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January 12, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. The off-season for you, what's important about it when you have a tournament first up?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, most importantly it's about, you know, in the beginning of it, figuring out where you feel you need to work on, you know, what's most important to you. I mean, when you say "off-season," it's only about four to five, six weeks max of good training, depending on how good you do at the end of the year. So it depends on how long you take off.
You know, you really just try to focus on the things you want to work on, you know, put that effort into those weeks because hopefully that will be, you know, your training setup for about six months.

Q. Is it not important to literally recharge after what is a very full year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, it is. I mean, two weeks for a tennis player seems like a very long time of no tennis. You know, after a week off of doing nothing, I feel completely bored and very strange. Especially when you're travelling somewhere and you're travelling without your tennis racquet, it's completely, completely weird.

Q. That being the case, I don't want to talk about your potential second-round matchup, but Lindsay Davenport is a player who had a long time out of the game while she had a child. Are you surprised at how she's managed to come back the way she has?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, bottom line is you know that she's a dedicated champion. She's really good at what she does. You know, I'm sure that if she puts her mind onto something, something particularly like tennis, where she's very good at it, and gives it 100%, I'm sure that she, without a doubt, is going to be playing on a good level again. You know, but she's also at a different part in her life.
But saying that, I think, you know, we've got to take care of business in the first round first.

Q. Who would you say are your main threats?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, obviously Justine has had, you know, an incredible year last year. You know, she's the big favorite here, I believe. But, you know, I think that's why you put the nets up every single morning. That's why you have two players, not one, out there on the court. You have a chance in every single match, and so do your opponents.
But, you know, my only worry is just to take care of my business on my side of the net. You know, if I lose the match doing everything I can and giving it everything I have, then it's a good day at the office.

Q. How confident are you coming in here this week?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm feeling really good. Uhm, you know, I had a really good off-season. Injury-free. You know, I worked really hard. I put a lot of dedication into it. Waking up every single morning, I was looking forward to practice, getting better. It was really refreshing because after a pretty difficult year, you know, it was great to be able to play tennis for such a long period of time without feeling concerned or worried about getting injured.

Q. When you come to a tournament where you were a finalist last year, is there more motivation to try to go that one step better?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, there always is. Even if you come into a tournament as the defending champion, you know, you remember the moments of that tournament, what you did well, how much you want to repeat that and do even better than you did or maybe, you know, win it twice.
I would love to. Of course, it would be an honor to win this tournament.

Q. You reached the finals last year, but you couldn't complete your job. How did you prepare this year to finish your job and how far do you think you can go?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, last year I was actually fortunate to be in the finals after the first-round debacle. In a way, you know, it was a great result considering that. But, you know, every tournament, every year is a new year. You never know what will happen. This is my first tournament of the year, as it is almost every year, you know, apart from a few exhibition matches.
You know, it's that tournament where, you know, depending on how you do, depending on how you feel, it's kind of your start-up for the year.

Q. You mentioned that debacle of last year. I guess as a result of that the rules have changed. They're allowed to close the roof during the match at their discretion. What is your reaction to that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I'm very happy that the Australian Open, all the organizers, listened to the players because that's very important, you know, when you know your opinions are heard. You know, there were also a few of the guys that were playing out there three out of five sets. They were in the fifth set also battling it out, while the other hundreds of players were in the comfort of the locker room.
So, yeah, I think a majority of the players are very excited about it and thankful.

Q. It seems there are a lot of women playing very well right now. Do you think the top of the game is perhaps as competitive as it's been?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. I think there's a huge depth in women's tennis at the moment. I think apart from Justine, who has been pretty dominant, especially towards the end of last year, I think there are a few girls that, you know, last year was their first year that they had really good results. You know, both of the Williams are always dangerous. And also you can never underestimate those that are hungry to be in the top 20 or to be in the top 10, you know, that go out and play against someone that's, you know, top five in the world or even top 10, because they go into those matches having nothing to lose. Sometimes that's just as dangerous as someone who is a top player.

Q. Has the new surface made much difference in the way the ball comes through?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess a little bit. I mean, it's a great color. Nice shade of blue (laughter).
It feels good. You know, it does, yeah. I really like it.

Q. Is there any difference for you to play on the new surface?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think it's as sticky as the Rebound Ace, definitely, yeah.

Q. Is it good for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's great. I think it's great for the body. I think it's good for anyone's body. It's a lot easier, you know, on the joints, which is always good, especially when you're 6'2".

Q. A question I asked Serena, as well. Looks like a pretty full field on the women's side this year. All the top players there. Everybody in form. If you're in form, where do you put yourself among that group? Do you feel that your best tennis will beat anybody else's best tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I've proven it before. I've done it before. I don't think you can ever count me out. No matter how confident or not, no matter where my ranking is, you know, I'm one of the toughest competitors out there. You know, I never leave the court without giving a hundred percent, and that's why I think I gain a lot of respect from my fans and, you know, from the tennis audience. It's what I love to do.
Like I told you before, you know, I love the work that I put on the court and I know that someday it will pay off. You know, saying that, I'm still 20 years old. You know, I've said it many times, I don't think this is the peak of my career. I believe that there are many more years to go, you know, and I'm going to learn from all those experiences within those years.

Q. When would you imagine your peak might be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I'm not psychic. I wish I could tell you.

Q. What's the difference between the Maria Sharapova who won Wimbledon so young and the Maria Sharapova today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, goodness. Tennis-wise or just...

Q. You tell me.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I hope that I'm still the same person. You know, my Wimbledon win has given me so many opportunities in so many different areas in life. You know, as a tennis player, I've grown and I've become a much more experienced player.
You know, like I say, with every win and every loss, you learn so much more about your game and what you need to improve. And I've had some good wins, I had some tough losses in the last three years since my victory in London. But, you know, honestly it seemed like a long time ago. I'm due for another one up there.
But, you know, like I said, as a person, I hope I have not changed. I still have the same great team around me that have known me before the days that I even started playing junior tournaments, you know, that keep me grounded on a daily basis. Little things still make me happy in life that make me laugh, give me the pleasures of life.

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