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January 16, 2010

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria, please.

Q. Given you've only played the exhibition tournament in Hong Kong, how has your preparation been?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Good. Really well. I've had the last couple of months to look back at the year, really go out on the court and work on a few things that I felt like I needed to work on. You know, kept working on my shoulder. Made sure that was strong and ready to go for the year.

Q. Do you feel last year was very much a rebuilding year for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, certainly. You know, I could say in the beginning of the year I didn't know when or if I was going to be back on the court. Toward the middle of the year, I got back on the court. Little by little was trying to create a base.
Yeah, but just really fortunate to be back here.

Q. Can you remember this time last year whether you even looked at a television screen and saw what was going on here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I actually did. I got to watch a lot of it because it was around 5 or 6 p.m. back home that the coverage started. I remember kind of like my little TV control room. It was many months after I had the surgery, so I was actually excited to watch the tennis.

Q. What were your recollections?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was a while ago (smiling). If you ask me how I was playing a year ago, I wouldn't know either.
I don't remember. I don't know.

Q. Tennis was a good thing in your life?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: If it was something bad, if I didn't have great thoughts about it, I think it would have been a lot tougher to come back. There's so many ways out during that period of time. You know, there's so many wake-up calls, excuses you could make to not want to be back out there.
But there was never really that thought in my mind, that I didn't want it again. I always wanted to go out there. I wanted to get better, I wanted to compete. I worked hard to get back on the court. I think that's why I just have to be really grateful and fortunate for every match that I get to play for the rest of my career.

Q. What is your take on the scene now? You are hopefully back firing at full capacity. The two Belgian girls are back. Is it more interesting than maybe it was a year ago?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I honestly hope that this will be one of the most exciting years in women's tennis. You know, you have the story lines of the comebacks. You have the depth of the top 10. There's many possibilities. I hope that we can create, you know, great rivalries between each other and good matches. There's no better way to start than a Grand Slam.

Q. Talk a little bit about the first round. You are playing another Maria in the first round.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you know, we kind of grew up together playing junior tournaments. We know each other's games really well. We haven't played each other in a long time. She's a great player. She knows how to play tennis really well.
I just have to go out there, you know, and be ready from the first point.

Q. How tough was it not to be here last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Tough. But it was tough not being at the US Open before that. It was tough not being at the Olympics. After a while, I pretty much got over it. You know, pity party was over, and I just started appreciating the game and I wanted to watch it on TV, whereas a few months before that I necessarily made it a point to turn it off.

Q. Can you give us an idea how many tournaments you're looking at playing this year, whether you're going to have a more grueling schedule?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Certainly not more grueling than I've had, you know, in my career in the years that I've had. If anything, it will be a little bit easier. You know, you aim towards the big ones and you try to get your level up towards the Grand Slams. Obviously the rest of the tournaments are very important. Now we've built a base where we've created tournaments that are pretty big with, you know, the ones that are in Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome, all those, Beijing. So you obviously want to do well there.
But the year's long. You've got to stay healthy. You've got to stay motivated. You've got to be realistic, as well.

Q. How much better is the shoulder now than it was, say, US Open time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A lot better. A lot stronger. I probably have a lot more confidence in it. Maybe a few months ago I didn't really know how it would feel on a particular day. Now it's a little bit more consistent. Not a little bit; a lot.

Q. What sort of work have you been doing in the off-season specific to your shoulder?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just a lot of just keep doing the rehab work, little bit more intense. When I was back at the tournaments, you know, I was trying to play more tennis. The shoulder is pretty sensitive to making sure you have the right amount of tennis but also making sure you have the right amount of strength in the gym, the small exercises you do, building the smaller muscles around the joint, the area where you had the surgery.
There was a very fine line trying to get as much tennis as I needed to get better, but also being smart about how much I did. In the off-season, I really had the time to go in the gym and spend hours and go out on the court and play and serve buckets of balls without having to worry about time or amount of balls I hit.

Q. Are you confident that your serve can get back to where it was?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I truly believe that. I think if I didn't, I wouldn't be here.

Q. How far off are you full capacity, your best tennis? Do you feel you're near to that right now? I appreciate it's the start of the season, but...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wish I could tell you who's gonna be sitting here in a couple of weeks, but I can't. Just like I can't tell you who's gonna be playing great tennis or not.
We all try to get ready as best as we could. We all try to be in the best shape we can. Obviously everyone's coming off of the off-season, so everyone's feeling, you know, fresher than we do during the year.

Q. You know your game. You know how you're feeling. You feel confident?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I feel good. You know, I've had a few matches in the last couple of weeks. Had a good week here. Yeah, I am.

Q. Where did you put in your off-season work? Florida, California?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I spent half the time in Florida, and towards the end of the year in California, yeah.

Q. In any way do you feel like you're defending champion because you weren't here last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really because I didn't play last year, and the defending champion is usually the person who won it the year before, so not really.

Q. Does the memory of winning give you any confidence?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It certainly does. You know, I've had some great matches here. I've had some tough losses, some disappointing ones. I've had some great matches which I've won. Coming back here, I've had really great memories, always a great time. You know, always enjoyed playing here, so...
Yeah, definitely you always get those feelings back when you come here, yeah.

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