January 20, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Apart from the score line, what pleased you most about the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, she's a lefty, she's a very tricky player. You just have to be very patient. It was the first day that was really hot out there today, so I just had to be extra patient. I knew that she wouldn't just give up the match, that I had to work for it. I was happy that I fought till the end.
Q. So your form's looking good?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, why not.
Q. Everything today seemed to be working the way you wanted it to?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I think it took a little while to get used to the conditions. But other than that, it felt pretty good, yeah.
Q. (Question regarding the difficulty of the game.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wouldn't say that was really easy. I mean, mentally it was pretty tough when you know you've got a very patient opponent and you know that it's really hot out there. I mean, you've got to be really tough. And the score doesn't really explain the match. I was pretty happy because I knew it was not going to be easy.
Q. What is your feeling about playing Serena a year later? Do you think about that match a lot?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, no, I forgot about it two days after. I mean, it made me a stronger player mentally. But, yeah, I forgot about it.
Q. How do you feel you've changed as a player and a person from that match a year ago?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think a whole year brings a lot of experience to your game. My game has matured a lot. I feel -- I mean, most importantly I feel it's not about other players seeing it, but I myself feel it when I'm out on the court. I feel like I'm a more experienced player in tougher situations. I know I've been there. Even though I'm still only 18, still have a lot to learn. But I feel like I'm slowly getting better, yeah.
Q. As a person, you've been through a lot in the last year.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I have. But it's all been -- I've had a lot of exciting things happened in my life. But they've all been really, really cool.
Q. What stands out to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Tennis-wise or what?
Q. Both tennis-wise and off the court.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What stands out to me is a great support family that I have through the good times and the bad. I had a tough past few months. My parents have been with me through these bad times. They've just taught me to keep my head up. That's been really important. Also my friends. I'll tell you an interesting story. It's kind of amazing. I went to Japan to do my tour in December. And, uhm, it was the first time where I actually -- I went on the court and where I felt like people -- you know, people appreciated what I do. I've never had the opportunity to be somewhere, because you're always playing a competitive match, you're always in a situation where, you know, you just want to win, you want to go back to your hotel, you want to get ready for your next match. But we had 8,000 people coming to watch my tour play. You know, I mean, it's amazing. They're not coming to watch a WTA match, they're coming to watch you play. The respect in the audience, it was amazing.
Q. Once today I noticed you went left-handed. You obviously have the innate ability to do it. Do you practice it much or does it just happen?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I'm naturally a lefty, so I do practice it once in a while just to kind of balance it off. But I do a lot of things lefty. I mean, I write with my right hand, but I throw and I kick with my left foot and my left hand. I don't know. When I was younger, I played a little bit more lefty. I actually was at a point I didn't know if I was going to play lefty or righty or both hands.
Q. Something just clicked in your mind and you switched the hands?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: If I feel comfortable enough to hit a lefty, I feel like I'm in the right position to do it, yeah, I'm confident that I can make it.
Q. How old did you say you were when you decided to switch?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: 10, 11, yeah. I played lefty for about a year or something, then I played a little bit both hands, I played for a few months, then I went back to righty.
Q. Sunday is going to be even hotter than it was today.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thanks for letting me know. Kind of wanted to forget about it (smiling).
Q. I was going to ask you, how might that affect the match Sunday? A tough one either way?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, look, it's going to be tough for me, it's going to be tough for my opponent. I mean, when it's that hot, just mentally you've got to be so tough. I know it's very physical out there, but if you just keep positive. Yeah, of course it's going to be tough, but I'm ready for the challenge. That's why I'm here.
Q. I guess if it's as hot as they say it's going to be, the roof will be closed.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That will be better.
Q. Is that okay with you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don't mind it. If the roof's closed, the roof's closed. I mean, you've just got a roof over your head.
Q. Are you feeling any ill effects from the shoulder injury at all or is it completely recovered?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, it gets a little bit sore once in a while. But I have treatment right on the spot, get it back loose again. As long as I can maintain that, yeah, it will be fine.
Q. Speaking with my office back in England, someone said, "She appears to have toughened up around her shoulders."
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's about time they talk about that in England, yeah (smiling). Took them a while.
Q. You obviously haven't been able to get in the gym and do a lot of weights with that shoulder, have you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, it's not really about weights. It's about -- I don't think tennis is really about going to the gym and hitting the weights, the more you can lift, the better you're going to get. I think tennis has a lot more to offer than that. I mean, I have very flexible shoulders. In one way it's very good, and in another it's not. It was just about I guess strengthening little muscles, and it's not with heavy weight, it's with bands and stuff like that. I mean, I can't lift a five-pound plate. I can't do that. I'm not built to do that, you know, but I can lift a band.
Q. Who do you do the fitness with? Is that your dad and Michael?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right now my physio's kind of helping me doing the shoulder strengthening, just keeping every day do a little bit, just get the right muscles to work and to fire up. Other than that, no, fitness-wise I do have a coach that's kind of permanently in Los Angeles. So when I'm in Florida, I just kind of do things on my own. But I spend a lot of time in both places. There's no one really that I have traveling with me.
Q. You don't have a fitness trainer on the road?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. When you travel so much, I learned the most important thing is to take care of your body. I traveled with a fitness coach for a year and thought that was the right thing at that time. But, you know, things change and you realize that you need someone new.
Q. Talk about Serena's competitive spirit, in comparison to others on the tour, how it feels to play against her.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: This is a very competitive, individual sport. I mean, if anyone can be competitive, anyone can tough it out, I think a lot of the sport has to do with being tough. I mean, it's all about being mental and tough and trying to get one more ball in there, try to make the opponent miss. I mean, anyone that's tough has a really good shot.
Q. How does she rank, in your opinion, in that department?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't really rank anyone. I don't look at the rankings and say, "She's up here, she's down there." It's not something I do as a hobby.
Q. You hit a close serve out on the match point last year. How hard is it to swallow when you lose a match by centimeters or whatever?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was hard. But, like I said, let's try to forget about it, yeah (smiling).
Q. When you went back to Russia last year, can you talk about that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Wow, that was a very different experience. I felt so welcomed. I've never been in the situation where, I mean, I'm playing and I feel like the whole stadium is supporting you. I mean, it's something that I've obviously never felt because I never played under. When I played against Dinara, it was even. Even though it was even, I felt like I was at home. I felt like I was playing -- I wasn't prepared to play there with my shoulder. I wasn't 100% physically or mentally, but, you know, I was committed to playing there, I wanted to play there the whole year. I just said, you know what, I just got to go and do the best you can. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out very well, but it was a good experience.
Q. How was your time off the court there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was mentally pretty hard. I mean, got a lot of attention. Even when I just wanted to walk around, you know, do a little sight-seeing, I mean, a lot of people recognize me, more than in any other country. But they don't bother you as much. I remember I went to the Red Square, and there were these soldiers standing there where they can't even blink. The guy almost had a heart attack. I mean, the poor guy, he had to call over another sergeant. They had to go like that with their gun. They call over somebody else. They started laughing when they were talking. Then I left. One of them ran after me and wanted to get my autograph. It was really cool.
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