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June 24, 2003

Maria Sharapova


MODERATOR: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Maria Sharapova.

Q. You made that look probably easier than it should have been. Were you impressed with your form?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, definitely. I came out there, did my job, and I played really, really good match, you know, solid off both strokes. My game worked out really, really well. I felt good out there, you know, had a lot of energy, was willing to fight and just played really well.

Q. How was your preparation? You had the DFS in Birmingham, then for a week you just practiced on grass behind closed doors?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was here for a whole week just practicing, doing fitness.

Q. And that went well?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it did. I didn't overdo it. Just, you know, worked on the things from the DFS Classic that I needed to work on, did my fitness, did recovery stuff, just was getting ready for this.

Q. You've been in the United States for quite some time now. Do you ever see yourself becoming an American citizen?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've never really thought about that. I'm really Russian inside of me. I have Russian blood all the way. I have family back there. I mean, of course, I've lived in the United States half of my life. But that's something that, you know, is because of my tennis. But, I mean, I'm happy playing for Russia right now. I have no regrets, just doing my job on the court.

Q. You did so well in Birmingham. A lot of the publicity you got was kind of the wrong kind because of the noise you were making on court. How disappointing was that for you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't really pay attention to that. It didn't disappoint me at all. I mean, it's nothing to be disappointed about. You know, it's just the way that I play. I didn't really care. I just played my game. Like you said, I did well. I got to the semis, which is a good run for me. I played really well. I was really happy with myself. I mean, grunting was the last thing on my mind.

Q. Was it on your mind? You were trying to keep it in?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not at all, no.

Q. Has anyone spoken to you about trying to be a little quieter on the court?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, at the DFS Classic, I was told, one of my matches. But, no, I mean, I try not to make noise. But it's just something that I've been doing all of my life, since I've been playing tennis. I mean, unless I control it, it's difficult. But I try to control it, yes.

Q. When did you think when Ashley shouted across louder in the middle of the match today, second set?


Q. Yes.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Didn't hear that.

Q. How distracting or intimidating is it for an opponent?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I think you'd have to ask them. I really don't know how to answer that question.

Q. Robert likes to tease you about a lot of things. Has he ever teased you about that, making jokes?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not that -- well, not that I know of. I think it was in the USA Today or something last week. He saw it. He's like, "Did you grunt today?" He meant, "Did you win today?" Yeah, just a joke.

Q. Is he here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, he's in LA.

Q. When you say you're trying to control it, does it affect your concentration in the match?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Never, no, no, no. It's just something that I try to control. But, you know, my mouth doesn't do anything, doesn't control the way I play. It's just a mouth. I mean, I'm just out there playing my game.

Q. What message do you think is being sent to young women about their physiques in the new WTA marketing program? How have things changed over the last few years?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: With the rule, you mean?

Q. With the marketing, the WTA marketing, emphasis on strong women.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: The new campaign?

Q. Yes.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's wonderful. It's a really great campaign, you know, for the WTA Tour. I mean, they showed me a few months ago. I mean, I was really interested. I thought for the WTA Tour, you know, that was really huge. I mean, it's really different from what other people have been seeing, thinking that women are, you know, very nice, pretty on the court. But this campaign really shows their toughness. And I think that's great. It shows what this tour is all about. It's not just about going out there and being pretty. You know, it shows how tough we are out there, and how mentally strong we are. Basically I really think it's nice.

Q. How is the message to young girls changed from a few years ago to now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I don't know if this is really a message. I think it's not a message to little girls. I think it's just a message out to the world, you know, that sort of sometimes they think that men are sort of like tough and they're big and they're power, and girls are all nice and sweet and pinkish. I mean, it's a change because it really shows how women are strong on the court and they're not pretty, just trying to place the ball and have fun out there. They're really trying to win and fight every ball and be really tough.

Q. Nevertheless, how prepared are you to fill the Kournikova gap?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really need to be prepared for that. I mean, I just do my own thing, just try to worry about myself, you know, just do my own thing all the time, not try to be, you know, whoever else or try to close the gap.

Q. Your father was getting quite excited on the side of the court. Has he been a big inspiration to you, a real help to you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. My parents have always been an inspiration to me. I mean, what they have done for me, my future, how they have helped me, you know, through the good times or the bad times. Of course, it's wonderful playing first round of Wimbledon, you know, getting all excited. It's just part of his feelings out there. I really think it's really good. I mean, it keeps me up, it keeps me tough, keeps me fighting out there, really in the match.

Q. At this early stage of your career, what are your tennis ambitions?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I really want to be No. 1 in the world. It's been my dream since I was a little girl. Just to go out there and just enjoy myself. I know the way that I can play. I mean, just try to go out there and play really well. And, you know, I think when someone can play their best tennis, they can show really good things out there. That's basically what I try to do.

