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March 12, 2010

Maria Sharapova


M. SHARAPOVA/V. Dushevina
4-6, 7-5, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Back against the wall there? Two points from defeat.

Q. You rallied pretty hard.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I started really slow. You know, I was kind of giving her the match, to be honest, and wasn't doing anything well, just making errors.
But to be honest, I think it was good for me to have one of these matches. I felt like maybe in the same situation I had those opportunities against Kirilenko in Australia and didn't win those few points.
And being down today 15-30, she's two points away from winning the match, you know, I turned things around. So I can only look ahead and definitely started playing better towards the end of the match, and that's what counts the most.

Q. Yeah. It seemed like once you just got the game, that you managed to push. Your level went way up after that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, um, everything was kind of in slow motion in the beginning. You know, felt good going in and just sometimes that's just the way it goes.
And like I said, I think it'll help me in the future. I haven't had one of those matches where I've been really close but haven't been able to change things around, so that was good to have that.

Q. How is your health right now and the overall state of your game? Are you getting closer to where you want to be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. You know, I mean, I've certainly put in the work and I've -- you know, I'm definitely not short of that. Maybe, you know, short of matches outdoors a little bit.
But, you know, I'm ready to take on, you know, any matches that come my way, and hopefully there will be many this year. Yeah.

Q. How close are you to being where you were before, do you think, in your game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To be honest, if there's a scale and I have to say where I was before, I really wouldn't know, you know. I mean, I know what I'm capable of, and the only reason why I get back on the practice court every day after taking tough defeats is because I know I can be better than I was and that I'm capable of, you know, becoming a better player and winning more Grand Slams.

Q. What were your emotions, not immediately following the match in Australia, but in the days that followed? What kinds of things were you feeling?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know what, you can ask my team. I was back on the court in three or four days, and I just started working and working on my fitness and my game.

Q. Were you pissed? Were you frustrated?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was disappointed. It's not -- it's certainly not easy leaving the first day of the Grand Slam, but it's life. It was bound to happen one day or another, and that's the way things go.
But, you know, I'm fortunate to have a life that I can come back home to and appreciate what I've already achieved in my life, and still have the desire to go out and try to do more. You know, there's not a doubt in my mind that I didn't want to go back out there and have better.

Q. Memphis obviously must have been good just to get the title, but coming into this tournament and Miami, I would think getting a lot of matches and competing against the best again has got to be something you really want to do.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. 1 goal, yeah, is to get the matches and, you know, matches like this, as well. I think this will only help me, and, you know, when I'm pushed and have to find a way to win.
It's never easy when you're -- maybe things are not going as you planned or you lose early a few times, and you have to, you know, find ways to get back out there. There's no real secret. It's just about going out there and doing it. The more matches you play, the easier it becomes.

Q. When you play in this country, do you feel almost like you have a home-court advantage? Even tonight you have got a lot of fan support. You're a very popular player here and across America. Does that help out out there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm certainly grateful for all the support. I've lived in this country since I was seven years old. Most of my friends live here and my family lives here. I've certainly embraced the country and the culture and everything about it.
You know, playing here certainly makes me feel comfortable, because California is one of my second homes. So it's just a drive away for me, and it's always a warm welcome.

Q. How do you assess your spot in the draw and looking ahead?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, a draw is a draw. You know, there's a draw every -- almost every week, and it's just about going out there and winning matches no matter what the draw is.

Q. You don't look ahead to see who you potentially will play? You just worry about each match as they come?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, pretty much. I'm not so superstitious that I don't look who's in my side of the draw or stuff like that.
You can't really worry too much who is in third or fourth or second round until you get there. That's really the truth.

Q. Are you at the point now where the shoulder is so good where you can say to yourself, I just want matches; I want to play; I need titles; I know where I want my level is; I can play here, Miami, then more on the clay; just get me out there; get me on court and let's see what happens?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, at a certain point I am. Sometimes if I take like five days off or something and I come out, you know, or I'll play like practice matches with guys and stuff and they come out and they warm up their serves and they're swinging away 120 miles per hour, I'm like -- and I'm hitting like 50 mile serves to warm up, then I think to myself, I'm like, I don't think it will ever be the same, because I can't just go out there and hit a serve out of nowhere that I could have maybe when I was younger.
So those are kind of the things that you monitor. You don't play for a little bit, you go back out there, you know, and the first few days it's a little stiff. You have to warm things up.
You know, the conditions change. It doesn't always feel 100%. So I think once you have -- obviously I've never had anything like that before, so it's a whole new experience for me.
But I will tell you one thing: I'm in a much better place than I was here last year.

Q. Reflect on that. You came back to play doubles.

Q. Just because you wanted to get back on court essentially?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, and, you know, I was -- it was at about the time where I started practicing again, and I just wanted to see how the arm was in competition because it's never the same as it is in practice.
Yeah, after the doubles I still knew that it would be a little while.

Q. As I told you earlier, I cover the Lakers, and I was wondering, your expectations of them right now.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, goodness. Please don't ask me those questions.

