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March 17, 2006

Maria Sharapova


Q. Do you remember a better match you played recently?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I think the level of tennis was definitely higher, uhm, that I've played in the last few months, yeah. But, uhm, thank god it just went my way. I think I played a great match in Australia in the semis and it didn't go my way.
So, you know, it was a good end to the day.
Q. Your defense seems to be getting better and better every single month. Was that pretty much the key today: you being able to stay in those points and not getting tired, not hitting off balance?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that's also very important. But I think to see the opportunities when they come, especially on short balls, taking those opportunities, not letting her get back in the point. That's what she does great, you know, is getting a lot of balls back, seeing the ball and making you hit an extra shot.
You know, I wanted to see the ball faster and take my opportunities, see the short ball and try to come in and hit the next ball out of the air.
Q. You were taking the ball on the rise better than I've seen you do before.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've never gotten so many compliments in a press conference before. I must say. My defense is good, I'm taking the balls on the rise. I mean, wow!
Q. Swing volley was pretty good, too.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Swing volley. Serve was terrible, but okay (smiling).
Q. We won't talk about the serve.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No (smiling).
Q. Was that accurate, that you were intentionally taking the ball on the rise?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I think I did a lot of things well. That's what it takes in order to beat a top player. But, uhm, you know, on any given day you can do some things really well and some things not.
I served really well throughout the tournament. I wasn't serving great today. You know, but I did other things a lot better. You know, I was moving a lot better. I did take a lot of balls on the rise, yeah.
Q. She was suggesting a few moments ago this is probably the best you've played against her. Do you feel that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, probably. Yeah, I think out of the three matches, this probably was. I think she played a lot better than she did the second time we played against her. You know, when your opponent plays better, especially after you've had a few matches in the tournament, you know, you're able to step it up when you're playing against someone that is better than the opponents in the previous rounds.
Q. Every time you lost your serve, you broke back.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I tended to lose the serve when I was playing against the wind. She was hitting a lot of balls deep. Yeah, I made a few double-faults. Other than that, I didn't feel like I was doing too many things wrong. Changing sides and going with the wind, that really helped me, especially off her second serve.
Q. Did you intentionally step your game up after you lost your serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, obviously, yeah, after you lose your serve, you know if you keep losing the games, you know, good things aren't going to happen.
Q. Can you talk about how satisfying it is to beat a player like Hingis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, definitely it is. Like I said, especially when the match is so physically and mentally tough. I think every point, we were both fighting for every point out there. You know, just having really long rallies and recovering from them.
I mean, yeah, it's satisfying at the end of the day to come off, you know, with a really good win. Yeah, you know, for sure.
Q. You seemed pretty emotionally engaged. You fist pump every match, but today they were a little stronger.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was really ready today. I really was. I knew it was going to be tough. I didn't underestimate her level of play. I knew it was going to be a very tough match and I need to be ready for it.
Also the crowd got me better. In the second set, someone yelled, "Martina, she's getting tired." That kind of pumped me up a little bit. I hit two winners in a row. I looked back at them, and I'm like, tired, my butt. So don't mess with a truck. You're going to become a pancake.
Q. Don't mess with what?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A truck. You're going to get run over really fast.
Q. You seem to be moving faster. Is that something you've been working on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, the physical part. I've said this like 30 times. I feel like I'm saying it again. The physical part of my game is very important right now. It's what I'm working on. That's what's been improving. I mean, if you look at me a year ago, I don't think I was at this point physically. So I know -- it didn't take five days, it didn't take a month. It took a whole year to progress and get better. I think that's how much time it's going to take. It's going to take years in order for me, you know, to be physically moving great, you know.
Q. The issue with the trainer just a matter of blisters?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I think from the heat or something, my skin was sensitive. I don't know.
Q. Can you talk about your potential two opponents.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, to tell you the truth, I'd love to play Henin again. I know I've lost to her the last few times, so it would be -- it's physically challenging for me, you know, to play her. But that's why I love this game, is because of the challenges.
I don't like to lose against players many times in a row. It's getting too much. So I think, you know, I'd love to play her.
Elena, I haven't played her in a while, so it would be interesting.
But, yeah, either way, I'm really happy to be in the finals.
Q. Back to your comment about flatten them like a pancake, was the spectator sitting behind you or on the side?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Behind me. Behind me, yeah. The funny thing is he started clapping for me after that. I think he got scared (laughter). Then when I was waving to that side, he's like (coyishly waving).
Q. Did you shake your finger at him?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was to him (smiling).
Q. This is your second final since winning Birmingham last year. Nine months without a title. Obviously that's a bit frustrating.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it's not. Not frustrating at all.
Q. Is it something that when you get to a final, if it doesn't happen, you get to a semi or it doesn't happen, you look on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, I said this before. I'm very happy to be one of the most consistent players. At my age and at my level at this point, I think that's great. I mean, I don't expect myself to win every single tournament right now. Every time I do well, every time I beat a great player, every time I come off a match that was tough but I feel like I played well, it encourages me even more to do better and work even harder. Even after losses. I've had losses in my career where, yeah, it's disappointing.
But I look into the future and I think, you know what, there's a lot of room for improvement. Hey, I played a great match. I still have a lot to look forward to.
There's no disappointment in not winning a tournament, however long it is. I'm more than happy to be doing as well as I am right now.
Q. Take us through your serve. You start very slow, then suddenly you seem to uncoil like a spring.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I've done it most of my career. That's how basically I've served. I think you don't see too many of the service motions like that in a game. I mean, I don't know how to describe it.
Actually, I look at tapes, and it's actually pretty elegant, to tell you the truth (laughter). I'm not trying to compliment myself, but I just did, right?
Q. Does it matter to you if the crowd is behind you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it doesn't matter.
Q. The one fan seemed to make a difference.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it doesn't matter. It's just when everything was quiet, all of a sudden he's right behind me and yells that right in my ear.
Q. The crowd seemed to be very much behind Hingis, her whole comeback.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, that's great. I love being the underdog. I love being the favorite. Whatever. I even like not being the favorite because I even play better, so...
Q. If you do play Elena, how is it different playing another Russian compared to any other nation?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's not any different when you actually step out on the court, to tell you the truth. I don't worry about that when I'm on the court playing against her, or any other Russian.
Yeah, it is more challenging, I guess, you know, knowing that she's from the same country. But I don't think when you step out on the court it makes that big of a difference.
Q. Martina said please don't start talking about the power, it wasn't the power, it was the placement, playing smart. Is it possible to separate the two?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, is it possible to separate the two? I don't know. I mean, I think the game is not all about power, and I don't think it's all about finesse. I mean, I don't know. It's difficult to say. I think if you have a little bit of both and you're quick and you see the ball good, I mean, I guess then you're the perfect package.
But, you know, I don't think anyone's perfect. I don't think anyone has everything in their game. They find a way to win with their strengths.
Q. Do you take any satisfaction in that a few years ago everybody was looking forward to this event, to Maria Sharapova playing Sesil Karatantcheva?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You'd be the only person to ask this question.
Q. Do you ever reflect on that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, I forgot about that a long time ago.
Q. Elena said part of the thing about trying to beat Justine is she's the most mentally tough player on tour.
Q. Talk about that challenge.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think she's probably -- I would say she's one of the toughest players mentally to play because she can keep her level for a long period of time. She can keep that high level.
You know, it's difficult. It's difficult to keep playing at a high level throughout a whole match - especially a three-setter. It's very difficult. I think that's what makes her very tough, is she is able to do that.

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