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January 26, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What are your feelings after that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: So exciting. Uhm, I don't know. It's amazing. You know, sometimes you just -- when you're putting the work in it just seems so, so hard, and you never know when that work's gonna pay off. When you're going through tough moments, you never know when you're going to have good moments.
I'm just so thankful that I got this one.

Q. Have you ever had a better serving performance? Losing two points in the second set.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think today was my best serving performance of the match (sic). I think I served better against Lindsay and Justine.
But I did the things I needed to do in order to win the match. However way I did it, you know, at the end of the day, I won it.

Q. Is it even more satisfying because of what happened in the final here last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Just satisfying, period, to win a Grand Slam, and to win one that you've never won before, especially after some of the tough losses that I've had.
Looking back at those, it makes it -- you know, it makes it a little more special, as well.

Q. What was going through your mind on match point, then when you got it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I had a couple before I actually did it, but I was not holding back. You know, I wasn't gonna make her hit an error. I wanted to force -- I wanted to go for the shot rather than her just giving me the point.

Q. Doesn't happen very often that someone wins a tournament without dropping a set. How does that make you feel? Pretty emphatic?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, the feeling is just so weird, because with every match you play, you finish the match and you think, there's one more to go and you've got to concentrate.
Although you just beat a top player, you played really good tennis, you always feel like there's one more to go. And right now there's no more to go, and I just can't feel that yet, you know (smiling). I feel like I still have to get up tomorrow and play another match.
But it will settle in - I hope - really soon. I mean, I don't have a match till next week, so...

Q. You struggled in the past here in the heat. Pretty hot out there today. Was there ever a moment where you felt a bit uncomfortable?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not at all. When I was in Singapore a couple weeks ago it was so hot and humid out there. I got to practice there for about three days outdoors. It was great, because when I got out on the court today, I was like, This is a piece of cake. Even though it's hot, it wasn't nearly as hot as it was over there.
You know, just mentally going into the match I didn't really care. Whatever it took, I was just gonna, you know, try to do everything I could to win that match.

Q. Ana thought you were a little nervous in the early part of the first set. Were you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: On one of the service games, you know, I forced the issue a little bit. We got new balls and I was hitting with the wind, and I think I just went for a little too much on my second serves.
But, you know, I was also two points away from losing that first set and I served my way out of it. She got a little bit tight and also nervous because I think, you know, I was the one that was very close to losing that set.
But I was just steady. I made her hit another ball, and it slipped away from her.

Q. How will you celebrate tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I heard there's a good concert tonight, so maybe I can attend that. I don't know. But I'm just gonna be with my team and enjoy it, have a nice dinner. Tomorrow I'm back on an airplane.

Q. Do you think the experience of winning before gave you the edge today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know, because when you're -- going into the match, I mean, I certainly wasn't thinking about the Grand Slams that I've won before. I was just really concentrated on the current match, on my opponent, on the things I had to do in order to beat her today rather than thinking what I've done in the past.
You know, yes, when I was down Love-30 on my serve, when she had that opportunity to break me and win that set, I think experience definitely helped me because I didn't get -- you know, I didn't get impatient. I was just steady. I knew that, you know, it was for her to take. I mean, she's two points away from winning the first set in a Grand Slam final. You know, if you want it, take it. And she didn't.
You know, was that experience? You know, I was just calm. I just did the right things.

Q. Do you sense this matchup with Ana could be a rivalry that will take the game forward for years to come?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know if it's a rivalry. I think we'll probably have to play a few more times in order for it to become, you know, a rivalry. You know, we're two of the top players. We're both young. We're both 20 years old. I think both of us have great careers ahead of us.

Q. You spoke to your mother, as usual, after the event. Do you think you'll ever manage to encourage her to come to a tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Maybe. Maybe when it's not a 24-hour flight.

Q. Is it nerves about flying or nerves about watching you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no, she's not nervous about flying. It's just too long of a flight to just come out, you know, the day before and watch the final.
Yeah, maybe sometime in my career.