Q. I mean, as a fan, right? Don't you think they should be better, too?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Let me just tell you the last couple weeks when he was out saved me a few heartbeats, so... (laughter.)
I don't -- you know, I don't know. I just watch and I enjoy and, you know, I'm proud to know that there is someone else who comes home and works just as hard as I do -- even harder -- to be out there and to play. It's inspiring as well.

Q. I bet you have expectations, too. Like, Hey, you have to do this again, right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I sometimes become a little bit of an expert, but that's just my personality.

Q. When you came back, did you really sort of come full circle? And you were conscious of where you were a year ago and where you are today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I came here this year? Oh, yeah. Last year was -- it was just to see -- I mean, I knew that I was nowhere close to 100%, but I wanted to feel things out again.
I mean, after you're away for so long, it's kind of a nightmare going out and to a treatment room and practice facility and just keep doing the same thing, hoping you're going to get better and you never really know when.
Obviously it's pretty cool to be back here and being pretty healthy.

Q. As you know, playing out here can be a little difficult, because when you started, for example, your match today, it was warm, and then the temperature drops 20, 30 degrees. How do you prepare for that? You'd probably rather play during the day than at night because it's a totally different atmosphere.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You can't really prepare for that. Mentally you know that that's going to happen and things are going to slow down and you might not get as many winners, aces as you'd like, so you have to be a little bit more smarter and know that points are going to be longer and whatnot. You maybe have a few, you know, different tensions in your bag just to help yourself out, but you just have to be prepared.
And also with the shadows, I mean, this is an outdoor tournament. That's what you get. We know that coming into it.

Q. So you're one of the few players that actually admits you look at the draw. You have Zheng coming up. Can you talk about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she's a tough opponent. Fights well, gets a lot of balls back, makes you hit, and is a perfect example of just having to be patient, and, you know, knowing that exactly the right time when you should go for it and things like that.
But she definitely -- I played her a few months ago in Hong Kong. That was an exhibition. That was our preparation for Australia, and it was a tough match. We'll see.

Q. Is this a fun level coming in to play with your success, having fun, then to say I don't have to worry about my shoulder now, I can actually enjoy it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just being able to step on the line and not worrying if you're going to throw your shoulder out at any second, that helps a lot mentally when you're out there.
It's a great feeling. I mean, there's no doubt about it. We're all athletes, and it's not like we wake up and nothing hurts. I mean, we're always dealing with little things here and there, but we don't necessarily come out and set up a press conference to announce our little injuries.

Q. But the fun level, is that an important part of your success, enjoying playing, besides the injury part? Just saying this is fun for me besides I'm competitive, as well?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, that's the best part about it is it's fun. I mean, I love competing. I love going out there. I love the moments where you have to, you know, dig deep and find a way to win.
For me, that's -- since I was young, that's what it was all about. I mean, unfortunately I was in those situations where I could have dug deep in Australia and didn't, and you end up losing the match and you're going home.
It's tough. But, you know, you still have to go out there. And if you feel you can be better than you were, you are, then I think you should go back out there and work hard.

Q. What do you think has improved the most since surgery? And I'm not talking about physically, because you spent so much time on the practice court working on a lot of different things. What do you think has improved the most that you can actually bring in the matches?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel like I'm returning a lot better, maybe not by today's match. I think there are many matches that got me through the matches with my return, especially last summer when I was wasn't serving great.
I don't know. I mean, I'm not going to spill all the beans here. (laughter.)

Q. So when you see, I mean, someone like Justine have a rough match today; we saw Kim lose sort of surprisingly in Australia, I mean, all of you are coming back, is that sort of what you expect to see, that they're going to stumble from time to time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Everybody is coming from a little bit of a different position in their careers and their lives, and all of our comebacks are a little bit different. Kim had a baby and came back and won a Grand Slam. You know, so just because she lost in Australia can't be saying she's having a downfall. I'd take a win at a Grand Slam second or third tournament back any day. (laughter.)
You know, Henin who was retired and all of a sudden came back. You know, she's a competitor and it's probably tough sitting at home and, you know, watching everyone else compete and knowing that you're not in the draw. I knew the feeling for a while.
Me, someone that, you know, still has many years to go and that's in a little bit of a different stage than those two girls I mentioned, coming from, you know, surgery. Everyone is in a little bit of a different spot, and I think that makes it more interesting, you know, in a way.

Q. Are you patient to get back to where you were?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I think when the time is going to be right it will happen. I can only -- I can only do a certain amount of things, you know, just let things happen. And if they don't happen, then what am I going to do? I'm not just going to drive off a cliff or something. (laughter.)
Honestly, when I'm sitting there in the press conference of the Australia Open after you lose listening to some of those questions, I mean, you'd think I committed a crime or something, you know? Really.
I mean, there is a way to get somebody down, it's just like, Go to one of those press conferences.

Q. That damn media again.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just get a car and drive off the cliff. I mean, if I let those things bother me, then I don't think I'd ever be back after the injury. You just -- many of the girls just have to be so strong mentally just to be out there and competing.

Q. But you get surprised by your own losses occasionally, no?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I get surprises when I feel that -- that my level of play wasn't where it was supposed to be. I get more mad at the fact that I kind of let my opponent win the match because I did something wrong, not because she did something so well. That's always more frustrating.
I mean, today could have been a great example.

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