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January 13, 2007

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.

Q. Twice a semifinalist. How is your preparation compared with other times you've been here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A lot better than last year. Last year came into the event not knowing if I was going to compete with my injury or not. It was a last-minute decision. Actually it's been a good five, six weeks of training.
A good little break after Madrid. Then trained pretty intensively for about five to six weeks. Was at home, you know. Didn't travel much, which was very unusual.
Yeah, now played three matches in Hong Kong, and hopefully I'll be ready to go.

Q. How do you feel about your chances to extend your Grand Slam winning streak?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm excited to start off the year here. Like you said, I've been in two semis here. I'm just ready to take it to the next level, hopefully get to the final or win it.
I'm glad that I could take the confidence that I played with at the Open and take it through the end of the year, and hopefully start with that.

Q. There was a pretty good tennis match on television last night. Would you have watched that match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Who was it, sorry?

Q. Clijsters and Jankovic.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I didn't watch that. I didn't see any of that.

Q. You wouldn't find it useful to study it, scouting, that kind of stuff?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I was probably eating or doing something else. I don't know.

Q. Who would you say is your greatest competition?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Honestly it's hard to just pinpoint someone and say, you know, that's going to be a challenge for me, that person is not, because on any given day I think any opponent can be dangerous. You know, I got to be ready from the first round. I think, you know, everybody wants to beat the top players, especially in the first two rounds, you know.
You don't really know what to expect from yourself, you can't expect yourself to play the best tennis because, you know, it's first round.
But, uhm, you know, it's hard to say. You know, the level of women's tennis right now I think is pretty high. Like I said, I think a lot of people would want to beat the No. 1 seed. It's just a matter of going out there and coming out with a win.

Q. What works for you at the Australian Open in terms of not playing Sydney, as Kim has done? What works for you in your preparation there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Without playing Sydney?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, if I just play Sydney, it's too long of a stretch for me. You know, I had a few matches in Hong Kong. I always like to take, you know, a week off with just training before a Grand Slam. That's worked for me, you know, pretty well. You know, I don't think I could physically play four, five matches and in two days start a two-week Grand Slam. I just don't think I'm ready for that yet.
But, I don't know, I mean, I've done it for a couple of years now, and it seems to be working good. You know, I might not have that many matches under my belt, but, you know, I feel fresh, I feel healthy, which is most important. And hopefully with a couple of good first-round matches, you know, I can improve and, you know, get my level and get my match play in.

Q. What have your preparations been like for the last week? What have you been doing? How much have you been working out?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, just hitting a couple hours, you know, playing a couple of sets when I can with different players. You know, just trying to get used to the court a little bit.
I mean, it's not like I'm training four hours a day or something. I mean, it's just -- you're not going to try to wear yourself out a week before a Grand Slam. You know, just play a couple hours, do your prehab, do whatever you need to do to prevent injuries and that.

Q. What are the best memories you take so far from this tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Playing-wise?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've had some pretty tough ones here. Probably the most memorable was my loss to Serena a couple years ago. You know, having a few match points, losing that, I felt like I played great tennis, and I felt like the match, we played some high quality of tennis.
It was interesting 'cause after you get a few match points and you lose the match, you're a little frustrated with yourself. You feel like you were one point away from the match. But I went to Tokyo and I won a Tier I.
It was a good experience here. But, you know, every year you experience matches. I've played a couple of matches in really hot conditions and came out with wins when I didn't think I was physically ready to do so.
I remember one match against Kuznetsova, I think that was also two years ago. Yeah, so, I do have good memories here. Hopefully better ones this year (smiling).

Q. What were you able to carry over from the US Open? What were the parts of the game you felt you carried over for the rest of the year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think it had anything to do with game-wise. It was just like a lesson that I learned from winning my first Grand Slam. After winning my first Grand Slam, it was just a little strange because I personally felt like I had to go on court and start winning everything. It's just not humanly possible.
It took a couple months to realize that. You start getting frustrated because you feel like you should be winning these matches just because you won a Grand Slam. So it was more mental.
After I won the US Open, I was like, uhm, you know, You just won the US Open (smiling). I just took the confidence and the way I was playing. It's hard to explain the way you play, because you think that everything is going well for you.
I didn't feel like I was playing my best tennis in the first few rounds, especially in the fourth or the quarters, I didn't feel like I was playing great. And when I had to, you know, against Amélie, I've already been in a few semifinals, I lost them, some tight ones. I was able to win that one. I played the good points well. With a little bit of luck at times and confidence, uhm, I was also able to win the final.
You know, so it's a bit of confidence, a bit of mentally being strong. I took that with me. I unfortunately got injured for a little bit in Moscow. But overall I was pretty proud of myself for keeping that level going.

Q. You talk a lot about confidence. Do you think it was something that was lacking in your game prior?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not necessarily. I don't think it was lacking. Like I said, I was in a few semifinals. Especially against Justine last year, I remember losing to her in three sets. I didn't feel like I was playing bad tennis. It was just that, you know, physically I felt like she was stronger than me last year. I didn't think that I could go -- if she was playing her best tennis, I was playing my best tennis, I didn't feel like I could physically withstand that. It's a little bit different right now, especially at the Open, I felt like I could physically, you know, grind with her or any other player.
I mean, no, I don't think -- obviously, confidence definitely helps. I mean, you know, but it's also a lot of hard work that you put in. I mean, after Wimbledon I was really motivated for the U.S. hard court season. I was training a lot, working out a lot, playing a lot of tennis.
And one of the other things which is most important is that I was healthy. Going into a couple of the Grand Slams, you know, last year and the year before, I was not healthy. It's hard to do because your mind is playing games with your body.

Q. Kim Clijsters says she's looking to retire at the age of 24, largely for physical reasons, but also looking forward to having another life.

Q. Could you imagine doing that at 24? Secondly, when do you think you might stop?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's hard to think when you're going to stop. But, you know, I'm definitely enjoying what I'm doing right now. I love looking up, and I love the feeling of going on the court and trying to get myself better. I still have that motivation to work hard.
Even though it's not that fun, the times when you win a Grand Slam, you think of the hard work you put in. You think of the early mornings when you wake up. That's what you think about. You don't think of the vacations you took and how well you rested. Those moments are amazing. That's what you work for.
As long as I have the motivation, I'll definitely be playing. But I definitely think there are a lot of other things in life than tennis. I want to have a family, of course. I want to try other things in my career.
But, yeah, I can definitely see myself retiring at that age, yeah.

Q. You were a little bit so-so fashion-wise last year. You were a big hit at the US Open.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Fashion-wise? I'm not doing Baby Doll any more. Baby Doll has gone out the window.

Q. US Open was good.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm glad you approved. I like a man's sense of fashion direction. That's good.

Q. Flattery will get you everywhere.

Q. What do you have in store for here this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's a pretty classy dress. It's like a lemon chiffon color. Bottom of the dress, it's a little high waisted. I tend to pay a lot of attention to detail. It's so weird talking fashion with a guy in a tennis press conference. I wish a woman asked me this question (laughter). No offense.
There's a little corset detail in the back. There's a bow. My warmup is really cute. You know, yeah.

Q. Sounds lovely.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. You got to see it, you know. I'm glad you approve (smiling).

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