Q. You talk lovingly about your mom's contribution to your childhood and life. How does dad cope with being on the road with you all the time, him being away from your mother but his wife? How does that work?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you know, it's strange because my career obviously, although it's amazing the things it has brought us, there are a lot of downfalls. You know, my parents don't get to see each other very often, especially when I'm at tournaments.
If you play 18 tournaments a year, four of those Grand Slams, three weeks at a Grand Slam, it's a numerous amount of weeks.
But, you know, those are the sacrifices that I and my family, you know, have to make.

Q. Are they able to hold it together?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, yeah, thank God they are. Yeah, definitely. Every time we get the opportunity -- the great thing about my family is that, you know, we're pretty independent people. When it comes to, you know, if I go on a trip that's six weeks long or even eight weeks long, sometimes from the clay to Wimbledon that's what it is. By the fourth week, sometimes someone gets homesick or whatever.
But, you know, we've been through a much tougher process, you know, with not seeing my mom when I was younger. You know, those eight weeks, you know, we don't mind anymore. But it's great that my family is able to be so close and so supportive.

Q. Does dad remember to send the flowers?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Dad, yeah. He sometimes forgets, but I'm the one to remind him.

Q. Have you received a text message from Billie Jean King to congratulate you, and what did it say?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have actually.

Q. What did it say?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Congratulations. You did great.

Q. On paper at the start of the tournament, you looked like you had a very hard road. Does that make this slam the most satisfying of the three, do you think?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think that just proves so many things in regards to, you know, the questions you're asked before the tournament starts, you know, when you're told that you have a tough draw. I mean, I was told that I had a really great draw at the US Open, and I played horrific tennis.
You know, you just have to take it one match at a time. You've got to believe in yourself. This was probably the toughest draw that I've ever had in a Grand Slam, but I'm the champion here. So if I can get a tough draw again and win it, hey, I'd do it any day.

Q. You spoke about Billie Jean on the television interview. Can you tell us how that started, how often she does sort of offer you advice and congratulations?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's interesting. I think the first time I met her was when I was playing a junior tournament in Roehampton when I was 13 or 14 years old. I remember her coming to both of my parents and myself and just having a normal conversation, like, Hello, how are you? How is everything going? How is your training?
I was like, Whoa. That's pretty amazing. Billie Jean King just came up to us. From that point on, she's just always been, you know, really supportive. I actually don't see her that often, apart from World TeamTennis and some of the Grand Slams that she comes to.
But, you know, she's always one of the first people to text me when either I'm having a tough moment or a great win. It's wonderful because she's just done so much for the game and such a great supporter of the sport. You know, to spend whatever it is, a minute of her life sending me a text, is wonderful, you know, wishing me the best.

Q. Is it all done by text, or do you ever talk to her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't speak to her that often, actually, no.

Q. You seemed really driven to win this title. You've done that. What now? Obviously you want to win other titles. Justine has been the dominant force the last six months. Would you like to achieve that sort of domination?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. But I don't think that I'll -- I don't think that I'm quite physically and experienced enough to do that. I know I've already won three Grand Slams. I know I keep saying this, but I don't think I'm at the peak of my career yet. I don't think my body has 100% developed into its own. I've got many more things to learn, you know, in my tennis, and many things to build and improve.
That takes time. It's not an overnight process. It's something that I look forward to. No matter how many tough times or bad days I'm going to have, as long as I walk up in the morning and can't wait to get that tennis racquet out of my bag, I'll always be looking forward to improving.

Q. I think you made a nice speech today. That comes with experience also, or you prepare sometimes a little bit before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I usually don't even know what I'm saying. About five people just told me that I said some great things. I was like, I did? Sometimes I don't know what I say, especially today.
I was so overwhelmed about the fact that, you know, the middle of last year my thought process was just so different. I had many negative thoughts. If I would have thought, you know, in the middle of last year that I'd be standing on that stage, you know, with that winning trophy, I don't think I would have believed it.
But, you know, I don't know. I guess my mom, as well. That education and speaking well and those essays I write, that I wrote all the time, that helps as well.

