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March 18, 2006

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria, please
Q. Don't you know the number 13 is unlucky?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess not. It was lucky for me today.
Q. How does it feel?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It feels really great. Honestly I was having a really tough end of the year last year. You know, not a lot of people know about it, but it was very frustrating because tournament after tournament, you know, I'd be working hard, I'd be trying to get back in shape, playing tennis, and all of a sudden my injury would kind of bring me down again. It was really tough.
These kind of tournaments, you know, they mean a lot to me, they give me more confidence because I've known I've put in the hard work. I guess you just never know when the hard work will pay off. I guess just trying to stay positive always helps. You know, it's definitely good to see that it did pay off today.
Q. Was this the first tournament where your shoulder and the rib actually was okay the whole time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Huh-uh, no. It wasn't perfect. The last three matches I felt it a little bit.
Q. It was good enough where you felt like you could actually play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The main thing is I'm not scared of it any more. No matter even if it hurts more than, you know, maybe I can't serve 100%, I can't serve with the speed I want to. In my mind mentally, I know I can't do anything worse. I just play a lot freer when it's kind of not on your mind.
Q. Do you feel you can't do anything worse with that injury?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Huh-uh, because it's getting better.
Q. Can you talk about conditions out there, how hard it was to push through?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, definitely. Because you can be playing great tennis the past week, you come out and no matter how good you might have been playing, you know, the level of tennis goes down the drain basically simply because of the wind.
I mean, I think it was difficult for both of us. You know, I tried to do everything possible, tried to get the balls in. I mean, a lot of balls, you didn't know which way they were going, especially on the serve, to go up to the line and hit a good serve.
Q. What kind of training did you do as you came back these last six months?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, well, I was doing a lot of fitness. Uhm, I was trying to do a lot of work on the court as much as I could without, you know, having a lot of pain. But a lot of fitness, yeah, I've been doing, yeah.
Q. How much of a shock to the system was the Hingis match in Tokyo? Did that really focus your mind that you had to improve on certain things or not at all?
Q. Not in the slightest?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Just another match for me.
Q. When did you get so good at putting those behind you so quickly? Everybody kept asking you about last year here.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's kind of silly. That's what I think. I mean, it's been a year. I mean, I don't know why you should look back to it. You know, I don't know why it should be in your mind. I mean, I've seen players that have lost first round in one tournament and the next week they go out and they win a big tournament. I mean, tennis is a sport, like I said, you have a chance every single week.
So, I mean, the positive is that, yeah, you might have lost, you might have had a bad day, but you have to look on the bright side: you have another opportunity to make up for it.
Q. The Hingis match, gone the next week or the next day?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm sure it was that night. I didn't pay too much attention to the match because I played terrible, so...
Q. So you're saying the losses don't stay with you necessarily. Do the wins stay with you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yeah, of course. What do you think?
Q. How many of them?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: How many of them?
Q. If you're not feeling good about yourself, do you think back to particular wins?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I love pictures, so I always -- at home I have a lot of albums from just great memories from the first little tournament I won, 10,000 in Japan, to my first WTA tournament, to Wimbledon. You know, just good memories, looking back as what you achieved. It puts a smile on my face when you're not having a good day, when you think things are not going your way, you know, you look back.
Personally, I look back and think how amazing my life and my career has been and what an opportunity I got.
Q. In your photo collection, what are your two favorite photos?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In my collection? Wow, that's a tough one. Definitely one of them would be at Wimbledon with the trophy. Uhm, another would probably be personal.
Q. Your grandmother?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My grandmother? I have a lot of family pictures. I don't know if that would be one of my favorites, though.
Q. You were chitchatting with Chris Evert, what did you talk about?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We talked about the bracelet she was giving me (laughter). She says, "I'm going to keep it." I told her, "No, you're not."
Q. Can you tell us who you were calling on your cell phone?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I was talking to my friend and my mom.
Q. Amélie Mauresmo will be No. 1 in the world after this tournament. What do you think about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think she definitely deserves that top spot. You know, she won a Grand Slam. She's been a very consistent player. She won The Championships. Yeah, she deserves it for sure.
Q. When is the last time you think you played so well, so aggressively, so strongly in a week, a consistent level of high-level tennis, given all the conditions?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I thought I played pretty well at the Australian, honestly. It's a two-week event. I wasn't able to pull through, but I did play some good tennis, learned a lot against Justine's match, felt like I played good. I don't know.
