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June 28, 2006

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Maria Sharapova. Questions.

Q. Will you describe your game today as easy or slightly tough?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, you know, from the beginning of the match, I kind of broke her. That was kind of the whole set of that match. You know, I took advantage of the first balls. I knew that she's not the best grass court player. I just had to go for my shots, hit them, you know, try to come in, put some pressure on her because she'll run out there all day.

Q. When you and Venus and Amélie win so easily today, does it kind of make it harder to argue the whole equal prize money argument? You guys were barely out on the court, each of you, today.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, this is only the first round. I mean, this is grass. If you have a player that's, you know -- that loves to run around the baseline and hit high balls over the net, if you can step in, you're not going to see a very long match.
But, you know, it's grass tennis. Other events, first-round matches are not that easy.

Q. What are your thoughts about the prize money issue here at Wimbledon?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, well, my say is that, of course, I mean, it would be kind of stupid of me to say I don't want equal prize money. You know, it's -- I think women and men should be treated equally. You know, this is an amazing sport that we play in. There's so much interest in women's tennis today. You know, I think the public, as well, I mean, they enjoy the women's play just as much as the men. Just because the men play five sets, they're physically stronger, they've got stronger genes, I mean, what can we do? But other than that, yeah.

Q. Are there any arguments that you've heard on behalf of the All England Club that do resonate with you or is it pretty much cut and dried in your opinion?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know what, I mean, honestly, at this point, just because we're not getting paid so much less money, it doesn't really mean that we're not going to come to the event. I mean, I'll be honest with you. Because, I mean, at this point it's a small gap that we do want to equalize. But, uhm, you know, of course it's something that, you know, we hope that will change our way.

Q. Did you see Bethanie Mattek, I don't know if you see her as a fashion rival?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I didn't see her, no.

Q. Having won here at 17, the expectations are so high for you here. Are the expectations of the public and the media as high for yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I never have big expectations from myself. You know, I've said this before, I don't think I have anything to prove to the whole world. I do this because I love it, I love to compete, I love to go out there. The only reason I'm here is to hold that plate at the end of the two weeks. I'm not here to show someone that I'm better than others or, you know, to prove a point. You know, I do it because I love it and because, you know, as long as I have that passion for it. You have nerves, that's part of the sport, that's part of coming out on Centre Court, battling your nerves. But that has nothing to do with expectations or what people think.
I mean, if that controls you, I mean, you should be out of the business.

Q. Seemed to take you a little while to warm up on your serve. It was a bit slow early on. Am I drawing the wrong conclusion?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think you're being a little critical, but that's all right.

Q. It was your first match.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What was wrong with it?

Q. Slower.

Q. Got a lot quicker as the game got on.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know if you saw the sun, but there was a little bit of sun out there, yeah, so...

Q. I'm sure.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm sure (smiling).

Q. Your seat was rather differently arranged than the other girl. Any significance to that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. When I came out on court, that was the way it was arranged. I don't change it.

Q. How has your grass court game evolved in the last two years? Do you play differently on the surface than you did two years ago?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I'm trying to take my chances. When I get a short ball, I'm definitely trying to move in a little bit more. I think I've lost a few matches because I've been, you know, tentative to come out there.
Girls -- you know, some of these girls can run all day long. If you don't put any pressure on them, then sometimes they can run all day long, just a little too good at the end of the day.
You know, I don't know, it's hard to say considering you only play on grass so many tournaments a year. But, you know, you got to take -- it's all about first ball combinations. If you can return well, if you can get a good stroke, you have the advantage of the point, you're not going to see really long rallies here.

Q. Are you saying you didn't play aggressively enough in the semifinals last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, no, I don't know. I don't remember what it was. I don't know.

Q. You're saying over the last couple years --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not just on grass, but I think in general, you know, seeing my opportunities, seeing it with my eyes, you know, coming in on the right ball.

Q. One serve and volley today, is that right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Wow, I should get a medal (laughter).

Q. Is that something you can ever see yourself doing more?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I can. It's really funny, I grew up playing on clay actually. I mean, I've seen tapes of myself when I was 10, 11 years old, and I would serve and volley, I'd hit dropshots, I'd hit slices. I mean, God, I did all kinds of things. It's just, you know, funny because I'm really good at it and I know I am, it's just a matter of going to a match and doing it.
Like I said, I don't want to be tentative. When I see the opportunity, I got to take it.

Q. Back to what you said about the five sets, I'm being half serious.

Q. If women can run marathons at the Olympics, why can't you play five sets?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Why can't we? I mean, I'll try, but I'll definitely need an ambulance by the court. It won't be pretty, I'll tell you that.

Q. Have you had any problems with unwanted attention or stalkers or anything this year?

Q. Yes.

Q. Not at all?

Q. How have you come to deal with a lot of the attention from fans?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I don't know. You don't -- you don't really think about how you're going to deal with attention or deal with the pressure. It just comes with what you do. You know, you either do it or you don't. I mean, it can mess up -- it either messes up your mind or it doesn't.
You know, along the way, along with wins and losses, I've learned a lot - not just about my tennis but, like I said, people's expectations, everyone's opinions. There's not too much I can do about that.
For no reason, I'm not going to just try to change people's opinions or what they want to do, what they want to see. You know, it's not my business.

Q. How much emphasis are you putting on this tournament, given how good you've been on grass, how well this surface fits into your style?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm just always excited to be playing on grass. You know, I love going out there. I love the feeling of it. You know, the first day, coming onto grass from clay, you know, I love the feeling of how the ball bounces. I don't know, I mean, I'm more excited about playing on grass than any other surface.

Q. When did you first play on grass? What was it like? Must have been really strange having started on clay.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, clay and hard. I think the first time was actually when I played Juniors. I remember I got to the final of Roehampton, the junior final of Wimbledon. Got off to a good start.

Q. How did you find it? Was it really strange, difficult?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess not (laughter). I don't know. It's hard to say. I obviously liked it. I mean, you know.

End of FastScripts...

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