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June 21, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.

Q. Are you going to watch the football game today?

Q. What do you think about Russia's chances?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We'll, we're playing a pretty tough team, but I'm very excited. I'm not in a hotel room. I'm actually in a house this time. I'm going to watch it with a group of friends, my dad. I think I have a Russian hat from Fed Cup. I might wear that.
I'm excited. It's going to be tough, but you never know. Turkey wasn't the favorite yesterday and they won.

Q. What have you been doing since Paris?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, took a few days off. You know, I went back on the practice court and just worked, yeah.

Q. That's it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Pretty boring (laughter).

Q. How did it feel? What can you say about your physical condition?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's good. Yeah, I just wanted to change it up a little bit this year. Every single year I've stayed in Europe between the French and Wimbledon. This year I wanted to go back home, you know, give my body and mind a little rest.
Wanted a change of pace this year. You know, I've played a lot of matches already. Still feel like I have a lot ahead of me. I just have to be smart scheduling-wise and, you know, making sure that when I get to the tournament I'm ready to play.

Q. Are you becoming more of a homebody?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A little bit, yeah (smiling). Yeah, it's just -- I mean, it's kind of strange, because every single year, you know, you do the same thing. It was just so awkward being home at this time of year. You had the NBA Finals going on. It was strange 'cause, you know, being around my friends, they're like, You're never home at this time of year. You're never home during the summer.
It was a little strange, but it was good. It's always good to kind of get back home, recharge your batteries. It's so funny, because literally within 24 hours of my loss in Paris I was in my little local coffee shop with my cookbook seeing what I'm going to cook for dinner. It was such a different world, and it's great that I have that. I can switch off, have that normal life outside the tennis world.

Q. Was your body telling you needed to take things easier? Did you feel you were in some way playing too much tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I looked at the year ahead of me, the amount of traveling, the matches that I'm going to be playing, and I just thought it was wise. I thought it's better to get on a practice court rather than going to a tournament and playing a tournament.

Q. You've learned to cook now, huh?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm getting better. You'd be surprised (smiling). L.A. tournament, if I win, I'll invite you all to my pad for dinner.

Q. What is your specialty?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Italian, because that's the easiest thing to cook. I'm good at pasta and sauces.

Q. You're cooking at the house over the fortnight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't yet, no, but I don't have that much time. No, I haven't here.

Q. When you're sitting in the coffee shop before you do the cookbook, and you're thinking about what happened in Paris, and then looking ahead...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: God, no. Absolutely not.

Q. Just talk about coming back on the plane, your thought process, then looking ahead. What am I going to do different? What do I need to do going forward? That kind of thing.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, what can you say? I was one point away from winning the match. I wouldn't even be asking myself that question if it would have been a won match. That's why I always say that's the interesting thing about tennis: one point can change so many things. You know, you're either going to the next round or you're going to the travel agent. That's the way it works.
You know, sometimes you win them and sometimes you lose them. For some reason, the losses at the French don't really carry over for too long, so...

Q. How do you feel you've changed as a player since you won here four years ago?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think a lot. I really do. I think I've become a smarter and more experienced player. You know, I'm more aware of what's going on. On the court I'm more aware of what I have to do if things are not working. You know, I'm definitely smarter out there. I'm physically a lot stronger than I was, you know, that many years ago.
It's kind of crazy it's been that long. I can't wait to relive that moment.

Q. You regard America as home, but what you said about the football team, you still consider yourself Russian. How do you correlate the two?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I moved to the States because of my tennis, you know, because becoming a professional tennis player, or trying to at that age, the conditions that were offered there were not good. You know, you're not able to play six days a week, four hours of tennis. That was just impossible. There were not enough facilities. The weather did not permit it. It was quite expensive at that time because of the limited amount of courts and facilities. It's practically impossible.
When you have to make those choices you move to a different country, you live there for such a long time, get accustomed to life and the culture and the way things are, you make friends there, you spend more than half of your life there, you know, it is kind of strange, definitely.
But, you know, I know where my roots are. I mean, all my family, apart from my parents, are all in Russia. When I'm home I speak Russian, I read Russian. We're a big Russian family when I'm at home. But, you know, the home happens to be in America, so...

Q. What outfit are you planning to unveil?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Changing it up this year. I'm going with the traditional shorts, believe it or not. I've never worn shorts at a Grand Slam. I'm gonna be debuting that. Call it menswear, obviously. It's kind of like a tuxedo look, very simple lines, classic.