Q. How hard was it for you to mentally come to terms with the fact that you were an athlete, you were injured, that you would probably be living with injuries the rest of your career?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, whenever I wake up and I don't have any pains, I'm shocked, so...
That's the life of a tennis player.
Q. Did it take you a while to not get disappointed and depressed a little bit about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I started realizing when I started playing more and more tournaments because, you know, with playing more, your body gets really, really beat up and tired. You know, I mean, as you warm up, as you play, as you get into the matches, you loosen up.
But when you wake up, you're stiff, definitely, whatever injury you might have. But you have to know that the farther you get in a tournament, the pain that you're feeling, your opponent should be feeling as well. You're at the same place. But, of course, one might be injured more than another, whatever the case may be.
You have to learn quick or else, yeah, it would be disappointing.
Q. Basically everybody's hurting out there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Got aches and pains.
Q. Where does this win go in the photo album?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. The next section, I guess.
Q. Which will be titled what, Maria's Comeback?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't title my photos. I don't have titles. What do you think, I have an album that this is my first boyfriend, this is my second boyfriend? Come on (laughter).
Q. Last year Kim was able to put two tournaments together. Do you think in terms of that or is this just another tournament coming up in Miami?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I'll take this as a good confidence boost, you know, being able to play at a high level throughout a whole week, playing six matches, getting the matches that I wanted. I think that's what I was lacking last year, I was always coming into a big event without having a lot of matches behind my belt. That was a bit difficult. That actually made it a lot harder for me because I didn't have that many matches.
You know, I enjoy playing week after week. I feel like I get better as I play more matches. I think especially with the win here, it will definitely give me confidence. You never know what can happen.
Q. Some tennis players say they learn from certain losses. Has there been a loss or two in your career that you've learned from?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, actually, no, there's not one particular, but I do remember, uhm, it was one of my first pro matches that I played was, uhm, against Monica here, you know, when I probably was up like 2-0 and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I ended up losing probably like 2-0, something like that. And I thought I played great tennis.
You come off the court and you're like, "Wow, 2-0, and I played great tennis." It just, uhm, you know, kind of put a perspective in me how much it takes, how much you need to work hard, you know, to be at a top level, you know. It taught me a lot.
I think a lot of the matches when I was younger taught me that, taught me to be tough. But still, you know, a lot of the matches I still play, you know, teach me a lot of things.
Q. Do you think Monica was the toughest player mentally that you faced?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't remember 'cause I think -- I don't know, when was the last time I played her? I played her two times, one time here, one time at an exhibition in Hong Kong. I was 15 at that point. You know, I think I wasn't at the level where, uhm, I really paid attention to what she was doing. I was trying to get a game out there.
Q. Some of her second serves were high 60s, low 70s. Was your plan to jump on top of that second serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It probably would have been if it wasn't for the wind today. In these windy conditions, it's hard to go for your shots. It's going to be very hard to make every one simply because of the wind. A lot of the balls, you don't know where they're going to go.
I think I just try to get the ball in play, hit it deep, you know, get in the point rather than try and hit a winner.
Q. By your own standards, did you play great tennis today, or did the wind, did you just deal with that better than she did?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think neither of us could have played great tennis. I mean, it's very hard to do personally, I honestly don't think you're ever going to play great tennis in these kind of conditions.
But on these kind of days, it's not about playing great tennis; it's about finding a way to win. I thought I did that well today.
Q. How much better are you now than when you won Wimbledon?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: How much better? Uhm, I feel physically a lot fitter than I was at Wimbledon. I'm able to play match after match, you know, day after day rather than having a day off, and still feeling really fit, energy-wise having more energy than I did before.
Q. Do you feel like you have more components to your game, too?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I do. I'm working on a few things, variety and fitness. But I definitely feel like, you know, my defense is a lot better than it was definitely at Wimbledon. But grass, you know, is a very fast surface. I mean, a lot of it is offense there.
Yeah, I think little things are starting, you know, to show.
Q. Are you also proud because this was dominated by Russian girls?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, for sure. I don't remember the last time we had two Russians in the final. I don't even know. Is there a final this year? I don't know. It's really special. I remember in '04 we had so many Russian finals. Hopefully we'll see many more.
Q. What are you going to do with that whale?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think I get the big one. I can't even carry that thing. I don't know. It's so heavy. I think I might have pulled something. No, I'm joking (laughter). I need some work on my shoulder.

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