Q. You're going to play for Russia in the Federation Cup the first time. What circumstances have changed that you're going to play when you've missed previous ones?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, fingers crossed, this will be the first time after a Grand Slam that I don't get sick or injured. Over the last few years, especially when I get into the later stages of a Grand Slam, you know, your immune system goes down and something just out of nowhere comes up.
I'm so excited about the opportunity. Last year in April I was so close to going on the plane. The doctors told me, you know, You can't. Your career can be in jeopardy if you go out and play competitive matches.
I'm really excited about the opportunity. Going there at the end of last year and experiencing it and seeing the girls win, the whole experience was really great for me.
From the beginning of the year, this was one of my priorities. I'm excited it's in Israel because it's the first time I'm going there. It's quite a long trip over there, but it will be good.

Q. The Olympics is obviously in your sights.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, that's another one of my priorities. It is. I think it's not -- I don't think players consider it as a tournament. I think -- I mean, in tennis you have a tournament every single week. But for other athletes, I mean figure skaters and other various sports, it just comes once in four years.
I think for tennis players it's just incredible to be part of it. I'm very looking forward to the opening ceremony. I think that's one of the things that I was always watching on TV. My parents allowed me to stay up late to watch the opening ceremonies.
I'd wait till, you know, Russia would come up. They would always be the last because it's the later letter in the alphabet. That would kill me because it would be about 1:00 in the morning. I'd put my white hat on, because that's what they were wearing, and walk around the house. So that's something that I've very looking forward to.

Q. Although you live in America, the Russian heritage is something that means a great deal to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. I moved to the United States because of my career. If I wouldn't have this career, I'd probably be back home in Russia in college right now, as one of my friends is that I grew up with back there.
But, you know, those are some of the things you have to sacrifice in your life, in your career. I got the opportunity to move to a new place that taught me -- that made me more mature and basically has given me so many opportunities in my life, so...

Q. Is it going to be one of your priorities also to get a better relationship with the other Russian girls, Kuznetsova, Chakvetadze, Dementieva? Because they were in Moscow when you were there in the final of the Fed Cup. I didn't have the impression that there was a big nice feeling between you. Just you and Vesnina were very close.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually, the majority of us have a wonderful relationship; we do. I don't know what you saw, but we all went to team dinners. Yeah, I do. I have really good relationships.

Q. Chakvetadze said, I don't understand why Maria came for the final.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I obviously didn't play because I was injured and I couldn't play. But, you know, the captain asked me to come there and support them, and that's the least I could do for them.

Q. In your speech, you mentioned the tragic events within your camp last year. How much did that change your perspective?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It completely changed my perspective on life. I think the reason for that is because it's one of the closest people in my team, in my family, that passed away. I'm lucky to have my grandparents and family and friends very healthy, knock on wood.
But that was -- it was a tough experience because it was so long, the process. She was sick with cancer for many years, and it had come back a few times. Every time she would be better, all of a sudden in six months she'd get it back again.
For the last two months of her life she was just a different person and not herself. All that suffering and everything that she went through, it was hard to deal with. I can only imagine how hard it was for Michael and his family. It just puts so much perspective into your life. During the time when I was practicing, the days I could practice without being injured, it was hard to motivate myself because tennis just didn't seem important in those moments whatsoever, at all.

Q. Did you have any problems with Ana's squeaky shoes?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I didn't hear anything.

Q. You mentioned the Olympics. If I could offer you the Olympic gold medal or another Wimbledon, you could only have one of them, what would you have?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That's so tough. I think because I already have a Wimbledon title I'd take the Olympic gold medal, yeah. But if it was any other tournament, I would say Wimbledon.

Q. Would you like to play the final at night?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, this was actually different because it was probably the hottest Grand Slam final I've played in. The US Open final was obviously at night. It was a good change-up. I'm glad I had the experience to do that.

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