Q. You've always been mature for your age. At 21, do you feel like a mature adult? You spoke about what Michael's mother went through in Australia. How did that help you grow up?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think with what I do I don't think anybody has a choice but to be mature. To travel around the world like we do, to have the commitments, to be a professional athlete, it's just impossible to not be mature. This job requires a lot of that. You've got to be a strong individual, as well. You've got to stand up for yourself. You're an athlete, but along with that come a lot of other things.
You know, over the years of -- I think I saw an interview of myself after I won Wimbledon. It's just so funny, those memories. You look back, so overwhelmed by it all. I was like, Yeah, I'm so excited. You know, just see like this little innocent girl. Look what I turned into.

Q. Were you embarrassed by rereading what you said back then?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I actually saw it. Somebody got me a tape of it. I think it was an interview with Sue Barker, one of my last interviews after I won Wimbledon. You could just tell I was so exhausted by doing so many interviews. I was giving like three-word replies to her. She was like, Is this girl going to talk? It was really funny.

Q. You talked a bit about that that year wasn't a fluke, because you were a fairly accomplished player. It sort of came out of nowhere for you.

Q. Coming back to the last three years and then to now, do you feel like you actually have to mature more as a player on grass because there are more things to learn on the surface?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely, you know, just because I feel like my game, you know, suits grass or just because I feel comfortable on it doesn't mean that a win is gonna come easy.
There are a lot of big competitors in the draw, different types of players. You're also going from a court surface that's completely different than grass, so your mentality also has to change a bit. Absolutely, you learn.
Unfortunately, you don't have that much time to learn. You know, there's only a couple of weeks. Only one week of practice on it to learn. But, you know, that's all right. You got to deal with it. Hopefully it will come together.

Q. How much did you get a chance to follow Tiger Woods' performance at the U.S. Open?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't watch it too much. I usually don't watch golf in general. I sometimes follow Tiger, especially if it's on TV. If I randomly run into it, I'll watch it. I read about it a little bit. One of my friends is a news junky. She watches all the sports. She always fills me in.
Yeah, she told me the incredible comeback, what happened. Now he has to get reconstruction on his knee, right? But I guess a win like that is worth it.

Q. As a fellow athlete, what do you take away from that performance, especially given his injuries?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, what a fighter and competitor he is to go through that pain. He seems like somebody that's not going to let the world know that he's in pain. He's gonna do whatever it takes, because all he cares about is himself. That's just a strong personality and individual. Even though I don't know much about golf, somebody I can look up to, definitely.

Q. When you won Wimbledon 2004, there were photographs in the newspapers the following week of you spending some of your winnings shopping in the streets of London. Are we going to see the same thing this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Depends if I win or not.

Q. You're only going to shop if you win?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Winning or losing does not stop my shopping. No, that is a fact.
No, I don't know. I mean, when you lose, to be honest, you want to get on the next flight home. That's why usually you don't see me shopping after I lose.
But I don't know. I mean, yeah, I'm sure -- I love London in general. I love the fact that in Europe and in England you get to walk around, just experience the life outside. It seems like in the States, a lot of the time you're always driving everywhere.
In Europe, Italy especially, you're always walking to places. I think that's why people are so thin all the time. They're walking everywhere. Walking to the market and the grocery store.
In the States, you get out of your house, you get in your garage, you get in your car, you get in the cart, put the groceries in the cart, drive it into your garage, and it's there. Here it seems like you get to walk everywhere and experience things, live a little bit. It's fun.

Q. Do you feel better and fresher than you have been in the last couple years arriving at Wimbledon?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's gonna help me towards the end of the year more than anything. Like I said, I mean, this year we have the Olympics. I mean, I'm treating it as another Grand Slam. It's a big event for all of us. It's like three Grand Slams back to back, four.
You have Wimbledon, the French, the Olympics, in a few weeks, the US Open. There's no slowing down. If you play a lot of matches, not only do you physically have to be in shape, but you mentally want to be able to go out and play matches and compete. If you're not there physically and mentally, then that's just tough.
Those are just the schedule decisions you have to make earlier in the year that are going to hopefully help you towards the end. I've had a few experiences where I've made those wrong decisions and it's kind of cost me in the later stages of the year.

Q. A lot of the big women players don't have a tune-up event. Does it really matter? Is it just a matter of getting a little practice on grass before a big tournament like this?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, maybe a little bit. Obviously, practice is not the same as a tournament, actually going and competing in front of a crowd on Centre Court. It's not the same as going and playing a practice match.
But to be honest, I don't think it really matters, no.

Q. Realistically how many players do you think are capable of winning this tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. I don't know. I don't sit there and look through the draw and pinpoint on who has a chance and who doesn't. You know, I go about my business.

Q. Who do you see as your rivals to your winning a second title here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, obviously the Williams, you know, are always good competitors on grass. Venus, you know, is really tough on grass. She has a great game for it. Two Serbian girls, as well. I mean, they've been playing really good tennis.
But then you also have, you know, players that are maybe not favored that go out and have not much to lose and can go out and play their best tennis. So, yeah.

End of FastScripts

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