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January 26, 2007

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I don't think anybody could dispute that your trip to the final has been fraught with plenty of obstacles and road blocks. How does that work for you going into a final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's good and bad in a way. Because I feel like, you know, I got through my first round in a very tough way. You know, when you get through a match like that you're not sure if you're going to be physically ready to compete at the best level.
Fortunately I was able to recover well and get through to the next match. Meanwhile, I didn't feel like I was playing my best tennis. Felt like against Kim it was a little bit of a turnaround. Felt a lot better out there and felt like I did the right things at the right time and played good tennis, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the final.

Q. How do you go into the final? What do you do today. Do you get nervous?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I've been in two before, so no. I mean, it's normal to realize that you are in a Grand Slam final. It's normal to have butterflies. Unless you're a robot, you know, just it's absolutely normal. But I think it's the way you handle it, the way you go about it on the court tomorrow.

Q. Did you watch tapes of Serena at all, her previous matches?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Tapes? I didn't really video the matches, actually, no. No, I've seen bits and pieces of some of her matches, you know, but I've played her enough times to know her strengths and weaknesses. But at the end of the day it's not about my opponent, it's about me.

Q. In most of your press conferences after the matches you've said after the matches you can still improve and you need to continue to improve. Do you feel going into tomorrow that you're at your peak?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. There's always room for improvement. Even I play the best match of my career I'll probably say there's room for improvement. I'm more of a perfectionist than anything.
I don't like to give myself a lot of credit, but I mean, I'm definitely happy that I could step it up against Kim. But it's going to be different ballgame in the final.

Q. What are your memories of playing Serena?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the last time I played her was here actually. Was it?

Q. Yeah. Championship and Wimbledon. The feeling of being on court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the one at Wimbledon I think what helped is the fact that I got to play against her for the first time in Miami a few months before that. It was my first time playing against her.
I sort of -- I felt like I knew what to do when I would play her the next time. I was kind of ready for it. Playing against her one time before definitely helped me. I think I said we've played in Grand Slams, we've played in regular tournaments. We've always had pretty good battles, exciting matches. But I definitely enjoy the fight against her.

Q. I think it was maybe a month or two after here when you lost that that you said something to the effect that, That's never going happen to me again. I'm not going to let a match go like that again. Do you feel like you progressed down the road?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That I would lose a match after having matchpoints?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You never know what can happen. I mean, can't promise you anything. But obviously I hope that never happens. One is enough, yeah.

Q. When Serena was in here yesterday she said almost the same thing you did about her strategy. It's really all about her game. How much discussion is there about, Well, do you attack the forehand or backhand or do you try to move her around?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Obviously when you go into the match you know your opponent's -- if you've played the opponent before and seen the opponent before you know the strengths and weaknesses. You know what shots work well for you and what shots work well for them.
But really at the end of the day, I mean, when you go on court you've got to realize for yourself. I mean, I'm not really the type of player that's going to go into the match having two pages list of strategies. That's not really the way I play.
I go into my matches knowing what I can do to beat my opponent and my opponent's weakness and what I can attack. But for me, it's all about instinct. Trying to realize it out there.

Q. What do you have to do well tomorrow?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I'll have to serve well, obviously, against her. She has a big serve. That's one of her biggest weapons. High percentage of first serve. Not letting her get a look at too many second serves.
I know I say this all the time, but it's also about chances. Taking the chances when you have them, especially against an experienced player like her. If you let too many get away, the more you're going let the match slip away.

Q. How important is a good start for you tomorrow?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, yeah, I think the finish is going to be a lot more important than the start, to be honest. I'd rather have a terrible start and win the match than have a great start and lose it.
With any opponent - it doesn't matter who it is, first round or final or anyone I play - it's always important to let them know that you're there from the beginning of the match.

Q. Will you be looking to run Serena around, particularly early in the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, that's -- I'm trying to move all my opponents around. There's not one opponent that I'm going to say I'm going to guide the ball in the middle and let her make errors. I'm the player that's going to win the match or lose it myself.

Q. You heard the controversy yesterday about the watch and the allegation that somebody in Serena's box was flashing.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I didn't hear too much of it. No. I'm concentrated on my own stuff.

Q. Serena says that tennis for her is 80% mental, essentially saying a lot is about the fight and believing you can win. Do you agree with that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It is. A lot of it is, yeah. I mean, a lot of the opponents I play are probably ten times physically stronger than I am. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to beat me. I have a lot more players in the game have a lot more variety than I do, or are more smarter or have better qualities or something.
But I don't know, I feel -- the mind has a lot to do with it. The mind controls the body; that's my theory.

Q. Does it give you any comfort to look back at the way you stepped it up in the US Open final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Not only for this, but after -- you know, when you look back and you think that you were able to beat Amélie and come back and sort of provide the same sort of tennis the next day, yeah. It gives you a lot of confidence.

Q. When you came on to tour as a full-time pro, that was during Serena's dominance.

Q. Do you remember 2002, 2003?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really. Was it like when I a lost to Monica at Indian Wells?

Q. Yeah. Serena had been on a big one. Do you remember the aura that surrounded her at all when she was in her dominate phase?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really. No, I don't. What about it?

Q. I'm just wondering.

Q. Yeah. Stepping on tour after seeing this player that's won slam after slam thinking, Do I have a shot to beat her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think there's a doubt in my mind. If someone asked me back then if I could beat her I'm sure I would say, Yes, I could. But I don't remember, really remember, no. Not too much.

Q. So always had that confidence about yourself, even when you were younger?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You have to. How can you possibly go into a tournament or play against someone and think that you have absolutely no chance? I mean, sometimes it takes away the pressure. You know that you have nothing to lose in that case.
But I always when I go on court I'm there because I feel like I have a chance. What's all the hard work for? Going out there and thinking you're going to lose.

Q. Did you watch Andy and Roger last night?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I came back from dinner at like 9:00, so whatever was left of the match, yeah.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sick tennis from Roger. That's all you can say. It's pretty sick.

Q. You mentioned before about some players are ten times stronger than you. When you're in that sort of match, what do you sort of try to do to overcome that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't necessarily think during the match that they're stronger than me. When I go into a match I know what I'm capable of. I know what tennis I can provide. I know how good I can play and what I can do on court, and that's the only thing I worry about.
I don't think about how good the player across the net is. When you start thinking like that your chances of winning are slim to none.

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