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August 25, 2007

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.

Q. Can you update us on the shoulder, how much more efficient you'll become if you have it with your new service motion?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I got to realize it takes time. Changes, it takes time. But most importantly, I'm feeling really good. I'm happy to be back. I had a good week of training after L.A., practiced for five days, came out here, have had some really good practice sessions.
All in all, it's been good.

Q. Do you feel like you have your velocity back with the serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I feel like I'm serving probably the biggest that I've served this year. Middle of the year, around the time of the French Open, just trying to get a higher percentage of first serves in. Definitely in San Diego and L.A. I felt like I was hitting a lot bigger and more velocity.

Q. You've been very busy this week with fashion shoots, parties. Has it affected your preparation for the tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did two events. One was for one hour and the other for an hour and a half, all in the evening after all my training, so no.

Q. There was a lot of talk that the top half of the draw was heavy with Justine, Serena, Ivanovic, maybe your half of the draw was not as difficult. What do you think about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I honestly have to take it a match at a time. I really can't get worried about how the draw played out. You have Serena, who I think is seeded 8, and Venus who is seeded 12. They could have easily been on my side, as well.
That's just the way things go. I've had some pretty tough draws this year as well, particularly in Miami where I could have played Venus second round and Serena third round. If I would have won, then another tough opponent.
That's just the way draws play out sometimes. If some of the girls are seeded higher, it would have played out a little differently.

Q. Did you breathe a sigh of relief or were you pleased when you saw the draw, all those other players on the other half?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Like I said, I have to take it one match at a time. I can't worry about who's on my side and who's not. If I'm scared of playing someone, I should just pack my bags and leave.

Q. After kind of a difficult season with injuries, nice to get back to this place?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Incredible, definitely. It's a different feeling because when you come into a tournament that you've never won before, you always wonder what it's going to be like when you win it, how cool it will be to win it, how amazing, what an honor it will be.
Coming in and seeing my name on the board when I walk into the locker room, knowing I already did it, knowing how sweet it was to win, you want to repeat it 'cause you want to have that feeling again.

Q. Was there a moment when the memory came back to you walking in?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, there are a lot of memories. Even when I go back to Wimbledon, all the corners you turn, all the places you go to, there's always memories left behind.

Q. Do you play any other sports besides tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I attempt to, but it doesn't work out too well for me so I try not to. I try not to embarrass myself.

Q. When you see the cameras along the sideline, they're pointed at you, none at your opponent...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't look at the cameras. I look at the ball.

Q. You never notice that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't look at the photographers. If I kept looking at the photographers. I'm talking about when I'm playing. Now I can laugh and do all this stuff. When you're playing, I don't worry about who's watching, who's taking a picture of me, who's not, what my opponent's doing, what everyone else is doing.

Q. When you came in here last year you looked like you might be primed to win, big win over Kim, played well during the summer. This time, does anyone to you look like that kind of player on the women's side?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That I played during the summer?

Q. Does anyone look like they're coming in as a clear favorite, like you did last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it's funny because I don't think I was considered a clear favorite coming into the tournament last year. So until you win it, then, it's like, Oh, yeah, she was always the favorite to win. That's how things work.

Q. You looked like a serious contender.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Well, clearly Justine, she's always very consistent. You always expect to see her in the last rounds of each tournament. She's always very tough and a great competitor. That's clearly why she's been No. 1 for a while now.
The Williams sisters have been playing great tennis this year. Jelena and Ana have also been coming up. There's a wide range of girls that can play great tennis. It's just a matter of who does it best.

Q. There was a picture in the paper of you in your red dress. Did you pick that out?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I just said, That's it (laughter).
I work with Nike designers all the time. I meet with them many times. I have a lot of fittings. I incorporate a lot of ideas into what I wear. After last year's dress, which came out to be pretty successful, when we sat down we knew this was going to be pretty hard to top. We got out of black, out of Breakfast at Tiffany's. We wanted to totally do a different things.
We based it on the city. The city is my favorite city in the world. It's red. I've never worn a red dress before. It's a really big statement, as well, because it's the Big Apple, apple's are red. It is kind of a coincidence. It wasn't part of the whole thing (laughter).
But, yeah, it was a really fun process because it was a challenge for us. I'm working with a new set of designers. This is the first dress that's seamless. I don't know if you're into it, but it's seamless, all bonded material, yeah. Exciting stuff, huh? Just love hearing about it (smiling)?

