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March 15, 2006

Maria Sharapova


Q. That was pretty good stuff, wouldn't you say?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I thought I started off really well, and that was really, really important. You know, from the beginning of the match, I didn't underestimate her serve or her big game. So I think I came out ready, ready for the challenge. You know, it turned out well.
Q. You had seen a bit of her in Moscow. Did that prepare you for this one?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I try to forget the last time I played her. I try to forget the whole experience. It wasn't a great day for me. Neither was it for her. It didn't end on a good note.
I came to this round thinking I've already had three matches under my belt, been improving with every match, just wanted to keep doing the same in this one.
Q. By your judgment, you improved further?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did. I definitely stepped it up a little bit, especially when I needed to. I was a little patient in the end, which was important. You know, forced her to hit some errors in the end. But, yeah, I think that's also the little experience. I knew that she would come out having nothing to lose, so I had to be a little bit more patient, you know, just try to force the errors from her.
Q. I know you're an offensive player, but your defense tonight seems to be getting pretty good.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Well, like I said, that's one of the things that I'm working on. You know, I think a lot of that has to do with movement, feeling physical -- physically feeling good out on the court. Especially in the beginning of the match, I felt like I was moving really well. I made her hit an extra shot, causing the error.
Q. Which must feel good after the last couple years when you might not have been able to do that in a lot of situations.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, definitely. It's a combination of a little bit of experience, a little bit of, you know, hard work on the physical side of it. You know, I think also my racquet is helping me a lot in those situations, in the defense situations where, you know, I might not be able to hit the ball as hard or as deep as I want to.
I think that's helped me a lot since I changed. You know, a combination of a few things, yeah, definitely are playing off, I guess.
Q. You have Hingis three times in the last, what is it, six weeks now.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Three tournaments.
Q. Talk about that kind of match-up, hitting the extra shot which she forces a lot of her opponents to do.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's fun, I guess. That's all you can say. You know, third time playing against her, third consecutive tournament for me. It's going to be a good match, I guess. I'm hoping. I guess you never know. But I'm hoping to keep playing well and keep being aggressive and being patient at times where I need to be patient. Keep serving well, that's also very important.
Q. You talked about that match, playing your game more. Is it necessarily playing your game or did you play a little bit more patient, wait for the open shot?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, in Dubai, I basically took my opportunities, you know, the ones that I had. In Tokyo, even when I felt like I could get back in the match, I didn't take my opportunities, made a few errors. I think I was more focused on the match in Dubai. Yeah, I really tried not to worry about what my opponent was doing.
I mean, you can never underestimate an opponent that you're going to be playing in a semifinal or a final match. Therefore, you have to be ready for matter who it is. But you cannot take your game away from that. It's very important that you maintain -- I guess just maintain your form and just try to do your best at whatever you're good at.
Q. I know mentally you've beaten a lot of legendary players. First match in Tokyo against her, that's a tough mental match-up.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was. It was not just one of my days. It was one of those days where I wasn't playing good and she was like serving 10 aces. It was unbalanced.
Q. Do you consider her to be just more than a normal top 10, top 20 player? She's got a reputation that precedes her, has a big personality. It's not just like playing a regular elite player, true?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, you know that you're playing a great champion, someone that's obviously achieved a lot in her career. And she's still young. I mean, but like I said, any opponent that I see across the net, I cannot think about whether, you know, they're terrible or they're great. I can't put that in my mind.
I mean, I have to know that every opponent's going to play their best match against me, and that's what you have to expect, even from her or anyone that's 100 in the world.
Q. Now that you have an off day, what do you do?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'll just hit a little bit tomorrow. Basically not too much really. I won't be doing anything, just relaxing. It's one of those days where you know you already have four matches behind your belt. You just have to maintain your shape, of course, make sure your body feels good.
Q. You've lost only three quarterfinals in the last three years. In your progression, you talk about having patience for yourself, winning the semis here and possibly the final. Is that what you see?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, that's what I try to see at every tournament I go to. I mean, you know, it's great to be consistent, of course, but your goal is always to achieve better than you do.
Of course, I'd love to win it. But, you know, I mean, I'm not going to try to predict things here. I'm going to do my best in order to win it. But, you know, I have to be realistic. You know you still have a semifinal and a final to play in order to win.

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