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January 24, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How would you describe today's match? Was it difficult out there for being off the court for a while?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not really. I had a really good start to the match, you know, considering the conditions changed so quickly. I warmed up outside. Our little warmup was pretty much outside, and then all of a sudden the roof was closed.
Mentally, you've just got to be prepared for that, and, you know, you're playing an indoor match where you've basically been playing outdoors for the last five matches.
So that's a change, but I was happy with the way I started. I kept momentum going, and she's always dangerous when she's down. She's proven that in this tournament. I was happy I was able to close that first set out and then get through the second.

Q. Was it important to keep your focus when she's injured, when she's honestly not moving quite as well as she's like to be? Do you have to retain the focus on what you're doing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, always. You know, you just -- like I always say, it's always important to focus on your side of the net and do what you have to do in order to win that match and not concentrate on her shot making or her movement or whatever she's doing.
You know, just concentrate on yourself, and I did a good job of that.

Q. Have you ever managed a Grand Slam better going into the final? Meaning that you're pretty much going out there, you know what you have to do, you're executing and not getting pushed that much.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it's about execution. You always have a plan in your mind of what you want to do. You plan it out somehow in your mind, but sometimes it doesn't always go as planned. I mean, I wish -- I wish it did, but that's the beauty of life and sport.
You go out there. That's why they play the matches. That's why you have to play from the first match to the last, no matter who your opponent is, no matter how good their record has been or how bad their record has been. You've just got to go out and you've got to try and compete.
And like I've said, that's why they put the net up every morning. Just to go out and play that match to see who will win it.

Q. You seem so driven to win this tournament. Can you go back to before Christmas and tell us how about you started to mentally and physically prepare for it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well I think it kind of started in Madrid. I came off a really good performance, and I -- most importantly, I just, before Madrid, I was very close to just saying, you know, this was a pretty difficult year. I needed to go to Ireland and just get my mind off things, and get healthy no matter how long it took.
But I kept working, and although I had so many setbacks, it never really crossed my mind to just put down my racquet. Because after a few days off when I couldn't play because of the injury I'd miss it so much, and sometimes you just -- you forget how lucky you are to be able to go out on the court and really do what you love to do. And do it well, as well.
Just that feeling of hitting the ball and running and hitting again, and I really missed that because I didn't get a chance to do that for most of the year because I had so many of those setbacks.
And before Madrid, I just said, Look, I'm feeling pretty good. It was like a week before the tournament. I'm just going to go there and give it a chance. I did, and I didn't really expect too much from myself that week, and I really played great tennis.
I felt like a lot of things had come together, and the off-season was great. I was able to work on the court; I played a lot of tennis; I had some fun times; I had a great holiday with my friends and family.
You have your bad moments in your career and you have your good moments, and it's been, you know, it's been a good ride so far. But it's not over yet.

Q. Is there a sense that there's a little bit of kind of unfinished business as far as this particular championship is concerned?

Q. I mean, you want it for all the right reasons, anyway. But after what happened in the final with Serena, is this something you really, really want to put right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. From the beginning of the tournament, you want to go a step further than you've done in the past. That's always your goal, and your mantra going into a tournament, no matter where it is, no matter how small or big a tournament is.
In a Grand Slam, you know, where I've had good success but some tough endings as well, I still believe at the end of the day I'll always have more opportunities. If it's not this Saturday, then there are going to be many more years to come. If it doesn't happen, hey, it's life.

Q. Your father's very visible. How would you say your mother contributes in a positive way to your career?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My mom is just -- she brings such good energy and positive chi into myself and all the people that are around her. She's a very quiet and intelligent woman that, you know, that just is happy with life, with her life, you know, is happy for me.
You know, both of my parents sacrificed so much in their life to get me where I am today. You know, and my mom was very keen on keeping me educated and, you know, when I -- when she came to the United States after -- I didn't see her for a couple of years.
She just -- she kept working me on my Russian essays and she made me read. She's like, You didn't do this for two years. I can tell.
And she's the one that always takes me to museums. She knows when this exhibition is going on. She'll take me to the musicals. She's a very wonderful woman.

Q. What would happen if she had to sit beside your father during matches?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She has before. When I played juniors, she went to some tournaments. But it's -- it's one of those things I feel like if she did travel around I would really feel like I'm taking her life away from her, because I -- I mean, it's wonderful having one parent around you that knows you best.
I mean, apart from my dad I also have Michael, who I've known since I was 10 years old. The people around me I can trust and believe in because they've been with me since I was young, before all of my success.
But my mom, my mom takes care of, you know, all the things at home, and she looks after both of my hoists, and, you know, she just -- she does all my fan mail and all that, you know.

