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January 25, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How are you feeling, 24 hours to go?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Really good. I feel really excited. I'm glad I get the chance to go out there again in the final and give myself another opportunity to be the champion here.

Q. You've won two Grand Slams. What has your match preparation been like for this one compared to the others? Much the same?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Pretty much. It always goes the usual routine: you know, a little practice, just a little nap, the day's over before you know it, in between the semis and final.
But, you know, this is a Grand Slam that I obviously have not won, and one that I'd love to win. One match away from it. So, you know, it's a great opportunity for me.

Q. Do you have any superstitions?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really, no. I have a few, but I don't really think about them any more (smiling).

Q. What are some of those?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, I don't know (laughter). I don't talk about them.

Q. In your previous Grand Slam finals, you always faced a player older than you. This is the first time you're facing a player that you've got more experience than. Is that going to feel different?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's hard to say until I actually go out there. She's already been in a Grand Slam final. You know, who knows. When you go out there, it really depends on how you feel you're playing. Her chance is just as good as mine. We're both Grand Slam finalists. We're here. We've had a great two weeks of tennis.
You never know until you actually go out there. I hope that I can perform as well as I have throughout the tournament here.

Q. Do you still have burning disappointments from the French Open last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not really, because I wasn't a hundred percent when I was playing there. You know, I wasn't serving past 90 miles per hour. I think that was my average serve speed. So, I mean, it's gonna be pretty difficult to win a Grand Slam semifinals when that's your average serve speed.

Q. Was that because of the shoulder?

Q. Who is the favorite for tomorrow's match, you or Ana?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. You tell me. I don't know. I don't think it really matters who the favorite is.

Q. She's No. 2.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, on paper she definitely is.

Q. So she is the favorite?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I don't know who is. We'll see tomorrow.

Q. You're active in many areas, art, sport. Have you ever had a chance to be into an emotional sport like free-style motorcross?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, but I love cars and I love speed, anything from racetracks to jetskis, I'm all over that. I love that. When I used to train in Spain a couple times a few years ago, we'd always go on the four-wheelers, those low sports cars. We would race. I love that adrenaline rush.

Q. Trying to erase last year's bad memory of last year's final, does it give you more energy for tomorrow's final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not going to worry about that. I forgot that final a long time ago. I think I was just more glad to be in the final after almost being down and out in the first round. You can look at it both ways.
I think I'm just more excited about having another opportunity to get the chance to win.

Q. It looks like you're on a mission. From your first match, you're so impressive. Is that because you had a disappointing or frustrating year last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, not -- it was frustrating, but it was a great learning experience. I think it made me stronger because I didn't give up. When I did have the opportunity to train and wake up in the morning feeling really good, you know, with my body and my shoulder, I was just so excited about going on the court. And I missed it.
And when I had the opportunity to train in the off-season for about five weeks, really with high intensity, you know, working really hard, playing in the morning, having lunch, going back out on the court, it was hard work. But looking back, I really enjoyed that work.
Once you know that you've had that and you've given it your all, when you come to a tournament, you know, you hope that that work transitions into the match court. I've done it before, you know. Not always is it going to come so soon. But, I mean, the hard work will always pay off. If it's not next week, maybe it's next year. You never know.

Q. It's something you hear from many players that have been injured for a long time, they're more hungry and realize how important tennis is for them.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. You sometimes forget when you're healthy how fortunate you are to actually be healthy because when you're not, you're sitting at home, and it's that feeling like something is limiting you to doing what you actually love to do. It's a terrible feeling. I mean, there's no doubt about it. Every athlete goes through it. You just realize how lucky you are. You put so many things into perspective.

Q. Coming into this event, did you feel you were going to be performing at this level? If you didn't, when did you feel like your game started to click?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I felt like I was hitting the ball good. I had a few matches in Asia where, you know, I worked on a few things. I worked through the matches, you know. Even though I was playing exhibition matches, I was still training, I was practicing before them. I didn't take it as a tournament; I took it as practice weeks.
I felt ready. I physically felt good. I was hitting the ball good. So, yeah, there was no doubt in my mind. Of course, you never know what can happen. On any given day, anything can happen. So you're just fortunate that you are able to bring that good performance on the court.

Q. So you haven't surprised yourself at all these two weeks?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I know what tennis I'm capable of producing. I've shown it before. I've done it in my career already. I've won two Grand Slams. I've been No. 1 in the world. I didn't do it just by waking up and eating ice cream all day. I've worked for all the things that I have achieved. I know that I'm capable of achieving more.
That's what drives me to go back on the practice court, because I know I can be a better player and I will be a better player.

Q. Do you become more reflective closer to a final of the journey you've taken to get here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You mean, do I look back on it?

Q. Do you consider your whole tennis career, your whole life, when you get close to these big moments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely, these moments are what you play for. You know, the finals. Also, look, the match against Lindsay, although it was a second-round, I think the buildup to the match, the excitement when the draw came out, that was one of the most exciting early rounds in a Grand Slam. It's great to be a part of. I know there's always going to be a loser at the end of that day.
But as than athlete, I mean, you're also an entertainer. People buy tickets to see you perform. Although it's very competitive, you also feel like you're an entertainer. It's wonderful to be a part of these days where everyone's really excited about the matchups and the situations. The whole buildup is great.

Q. What do you think of what's been written about the glamorous matchup, two beautiful women playing each other? What do you think about it when people talk that aspect of it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the reason why we got to the final was because of our tennis and our performance. And I think that's something people should be looking at, yeah.

Q. Can you relate at all to what she's going through the last six months, rising very quickly, getting a lot of attention for off-the-court stuff?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's interesting, everybody rises in different stages in their career. I mean, I think she's the same age as I am, right? It's definitely great to see because, you know, not only do you have to get up there and kind of prove yourself that you're one of the top players, but you have to maintain that level.
I think she's done a good job of that, of getting to a Grand Slam final again and giving herself another opportunity to win a Grand Slam for the first time.
You know, it's definitely great to see. It's always good when you see -- I'm saying she's younger, but we're the same age (laughter). It's great to see new names coming up that are doing well, that are bringing excitement and whatever it is, glamour, to the sport. Even to bring fans that are not just tennis fans, but other fans into the sport, is wonderful.

Q. How about off the court, how do you feel she's handling all the off-the-court attention?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I think you'd have to ask her that.

Q. What do you say to people who say they don't like the noises you make when you play tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, I've done it for so long. I've done it since I was four years old. That's just the way I am.

Q. Are you going to watch Djokovic and Federer tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The day before my match is usually movie night. We select like a comedy and watch it. So I don't know. I might stop it and watch a few games, then watch my movie, yeah.

Q. Who is your favorite to win tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. It's going to be a great match. I mean, it's a semifinal of a Grand Slam. But, you know, Novak has given him trouble in the past. But, of course, you've got to go with the favorite, which is Roger.

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