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January 22, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You probably played one of the best matches I've ever seen. Do you think, is that true or not?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. I think it was one of the most consistent matches where I did all the things I wanted to do, and I did them correctly from the beginning to the end except having a little letdown in the end of that first set.
I felt like I did many things right, and I just played the way I can play.

Q. You are a always pretty aggressive in your games, but tonight in the first couple of games did you move it up a notch or two for the start of the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I had to. I had to be aggressive. When I'm playing well, that's what I do. I'm not a passive player. I don't want to -- I don't want to lose the match by giving my opponent an opportunity to miss shots.
I want to be the one that's forcing their errors. I did a really good job of that today.

Q. Were you surprised at the number of errors that she did make?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know the stats of how many errors she made.

Q. Apart from being aggressive, you played slice backhands, dropshots, lobs, with more variety than usual.

Q. You do you think that is...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I don't want to laugh every time you ask me a question. Oh, goodness.

Q. No, I'd just like to know if it was a strategy, if it was a special evening, or you always play like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The stars were shining. It was just meant to be. I was supposed to hit three slices in a match. I was supposed to come in exactly nine times and dropshot two and hit four lobs. That was the plan.
No, it was great that I could do it, and that I was successful at it. You know, I came to the net a few times. She passed me a couple of times, but I didn't hesitate after she passed me those few times. I still kept going there. I was trying to put pressure on her.
You know, I did many things well, and sometimes when you do those things they just don't work. Although you're doing the right things, they don't sometimes don't go your way and today they did.

Q. Did you sort of feel like you were in the bubble out there tonight, your own little bubble? Do you feel like you're really in the zone this tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was taking care of my side of the net. I was worried about what I had to do. I wasn't worried about what she was doing or what she was going to do.
What I meant by that, I was in control of my game. You know, sometimes you're worried about other things that are going on or what your opponent is doing, how she's winning points. I was just concentrating on what I had to do throughout the match, and I think I said, even though I had a little letdown, I still kept going, I kept fighting, and I was trying to get every single ball out there.
I came into the match really prepared to play a three- to four-hour match. I was ready for it. You know, I was mentally and physically ready for it.

Q. Do you now feel the tournament is yours for the grabbing, playing at that level?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Tournament is not over. Even though I beat Justine, it's definitely not over. I still have a lot of business to take care of.

Q. You played very well. Do you have the feeling that she was a bit slower than usual or not?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I just said numerous times, I was worried about what I was doing. I wasn't -- I wasn't focusing on her game or her movement or any parts of her game. I was just focused on what I had to do.

Q. Even though you're saying it's all on your side of the net, you have to be real happy you won a lot of those long scramble points, because against her that's particularly tough.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think the goal is not to try to get into those long rallies. I think if the majority of those points go into long rallies you would think that she's physically stronger one, the more experienced one, and she has an edge in those rallies.
But, yeah, when I did it I felt like I was able to execute those points and be smart about the shot selection I made and win them.

Q. You were a bit tough on your on-court interview.

Q. Yeah, regarding your TV commentators.

Q. Do you think you've been unfairly treated?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Unfairly treated? What do you mean?

Q. Criticism. What did you mean when you were answering the question on the on-court interview?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I meant what I said. They asked me if I -- what did they ask me? I forgot.

Q. About your slice backhand.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, if I would have done the same things and she would have came up with passing shots or I would have made a few more errors than I did today, I probably -- you guys would, one of you in here would say, Well, those things didn't work. Do you feel like you need to work on it more? It's a very thin line between, you know, whatever, you know.

Q. The other day you said your dad looked like an assassin in his camouflage hoodie.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: He is obsessed with hat sweater, by the way. He loves that thing.

Q. Today like in the post-match celebration he would you have had like a throat thing.

Q. Throat slitting action. What did think about that? Would you have had you see it?

Q. He made this motion like this (indicating).
MARIA SHARAPOVA: He put his hood on, yeah. What about the hood?

Q. No, he just made an action where he went like this (indicating).
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, when he closed the hood?

Q. No, like a throat slitting action.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: God, you guys notice so many things. I saw him do that, because he was so excited. He loves that sweater.

Q. In the latter part of the first set, Justine started to mix it up a little more, started to slice. You really adjusted your game. Started to change it up a bit. You always talked about your game as evolving. Do you feel you were able to see that and weather the storm when she changed things up on you a bit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was being patient, but I was being aggressive while I was being patient.
There's not -- you can't, from her, I mean, she has a great one-handed backhand; she has a great slice. You know, the ball stays very low. So you're not -- it's hard to -- it's hard to hit a winner from that ball.
You've just got to be patient, but you can't push the ball. So you've just got to be smart about what you do. But I was, you know, I was patient, but I had something on my ball, you know. I didn't just let her get a good hit at it after she sliced.

