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June 25, 2011

Maria Sharapova


M. SHARAPOVA/K. Zakopalova
6-2, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You made the semis here in '05 and '06. Are you surprised that you're the favorite to win the tournament this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't really put as much expectations as maybe you guys have on me based on the fact that, like you said, I haven't been past the fourth round for a few years.
I'm happy at this point that I got to where I am last year, and hopefully this year I can go a step further and even more.

Q. How would you sum up the first week? How well do you think you're playing? Do you feel you need to improve to get to this stage next week?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, there's no doubt you have to improve with the second week coming. I think that's always the toughest part. That's where you hope you raise your level towards.
The opponents get tougher, the more matches you play, especially at a Grand Slam stage. Raising your level is what it's all about at the Grand Slams, especially the second week.

Q. Are you satisfied with how you've played so far?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I felt like, you know, I was put in tough positions in the match and I was able to come through. I was down a break in the second today and, uhm, found a way to win that second set. So, yeah, I was quite pleased.

Q. You're moving on now to meet China's Peng Shuai. Do you think you can beat her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think she has a great game for the grass. She hits really flat, stays quite low. Her balls come pretty deep. I think the last time we played was in Palm Springs earlier this year. It was a tough match.
Yeah, she's playing some of the best tennis of her career. No doubt she'll be out there playing loose and good tennis so I'll have to be ready.

Q. How quickly do you think the match will last?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. That's an irrelevant question.

Q. Does every girl need a basketball player?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Hi, Bud (laughter).
Do they need it? I think everybody needs different things in their lives.

Q. On a more serious note.

Q. It's pretty extraordinary that your fiancé is such a great athlete in a totally different sport. Talk about that. You must have learned some things about basketball that have been interesting in terms of your own performance. Talk about what you've learned from being around Sasha so much.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, there's no doubt that I've watched more basketball in the last couple of years than I have in all of my life (smiling). A lot more nervous in my life in those games that I've watched than I have been in my life.
I think it's a lot easier to play. That's what I've learned. It's a lot tougher to be on the sidelines, or on TV, or watching the live scoring. Forget about it. Just don't do it.
It's a different sport because it's a team sport. But at the end of the day, you know, we're still athletes. We still have to put that amount of work in. There is that level of understanding of what it takes.
You know, it's interesting 'cause his games are always in the evenings. Who knows? Like that preparation of having a warmup in the morning, coming back for lunch, then taking a nap, I think anyone else would be, You're going to take a nap in the afternoon?
It's really nice in the beginning. It's like, Oh, that's the way things work. I don't even need to explain it.

Q. Why is it harder to watch a big game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. It's tough because you want that person to do so well. But then, you know, you're also rooting for the 10 other people on that court. Yeah, it's different. Like I said, it's a team sport.
But it's fun because some days, you know, you might have an off day, but then your team kind of comes through, they push you up. Some days you're the hero of the game. Sometimes you end up losing that game where you felt like you played great.
It's very different, yeah.

Q. On the flipside of that, last year he was with the Lakers, they go deep in the playoffs. This year he's with you throughout the clay court season, here. Does that help at all, the stability of it, having him there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's been really nice because when he moved to Jersey, we didn't get to see each other that much. This trip has kind of made up for it.
Yeah, you get to know a lot about the person by being with them every single day, which we hadn't really had in our whole relationship.
So it's been really nice. We both enjoyed it. But we've obviously been at tournaments. It's been very hard. We're competitive, so we're doing everything in order for me to win tennis matches.

Q. With the team itself, it's not all new, but it's kind of stabilized. Thomas you've been with five or six months. Cecil is hitting with you. The physio is with you full-time. Talk about that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, and I have Volchkov here as my hitting partner.

Q. Talk about how much that's helped get the team set, how comfortable you are with it. Does that reflect in your play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it's obviously great to have a consistent team. But it's also a new team and a fresh team for me. I think that's played, you know, a big part of this year so far.
It was great to get Thomas, because he put a lot of new, fresh perspective in my game. It was just a new voice. Sometimes you can have two different coaches and they tell you the same thing, but sometimes it just gets to you a little bit different for some reason.
After being with Michael Joyce for many years, although it was a tough thing to stop working with him and we achieved a lot together, at the end of the day it was a tough but the right thing to do.
Yeah, I'm happy so far with Thomas. He's pushed me in the right way. In the tennis world, five months is still not the longest time, but I feel like I'm moving in the right direction.

Q. How was Court No. 2? Does it make any difference materially, your surroundings, to your game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was very intimate. I like that. I think Centre Court is a little more intimate than Court 1. Court 2, I feel like you're very close to the audience, which I think is great, because you don't have a bad seat in the house for the fans. No, I enjoyed it very much.

Q. In terms of your confidence and all the time since your injury struggles, where is it right now and how has it evolved to that point?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I feel like it's getting better with every year. You know, I've gone with the flow of things. Even though in the beginning, when I came back, I thought, you know, you could just start from the beginning and feel like you could win everything. But at the end of the day you look back to that moment and you just know that it was going to take time.
Obviously I wished I could have gotten better results earlier when I came back, but it's just not the way things go.

Q. You have a day off now. What do you intend to do with it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess I won't be watching tennis tomorrow, which will be a nice change. But, yeah, I played a couple days in a row, so it will be nice to just chill out at home, be lazy, yeah. Maybe get some rain. I like the rain.

Q. Will you go out into Wimbledon Village?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, maybe, yeah. You going to follow me around or something (smiling)?

Q. You played a left-hander yesterday. There are a few remaining in the draw. What unique challenge does that pose for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think on grass, it's quite a big advantage because they use their serve quite well, especially in the ad box. They slice it out wide for a right-hander. A two-handed backhander, that can be tough, because the ball stays low compared to other surfaces. Yeah, the ball comes up from a different angle.
I think it's just a little bit about adjustment, and maybe practicing the day before with someone that's a lefty, getting used to the change.

Q. With the Williams sisters having been out for so long coming into this tournament, does that put extra pressure on players like yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I think that it's wonderful that we have many champions in the draw, 'cause at the end of the day when you're playing a Grand Slam event, you want to be competing against the best.
Whether it's them, whether it's someone else that you're playing in the next round, it's just about trying to win it.

Q. Do you have any memories of this time, going into the second week, in 2004? Is the only thing you remember the win in the final? Do you remember what you were thinking or how you were feeling?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just a lot of excitement. I mean, the two weeks before was my first time at the French where I got to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. I was pretty physically exhausted.
I just kind of knew I couldn't go further. So to be in the fourth round or the quarters for me here was a great accomplishment. I was satisfied.
I don't think I would say that today (laughter).

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