Q. How often do you see her? I mean, how often it happens that are there, within one year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I'm done with tournaments, yeah. She sometimes comes like the week before Grand Slams and stuff.

Q. You haven't talked about it that much, but how tough was it for you not to see her for two years when you were young? Because that's pretty tough on a young kid not to see their mom.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think really -- it was good because I was so young and I didn't -- I think if I would have had to do it now it would have -- it would be a lot tougher.
But I think when I was younger I was just so excited and, I don't know, overwhelmed by this, by the move, you know, to the United States, by the new surroundings, that I don't remember too much of it.
And in those days, I mean, I didn't -- I barely talked to her on the phone. You didn't really have good communication back then. But I always remember writing her letters. I'd always write her letters, and when I first -- I remember the day that I saw her after those two years. She just looked at me, she's like, Oh, my, you've changed so much.
It's weird, because you don't -- it's not like she saw me on TV where she sees me now, or we talk. I mean, we talked maybe once in six months. It would be a lot -- much tougher if I had to do it now.

Q. She must like very much her privacy, because I've never seen a picture of her. I don't even know if she's blond or black hair.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You should go to my web site.

Q. Can you describe her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There's a lot of resemblance to Uma Thurman, actually. Everyone who meets my mom says she looks like Uma Thurman. It's so funny. There are pictures on my web site actually from Christmas, some recent ones, so can you have a good look.

Q. What are you most pleased about with your game at the moment, the last few games? What's pleased you most?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think that I've been able to execute the things that I've been wanting to do, you know, and I've been able to do it consistently, not just for three, four games and then have a major letdown, and then do it again for a game or two.
You know, the most important thing when you grow and learn is being able to play at a high level, you know, at your best, for a long period of time, no matter what it takes.
You have to be realistic, because you know that it's never going to be -- you're never going to hit a winner on every single ball. It's just simply impossible. You really have to be realistic about that.
But you also have to try to maintain that level and really play your game and believe in yourself, because all the work that you put in before, you know, you know that you've put in, it's just a matter of going out there and just performing.

Q. Did you tell Yuri to leave the hoodie at home today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think he sat on it. It's like his good luck charm. It's so funny.

Q. He was very conservative today. That was nothing to do with the reaction of the media and the focus on the...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was pretty hot in there today. I wouldn't wear a sweatshirt in that heat.

Q. Were you surprised that on the first set Hantuchova won so easily?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What is the score?

Q. 6-Love. 6-Love, 2-1.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: This is the first time she's in a Grand Slam semifinal, is it?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, when you're in that position, I think -- I mean, I don't know. Am I surprised? No, not really. I think she really has nothing to lose in that match. I think Ana has already been in the final. Maybe Ana expects herself to be in the final. I don't know. The match is not over yet.

Q. 6-Love is quite an astonishing score for the first set.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. But who cares what the first set is. It's a matter of who wins the match, right?

Q. What do you remember of the Wimbledon semifinal?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Against Lindsay?

Q. In '04, yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, I was down a set and a break and I was back in the locker room. I was actually so sore that I had three people working on my body in that layover. I was reading Hello magazine, and I was actually telling my manager to book my flights, because I didn't feel like I had a chance whatsoever against her.
You know, she was just -- I felt like she was blowing me off the court with her pace and power, and at that point I couldn't keep up with it. And then, hey, look what happens, right? (laughter.) You see?

Q. Apart from hitting the ball well, there seems to be a confidence that maybe wasn't always there last year. In this off-season, did you do any sort of sports psychology or performance training?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no. No, definitely not. No, I think it was just -- I think when you go out on the practice court and you go out into your matches and you stop worrying about a part of your body that's injured or thinking about that it's going to get worse and you just play tennis out there, it's just a lot easier. It is.
It's -- you know, injuries are just -- you forget how, you know, how fortunate and lucky you are when you don't have any serious injuries.

Q. Roger said last night that if a player hasn't had much experience in big games they might blink a little bit in important moments. You touched on that a little bit after the game. How much can you use that experience with whoever your opponent is?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, experience is a huge -- I mean, when you have experience behind your back it's a huge advantage.
You know, I'm actually fortunate. Even though I had a tough year last year, you still learn and gain so much from bad experiences, as well. I've been in numerous semifinal Grand Slams, and a few finals.
Going into a final against whoever it is, you hope -- even if you're not, even if I'm playing someone that's 26 years old or 27 that has much more experience behind their back, you hope that the experience that you have and the thrill to be out there will help you get through.

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