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March 19, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Did you say at the end of the match, This is my home now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I did, because in the first set I was playing like I didn't even belong on that court. I finally got my groove back, and it just felt like, you know, I finally belonged to be out there.
My level just was so low in that first set. I wasn't going up on my serve, I wasn't returning. I was making so many errors, and she had -- she had that first set in her hands and she just didn't take her opportunities.
You know, to be honest, she did everything better than I did in the first set, and somehow I ended up winning it, and that gave me the confidence. And in the end of that set I started to pick it up, but the second set was great.

Q. So what clicked for you in the second set?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Umm, I think maybe just coming back from being behind and being two set points down and not really being tentative. I went for my shots, I started going for my serves, and after that I just probably gained a little confidence from that. And, yeah. Being more consistent. That helps.

Q. In practice, have you been more consistent on your groundstrokes than you've been in matches, or has the ball been flying on you a little bit in practice, too?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's been flying here. I think that's because of the desert. It always flies a little bit. Tension of the racquet usually changes depending on matches. In Doha I was playing every match during the night, and here I've played first two matches during the day and this was my first night match. I've had to adjust definitely.

Q. Have you felt like you played well in any of the matches here so far? Times I've been here in the press conferences you've been a little disappointed with your play.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was disappointed in the beginning of that match, but as the match went on, I definitely picked it up and started playing a lot better, yeah. Best that I probably have this tournament.

Q. So do you feel like you're starting to find your groove here at this tournament now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's about time. I played four matches. How long do I need, right?

Q. Are people purposely not mentioning the streak to you, kind of superstitiously not mentioning the streak?

Q. People around you, friends.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You guys never forget to mention it. That's why I have you.

Q. It's 17 now. I mean friends and even spectators or people coming up? No?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To be honest, for my team or for myself and for my friends or for my parents, it doesn't really matter how many matches I've won in a row. You take each tournament as seriously as you can.
With every tournament there's a new beginning, and hopefully you're the last one standing. At the end of the day, numbers are very relative.

Q. Do you remember winning a tournament playing let's say a B level the whole way?

Q. Which one?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Umm, there have been a few in my career. (laughter.)
Probably the biggest one maybe was the '06 US Open. For the first four rounds I didn't feel like I was playing amazing tennis. Just on the important points I was just tougher than the girls I played. And after that, I somehow -- and then I produced really great tennis in the semis against Amélie, and in the final against Justine. I played really well back to back. Considering I didn't play that well before, it was a good surprise in a way.

Q. So in some ways it's raising your level to the level of who you're playing, too, huh?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's a challenge in a way, which I always enjoy, because I know it's pretty unrealistic to go into every event, match after match, and being emotionally there and to have your tennis there as well, and make every shot perfect and do all the right things.
In a way, because I haven't been able to produce amazing tennis here, in a way it challenges me. By giving myself an opportunity each match, I'm able to challenge myself to get better in the next round, and that's a good challenge to have.
As long as I'm still giving myself opportunities, you know, then challenge is in front of you the next day, so...
But, I mean, I'll definitely have to improve for my next one.

Q. Svetlana next. She's had a pretty good week dropping just one set.

Q. Thoughts on that match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She's a very tough competitor, and she's what, 3 in the world right now? You can never underestimate her level of play, because she's physically one of the toughest girls out there. She gets a lot of balls back and she makes you work for everything.
I don't know what my record is against her, but I think -- I think either we're pretty even or I'm ahead a little bit, but last time I played against her was also in the Championships and we had a tough three setter. But we know each other's games well, and, you know, just going to be a matter of, as always, the person who takes her chances.
And, you know, personally I'll definitely be looking forward to stepping it up and, you know, playing better tennis.

Q. This is a bit of a sleepy tournament, in a sense. It's not a big busy city, there's not a lot of fresh air.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Fresh air? It's a bit sandy. I drank like two gallons during my match the other day. I think my skin is still a little sandy.

Q. But because of sort of the situation here in terms of a resort and all that, do you have a different mindset enjoying it a different way because it's different than most of the big cities where you play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To be honest, it was more relaxing a few years ago because it felt more low key and I didn't feel like there were so many spectators. I feel like the tournament has grown and there are a lot more people driving in from LA. Just spectators that just want to watch, tennis fans that just want to watch tennis.
So the tournament, it's a good tournament for me because my friends get to come out from LA and watch me play, you know, which they don't usually get to do apart from LA tournament.
Yeah, it's different, but every event is different in a way. And also, we get -- sometimes we get days in between, so you kind of get your rest and recovery then, and...

Q. You don't go mountain climbing or playing golf?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, that's for my dad to do. I don't do the climbing. I take naps.

Q. That's really exciting.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That is the best afternoon that I have: A nap.

Q. You like having your friends come out to play, but do you feel like when they come out that you have to put on a better performance just because they're around?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Ah, uumm, yeah. It's strange, because I always feel like I have to take care of them in a way, because, you know, they came all the way here to watch you, and so you have to take care of all the tickets and the credentials and make sure, you know, you go out, you go to dinner with them.
So in a way, you feel responsible in a different way compared to other tournaments, and sometimes you need to draw the line at a certain point, because you still have to treat, you know, every tournament with respect and treat it seriously.
But, you know, I don't have too many -- you know, all of them are pretty close friends and they don't come -- sometimes they come on the weekends and, you know...

Q. So they don't say, We want to make a dinner by 9:00 so please finish this match by...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, no, they totally understand. No, no, my friends -- my friends are very cool and absolutely understand, yeah.

Q. How much do they know about tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Umm, over the years, a lot. One of my friends who's an actress just got into it ever since we met. She's telling me that now she hates me because she is sometimes up at 2:00 in the morning watching the men play, which, I'm, like, wow, that's just great. Thank you.
So sometimes she's like, I hate you for getting me into this, but... You know, it's cool in a way. Some of my friends played tennis when they were younger. One of my really good friends was, that I work with with Nike, used to play tennis in college, and now we're working buddies.
Many of my friends I've met through work, and a girlfriend in LA is, who I've known since I was 9 or 10 years old. So I have, you know, different friends and different in different areas, but we all really get along. And, yeah, this is actually the time that a lot -- I had dinner with them like a week ago. Everyone came up here. Yeah.

Q. How often would you meet someone who doesn't know who you are?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Umm, well, I don't usually ask them. I don't usually walk around going, Do you know who I am?
Well, actually here. It's very entertaining. I have a little cafe that I usually go to for breakfast and lunch here, and this morning I went to breakfast. I had one couple, a couple sitting on my right, that were talking tennis and saying, you know, the match between Sharapova and Hantuchova will go either way.
I'm looking at them. And I'm, like, (laughter.) We're sitting next to each other. So I was like, Oh, please, I hope they don't recognize me now. And then we had another couple that were sitting a few tables away from us also talking about the tennis and they're analyzing all the matches and the games. It was really fascinating to get like, a, you know, a side view of things.

Q. Did the people recognize that it was you? They never did?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I kind of had my hat low. I put on the hood. It was like -- because it's great. You get to hear some amazing things.

Q. Just a short question. Novak talked to us about --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, goodness. Again?

Q. I know. Singing at the French Open and all. Can he sing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Can he sing? He hasn't sang for me. I haven't heard him sing.

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