Q. The US Open Series, a chance to win so much more extra money here, is that something that you're looking forward to trying to achieve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't worry about the money. I even forgot I was No. 2, ended the US Open Series No. 2 last year. When I was getting my check in the end, there was a bonus, I was like, Wow. That's pretty good, right?
Yeah, you don't worry about that. You just try to win as many matches.

Q. Nikolay Davydenko was involved in a match investigated by the ATP. No one has talked to the women whether they've been approached or had conversations with other players on the tour about strange conversations, hinting around at gambling. Have you had any conversations like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have not. But it doesn't seem like the WTA Tour has any issues with it.

Q. Arthur Ashe Kids Day, what do you think he meant to the sport of tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: An inspiration to so many kids. It's incredible being part of the history and playing on that stadium because the fans supporting him, really as a player, as a person, what he did for kids, people all around the world. It's an honor being here.

Q. Why is New York your favorite city?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There's just so many things to do, and it's a vibe. With every year I've gotten to appreciate it more and more. It has like a buzz. When you're walking down the street, usually I don't like to walk, I'd much rather drive, but here I can walk all day. It would actually be cool to put on a suit, walk around the city and go to work or jump in a Yellow cab. There's so many interesting things about it. Every little town you go to, it seems like you have a hip part of town, you have an older part of town, you have the new town coming up. And the food, I mean, I've had a meal at a different restaurant every single night, and I haven't had a bad meal, and I'm a big food fan. Every year I come back to like 10 new restaurants to go to. So that's always fun. And the shows.
Yeah, it doesn't seem like people could actually live here. I don't picture New York having a grocery store or something. It just seems like this huge amusement park from ride to ride.

Q. James Blake in his book had an interesting section.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I bought the book but have not read it yet. I will, though.

Q. The he spoke about being injured, hang out with his friends. Do you ever step back and think what you might be doing if you weren't in this sport of tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it's tough to say because I probably wouldn't be living in the United States. I'd probably be going to college, as my friend is, who is the same age as me in Russia, going to college on a daily basis, studying. I would have definitely been doing something with art, creative type, either interior design or fashion design. I've always wanted to do that.
But, you know, it's hard to say because then I moved to the States and it's a little bit of a different story.

Q. What do you think when you step back and think of your incredible career?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, my, that I'm way beyond blessed. I get to wake up every single morning. First of all, I get to have an incredible team around me with my parents that have basically all the things that I have today, they have helped with. I don't know, it's crazy. It's hard to explain. I feel like there's so many other young kids that also have supportive parents that also try to make it, but not all of them do. So that's why it's such a blessing that I did get the opportunity to achieve great things, yet I'm still young, 20 years old, and I feel like I can do so much more, not just in tennis but in other things, because my parents always taught me to never be afraid of anything, to try the things that you love, to expand yourself. I don't want to be one-dimensional. I love trying new things, whether it's writing, TV or anything. I'm really not afraid to fail at it.
I never believed in pressure. People always expected me to do great things when I was younger. People thought I was part of this big elite group. I was going to achieve those things. But I never cared what they said because at that point I had never achieved any of those great things they thought I would until I won Wimbledon. Then I was like, Okay, now maybe I get to appreciate what they said, because then it didn't make any sense to me.

Q. You mentioned your parents. Everybody knows your dad. Your mom people don't know as much. Talk about your mom.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She doesn't like to be in the scene. She does everything behind the scenes. She's like my cultural tutor. She studied with me every single day when I was growing up, Russian, English. I don't know, yeah, it's very interesting 'cause when I go home, basically my dad always goes skiing or hiking or something. I get to see my mom. We get to cook, do all these things. She doesn't like the player lounges. She doesn't care to go on the court and sit there all day. I don't blame her. I wouldn't either.

Q. Does she get nervous watching you play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She doesn't watch. She just finds out the results. Either way she loves me. To her it doesn't matter. She'll TiVo it and watch it with a muted sound.

Q. Was she a player?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Player? God, no.

Q. As the defending champion, do you feel more pressure or less pressure on your shoulders and why?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm sure going on the court I'm going to be a bit nervous. Nerves are part of an athlete. It's how you deal with nerves. I love it when there's something on the line. That's when I play my best tennis. I don't mind going out there and being a little nervous because it says I'm human.

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