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September 4, 2006

Maria Sharapova

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you talk about something about the Chinese player, Na Li.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I've played her quite a few times already, but there are a lot of Chinese girls that are doing really well right now. Every time I go back to China, I see how tennis is developing in the country and it's amazing how much effort and time they put into the development of programs, and to develop new talent.
So it's kind of it's really cool to see a couple of girls coming out and doing well.

Q. Do you think Na Li can become excellent player in the future?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. She's doing better and better with every year. I mean, every time I played against her, we've had really, you know, tough matches. I always seem to be, you know, down a break once in a while in the first or second set. So I know that it's always gonna be a tough matchup.

Q. Can you just assess the strengths and weaknesses of her game. One of the things I noticed about her tonight was she seemed nervous, was spraying a lot of things. You seemed more control as a player.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I started the match a little bit slow. I rushed into things. I rushed into my serve and my return. You know, after 4 1 I thought I kind of relaxed and just made her hit an extra ball. You know, she was hitting some good balls. I mean, once she gets a good hit on it, she can rip the ball really hard.
You know, but I got a few unforced errors from her, when I got to break her, and then from then on I gained a bit more confidence, started serving better and took more time.

Q. Why are there so many Russian women in the top of women's tennis now? It seems like it's become almost a national sport.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's amazing to see it develop year after year. You know, after the success of earlier players, tennis became one of the popular sports. Now it's probably one of the biggest, with soccer and hockey.
So, I mean, you know, the tennis program's enthusiasm of the young, you know, children and parents is getting bigger and bigger by the day. Everybody wants to play tennis, and catch an opportunity if they can.
They're all really hard workers. They aim to be the best at, you know, whatever they can be.

Q. You started off slow, you said. You start off slow like that the next round, do you feel you have to sharpen up?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't feel like I can go into every single match and play great. There are going to be a lot of days in my career where I go out and I might start slow. But the good thing about, you know, the end of the day, I know that I won the match and I knew that I figured out a way to beat her, you know, playing not great.
I mean, definitely wasn't my best performance so far in the tournament, but I, you know, know as the tournament gets going, I know it's only going to be tougher. Yeah, mentally, I know that I need to step it up.
But I'm happy I got through. I'll just get a good rest tomorrow and then be ready for my quarters.

Q. You've trained at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida.

Q. I'm writing a story for Sports Illustrated China about that academy, why it produces such great players. Can you talk a little bit about that, your experience there.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: One of the greatest things, it's a great facility. It has everything you need in one place. You know, I wouldn't say the town is the most exciting in the world, it's actually quite boring to be honest. But, you know, they get try to get the best coaches in tennis, and all other sports, bring them to that one place. You know, Nick's been in charge of that academy for many years. You know, he's brought a lot of top players, helped a lot of players, especially mentally. You know, everyone's excited to get a couple of lessons with a great coach.
But, I mean, you have everything in your hands. It's become a little bit of a factory, you know. You have the villas, you have the dorms, you have all kinds of courts indoor, outdoor. You have a big gym, you know, all the things that you really need to be an athlete.

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