Q. You never lost to Jelena on the hardcourts. Does that make sort of an advantage before the battle?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Previous matches don't count. This is a new encounter, a new match. This is a great opportunity for both of us. I'm very excited about the matchup.
Ever since the juniors we've always played really tough and we've always battled it out, and it's great to see her in the semis. It's great we're playing together.

Q. Do you have any strong memory of playing her in the juniors, like your best Bollettieri story?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not too many of those memories. I actually remember -- we played so many times because you'd have like small tournaments in the academy. They're just all the players from the academy. We'd always be playing in the semis or finals, all the time. Every week we'd be playing against each other.
All I actually remember was that was the time when computers had just come out, and we were so fascinated by them. They had like a little computer room at the academy, and the first thing we'd do after the match was just run to the computer room.
I remember us setting up e-mail addresses and stuff. I guess that was the in thing to do. So I don't remember anything about the matches, but that's one of the things I do remember.

Q. Many players, they say they focus just on themselves, on their game. They don't look at the other's game. Is that really true? I mean, you don't realize if someone, for instance, could be limping or could be making more mistakes with the backhand than with the forehand? You focus, but you see what is going on on the other side or you don't?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess. I don't know. I try not to -- I really -- I personally, when I'm out on the court I try not to worry about what my opponent is doing out there. Like if she's -- I mean, if she's hitting backhands to the fence one after the other, I mean, it's logical that you want to hit there all the time.
But we're playing -- I mean, this is not junior tennis anymore. This is professional tennis. It's not like one shot is going to be so terrible. I mean, everyone's playing at a high level.
Yeah, before the match you might have some ideas on things you want to do in the match or what you want to accomplish and what you feel will help you win the match. But during the match, personally I'm all about instinct. I love playing by instinct.
If I come into a match thinking, You have to hit two volleys to the forehand and then go to the backhand, I mean, I'm screwed, completely screwed.

Q. The reason why I made this question was because in French, more than in English, Justine said she had a problem to her knee.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She had a what?

Q. That she had a problem to her knee. That she had sort of inflammation. That she cannot run properly and so on. And she said, I don't want to make an excuse.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Classroom. Classroom.

Q. So she was saying both things. I don't want to make an excuse, but with the French colleagues...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, in the second week of a Grand Slam everyone's hurting. We're all hurting. It's impossible to be 100 percent healthy.

Q. But you didn't notice anything?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I worried about what I had to do, you know. Yeah.

Q. Are you being allowed to play to that instinct you talked about because your body is in much better shape than last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I say I play by instinct, maybe three years ago, it would be stupid instinct because I'd want to finish the point so quickly I'd think I have to hit a winner on every ball, and that was completely out of line.

Q. Are you in much better shape now? Are you feeling in much better shape?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, are you saying I was fat or something?

Q. No, injury-wise.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Three years ago? I mean, three years ago, I was like a little piece of spaghetti. And when I see tapes of myself, I mean, you could see like my joints were popping out of my body. It was just -- you know actually, it's amazing for me to see some of the matches that I won at Wimbledon when I was 17 years old when I see that.
And to see how I could physically do it match in and match out, it's pretty incredible. That's one of the things I was that was so shocking about that one, and why I became so successful early in my career is because I never thought I was physically ready for that.
I wasn't -- I wasn't strong enough. I would get tired, you know, after long matches. But that was because I was young, you know. And gradually, you -- that's why you have the off-seasons, you know, to work and spend time on that court and whatever you have to do to get better and physically stronger.
But that also comes with time. I mean, your body grows. I'm 20 years old. I think my body is still developing.

Q. For a competitive person like yourself, an aggressive person, is patience the hardest skill to learn? And is there anything off the court that's helped you become more patient in your game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not patient on and off the court. I'm -- forget about it. I don't know. That's -- that's just the way I am. But you learn, you know. You learn -- there are not many things you can do off the court that are going to make you more patient on the court.
I think maybe losses teach you. When you lose certain matches where you come off the match and think, I wasn't patient enough or, I didn't make my opponent work hard enough, that teaches you.
But, I mean, what else is there that's going to teach you to be more patient?

Q. I'm just asking, because you said you were more patient. You felt that you have become more patient.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: But I think that also comes from experience and playing matches and winning -- winning certain matches and coming back from behind and realizing during the match what you have to do better. Experience is just -- it's amazing how much confidence that can give you in a certain match, and that teaches you patience, and all those things.

Q. After Wimbledon you changed your service motion then you were in San Diego. Now you seem to be back on your...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was just trying to find something that would help my shoulder when it was during the period when I was hurting. I was just trying to find alternative motions that could help it. And now when it -- when I felt like it was 100 percent, and it was for a while, I went back to my motion. Because I was literally doing that for my shoulder.

Q. Do you find that this surface is giving more action to the ball, particularly on the wide serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: This surface?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It depends -- it depends how used the balls are. If the balls are -- you play four or five games, forget about it. There's not a lot of pace on the ball. You get new balls, the ball flies.

Q. On the slice and on the wide serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: On anything. It just -- yeah.

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