Q. Every time you have spoken in press conferences, you've impressed people with your literacy and your ability to speak very fluidly, intelligently. What's the origin of your education in the United States? Who is responsible for your education?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've always been home-schooled. But for high school I'm online, it's called Keystone National High School. They just basically send me the books, all the work. My mom rips apart all the books so I don't have to carry all the books, separates them into lessons. I do the lessons. I take the exams on line. It's been really working really, really well.

Q. How demanding have your parents been about your getting a proper education?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: My mom, I mean, she's always, you know, really trying to get me. I mean, it's a really important thing in my life, you know, to be educated. I don't want to go into a press conference and, you know, don't know how to speak or don't know how to put a sentence together. So it's really important, and I really enjoy doing it. I enjoy learning about new things, learning about new cultures, new languages. It's a lot of fun.

Q. What kind of media training have you been getting?


Q. You said in Birmingham you enjoyed all the attention, you were looking forward to the attention here. Is it living up to your expectations?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really expect anything. You know, I just go out and I play and I'm really happy when the fans are for me and cheering and having a good time and enjoying a good match. So today was really wonderful. It was a full crowd. I mean, of course it's wonderful playing in front of that crowd, and I always enjoy it, yeah.

Q. When you make those exhalations, is that something you were taught or something you started doing when you were done?


Q. The grunting noises.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I've been doing it all my life since I was four playing tennis.

Q. Did somebody encourage you to do that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it just came natural.

Q. How often have you been watching Monica Seles?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: How often? Well, in Russia, you know, you didn't have a lot of television on those days. When I was in the US, I didn't get to watch a lot. I mean, I did watch, but I didn't really pay attention. I wasn't really serious about watching TV, seeing someone play. I was more interested in the way that I played, didn't really focus on the TV.

Q. Bovina next, is that right?


Q. Let's assume that she does.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don't know if she won. I don't know why we want to assume that.

Q. First time meeting?


Q. Tell us about her game.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I really haven't seen her play that much, to tell you the truth. But my dad has, my coach has. I'm not worried. You know, I just go out and play my game. That's the only thing that you can do. You can have a little tactic here and there, but basically just go out and play your game.

Q. In which way was it special to win in what the British tabloids call the "Battle of the Babes"? Was it a special playing against Ashley?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Was it special?

Q. Yes.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Every opponent is the same to me. It might be special playing the No. 1 player in the world because she's No. 1 in the world. But playing someone that's, you know, 40 in the world, I mean, I have a lot of respect for her, but I'm just trying to go out there and play my game, do the best that I can, not worry about who's on the other side of the court. I mean, I don't know what the tabloids are saying. Doesn't really bother me. Just go out and play my game, whoever it is.

Q. Why do you think there's so many good up-and-coming Russian women these days?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: To tell you the truth, I think they're really strong inside. In Russia, I don't think you have many opportunities when they decide to play a sport, they think there is their only chance to make it and they work really, really hard at it and achieve many good things because they know that's maybe the only thing they can do. Some people have a talent at it, and they just know they have the talent, but they just need to work hard at it. I mean, I think they're just really strong inside, really tough mentally, have good desire to be No. 1 in the world. Just they're willing to go out there and play hard.

Q. Why tennis rather than other sports? A lot of courts?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Courts, no. I wouldn't say there are a lot, no. I don't think there are a lot of courts. But it doesn't really matter about the courts. You know, it's what they are inside, their feelings inside about how they can achieve things, how they can be No. 1 in the world. I mean, they can move to another country and still have the same enthusiasm as they are in Russia. It might change. They might find a job that pays them well, but they still have a strong belief that they have a good talent. And in order to achieve and be No. 1 in the world, they have to be really strong. That's what they are.

Q. What's the biggest difficulty with certain looks and a certain ability to keep concentrated on the sport?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Can you repeat that, please?

Q. With certain looks and abilities in tennis, what's difficult to keep concentrated on the sports?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't understand the question.

Q. What's the danger not to be distracted from playing tennis when you've got certain looks and certain abilities in the sport, for example, like Anna Kournikova? What's the dangers?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: There is no danger. If you go out there and think that Kournikova is on the other side of the court, you think, "Oh, wow, it's Kournikova," you might as well get out of the court right away. If you think the opposite, you're going to go out there and play your best, fight in order to beat her. Like I said, it doesn't matter who is on the other side of the court. As long as you know you're playing your game and you know you're doing your own thing, that's what I'm there for. I don't know for anybody. For me, there is no danger. I go out there and try to beat everyone who is on the other side of the court.

End of FastScripts….

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