. I just went on the court with my dad. I thought he was on the phone, he was sort of motionless with his head down. We said hi. He's like, "Yeah, what's your name?" I'm like, "Maria." He's like, "Maria who?" So I told him my last name. He's like, "Yeah, I get to the baseline." I go on the baseline -- I didn't go to the baseline, I went to the short court, because usually you start warming up from the short court. He's like, "What the hell are you doing here? I don't teach my players to stand so short." There's no such thing as a warm-up down there. That's how it all started. He has helped my game tremendously. I think especially today when I played such a hard hitter, these are the times where you think, "Oh, my gosh, all that hard work on my strokes and ball after ball after ball." When you just play against like Dokic, like I did today, you remember those moments because she's the girl that hits ball after ball after ball, and, I mean, sometimes just never misses. Definitely he has helped me tremendously.
Q. Do you feel a bit American?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I'm in America, yes, definitely. When I'm in Russia, I feel Russian.
Q. Did you see her four years ago when she beat Hingis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I was sleeping at that time. When I woke up, I heard -- I remember it now. My dad was like, "Yeah, Hingis lost." I was like, "Oh, okay."
Q. You consider yourself to be American or Russian?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Do I consider myself?
Q. Yeah. I know you are, obviously Russian. You were saying in America you feel American. What about here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I'm Russian, I have Russian citizenship. When the Olympics are on and when I see the Russian flag go down and the American flag go down, I'm like, "I want Russia to win so bad." It's just that feeling. I don't know why. I mean, I've lived in the US half of my life. It's definitely a big part of my life, developing my tennis career there. But I'm just -- my blood is totally Russian.
Q. Did you leave Bollettieri's and immediately work with Robert? Was there a cross-over?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My house was still in Florida, yes.
Q. So when did you stop working at Bollettieri's?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't stop. I kept going back because my house is there. And when I was there, I practice at the academy. It's a wonderful facility.
Q. You're doing both then?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yes, yes, still both. You have clay courts there, Rebound Ace, you have hard courts, and the staff are wonderful when I come there, sparring partners. It's great for me there.
Q. You were just referring to Robert Lansdorp. People who know him know him as a gruff guy. Does he have a warm and fuzzy side as well? Have you seen that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yeah, definitely. He got me my Christmas tree when I couldn't get one (laughter). No, I mean, inside of me I know what it takes to be a champion, and I know with his attitude he can make me a champion. Because when I go on the court, I know that when someone's on the other side, a really nice guy, and when I hit the ball in the fence he says, "Oh, that's all right. You know, next time you'll get it better." It doesn't really improve me. It's all right that he's a tough guy, and I know he is, but that's what makes me a better player. Off the court, you know, he's funny as I don't know who. But on the court, you know, you got to be tough.
Q. Do you feel that was the best victory, the best performance of your career so far today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm... Best performance? It was hard to really perform well because that was the first time I was playing her. I didn't know what to expect. There was points where I just made my way through the point and force her to hit an error. I think I could have performed well. Like, if she didn't have so much power, I think I could have played my game a little bit more and enjoyed it out there, you know, while I thought that I was out there scrambling. And when I got the opportunity, I hit a really good shot or I made her hit an error. So it was sort of that. But it's definitely a big win in my career.
Q. If the children's tennis academy in Moscow had been around when you were young, do you think you would have still gone to the US? I'm wondering if you think...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not from Moscow, though.
Q. But would you have gone there to use those facilities or...?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We didn't really know about those facilities in those days.
Q. They didn't exist when you were -- I think it's relatively new.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right, right.
Q. I'm wondering whether you think the kids coming up now will have it easier than you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, as time gets better and the tennis gets bigger, I think definitely tennis will be big in Russia. And right now it is. I mean, like I said earlier, we have so many girls in the Top 100. It's just -- it's wonderful to see them all. I hope, I hope that's the way it goes. I don't really know but I hope it's the direction we're going.
Q. This tournament marks the 50th year since a girl who was about your age came to Wimbledon and won the tournament. A year later, she won a women's Grand Slam. Her name was Maureen Connelly. Do you know anything about her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No.
Q. I want to ask you one more brief question. What's your birthday?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: April 19th.
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