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January 14, 2006

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: First question for Maria, please.

Q. Do you feel ready to go?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I do. I'm really excited to start off the new year with, you know, a good and positive note. I'm really, really excited to be, you know, back playing. I had a good rest at the end of the year. I'm committed to a very good 2006.

Q. How did you spend the off-season?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I took a nice vacation and then I started training. I trained for maybe five, six weeks. I went on my tour in Japan. I had to train -- you know, had to take a little bit off after that and then trained for another week.

Q. Do you still have any injury concerns at all?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I wouldn't say my shoulder is a hundred percent, but at this point it's not going to get any worse, I've been told by doctors. You know, even when I feel a little bit of pain, I feel that it's not going to be any worse than it is. So it makes me feel better. I'm a tough girl. I can play with a little bit of pain.

Q. How much do you think it will hinder you throughout the tournament? Is it going to be a major problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think a lot of it has to do with your mind. Before I was worried that it can get worse and I can damage it or tear something. You know, I took a lot of tests at one of the best clinics in the States. They said that I didn't have any, you know, major problems. But because I had it for so long and because nobody could really pinpoint the problem and tell me what's going on, it's kind of been frustrating. But yet I kind of know what the problem is now. I know that it's nothing -- it's not a major tear, nothing that major that can stop me from playing, which is really good news.

Q. Was it tendinitis, Maria?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think you can get tendinitis in your pec, can you?

Q. I thought it was higher.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's a few things. Like I said, because I've had it for a while, I kind of had bad mechanics. My scapula, it has something to do with my scapula. I'm not a doctor. I probably don't even know how to spell "scapula" or "spatula," whatever it is. I had a dislocated rib that they had to crack into place. That kind of gave me bad mechanics. I was using the wrong muscles at the wrong times. You're under a tough situation when you're playing a match. It's totally different compared to practice. That was the problem. In the practice, everything was great. Then I'd go play a match. You know, because it's a tenser situation, naturally everything tenses up. The wrong muscles are starting to compensate, everything kind of went out of place.

Q. Rest isn't the cure for it then?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no. We thought it was, but...

Q. Your friend Maria Kirilenko, she won a title last year. Is she now on the verge of sort of moving up to the top level, do you think?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've known Maria for many years. I always thought she had really great potential. She's a great athlete, moves great around the court. I always expected good things from her, wasn't surprised when she won the title. Played great tennis. But I think different people I guess have their peaks at different times. I think she just needed a little bit more time to kind of mature and get the experience. That just depends on the individual. But, you know, she's a very good friend of mine.

Q. How far do you two go back? When did you first get to know each other?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think we were maybe 12 or 13.

Q. Junior tournaments?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, at a junior tournament, uh-huh.

Q. If you had to project the year ahead, do you think we'll see another year like last year where you had four different women win the majors? Do you think we'll have a chance of taking over and dominating the game?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: If I was a psychic, I'd tell you, but I don't really know (smiling). I wish I knew. I guess you just hope for the best and you train and you work hard. I mean, I don't know. I'd love to win a Slam this year, yeah.

Q. There was speculation that you were out with Andy Roddick when he was playing poker at the casino. Any more to that? Is that just a friendship?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don't comment on my personal life. I'm sorry.

Q. Where did you have your vacation? Were you recognized?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, well, I was in two different places. I went to the car bean. I was in Turks and Caicos. Then I went to -- Richard Branson invited me to his island, Necker, for another week. I had a little bit of both places. Fun under the sun.

Q. Were you recognized?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Was I recognized? In Turks, yeah. In Necker, there's nobody there. I mean, it's like your own island to yourself. But, no, it was fun. It wasn't bad.

Q. Are you pleased to see Martina Hingis back in the mix?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I am. I honestly think it brings so much more excitement to the game and so much more attention, just make it more exciting. I mean, obviously right now she's not seeded, so sometimes she can play a seed first round. It's just kind of that unexpected great player that you can play maybe first round, like it happened last week. It brings a lot of excitement, that's for sure.

Q. Is it possible for her to get back to the top?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I can't say. I wouldn't know. I mean, it's definitely not easy at the beginning. She still has all the experience. But health-wise, I don't think it's really easy just to come back and be healthy when you're playing so many tournaments at a time, when you haven't played for a long time. But, you know, that depends on the individual.

Q. New racquet from Prince?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I I'm playing with the 03 racquet, White. Yeah, I tried -- I just wanted to try a few different racquets after the year ended. As soon as I picked it up, I really liked it. I felt really good. Doesn't happen often, when you pick up a racquet and you feel good about it. Didn't have any problems with it. It kind of helps me a little bit, gives me an extra -- gives me an extra, I guess, umph on the ball. When you're playing defense, I feel like there's a little bit more on the ball. Usually I like to be in control of things. I know a lot of the racquets these days have so much power, they string them so loose, that you don't have any control over your ball. I'm the total opposite. I want to make sure, I want to be the one hitting the shots and knowing where they're going. With this racquet, I think I can do that. But it helps me I think. With the other one, I think maybe I had to do a little too much, you know. I think maybe this can help my arm, as well.

Q. The head size is the same?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Everything is the same. The dimensions are the same. The weight is a little bit more. But I think if you want a little bit more power, it has to be a little bit more.

End of FastScripts….

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