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June 28, 2011

Maria Sharapova


M. SHARAPOVA/D. Cibulkova
6-1, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Good evening, everybody. Maria Sharapova. Who would like to ask the first question?

Q. As quarterfinals go, that was a pretty impressive performance from you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, well, I played against someone that I lost to a little over a month ago on clay in two sets, so I knew that she was capable of playing really good tennis.
A few years ago I also lost to her at the French Open in the quarterfinal, at the same stage. Yeah, I thought I played really solid and did the right things to win today.

Q. Six service breaks is pretty remarkable.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, well, I think the return was very important today. She hits really flat and her serve is flat as well, so it's important to stay low on a lot of shots.

Q. How much of your service action do you think you've got back since the surgery? In terms of percentage, where would you say you are?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, yeah, as far as speed, I still feel like I can, you know, get a few more miles per hour. But I think that will come with time. I think on grass, placement is really big. A good, high percentage is really important. I think that's smart, as well.

Q. Do you feel completely free with it now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I feel good.

Q. Sabine has been a surprise package of this tournament. You'll need to be at full throttle to beat her in the semis, won't you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. A player that's playing with so much confidence and really great grass-court tennis is always very dangerous.
So, yeah, it's a big stage of a Grand Slam playing against a tough opponent. Yeah, it will be great for me.

Q. Do you feel as if you just have gotten better every match? How much better can you play than you did today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I certainly feel like I've improved, especially from my second round. Uhm, I think that's really important if you want to get to the later stages, later stage of the second week, as well.
You have to step it up 'cause the matches will only get tougher and you're going to be playing better players that have won the same amount of matches, as well.
Yeah, but it's also just focusing on that particular match instead of thinking too far ahead.

Q. Does it help having been to the later stages before? Does it feel like a long time ago when you did it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, it's great, the fact that I've had the experience of being in those stages. But I haven't been for a while, so it's a nice and refreshing feeling to have.
I've put a lot of work in to get to this stage, but I still feel like, you know, the tournament's not over. I still have a few more girls left, so...

Q. You have been at this stage the last two slams. On clay does it still feel like an experiment when you're out there, and here it feels like this is where you expect to be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, on clay I feel like you learn a lot more about point construction. It just teaches you a lot. The more I play on it, I feel a lot better. I actually start to love it. After I'm done, I wish there were a couple more weeks, because I feel like I improve with every match that I play on clay.
Even though it's one of the toughest transitions to go from usually a high-bouncing clay court to a low-bouncing grass court, it's a fun one. It's challenging the first few days, but I love it.

Q. Here how do you feel?

Q. You've been at this stage.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Haven't been at this stage in Wimbledon in a few years, so this feels great.

Q. Can you talk about not only playing Centre Court, but playing under the roof. Is it almost a kind of a change in color? Have you looked up at the roof?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was the first time I played under the roof. When I walked onto the court, it was really the first time I got to see the roof live.
It's quite unique. There's so many different layers and rods up top. Actually, the first few tosses it's quite different than a usual indoor court. I love the sound of it, the sound of the ball when it hits the racquet. Yeah, it seems more intimate.

Q. The sound is fuller, sort of a richer sound than normally?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you just hear the ball hit the racquet more than when it's outdoors.

Q. How does it feel - don't take this the wrong way - the old lady left in the draw?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, thank you (smiling). I don't know if that's a compliment or not. It's not, right (smiling)?
You know, I think a few years don't really make that much of a difference. Yeah, you know, I had my success really early in my career, and I don't regret it for one second.
I think maybe if I achieved big things when I was, you know, a little bit older, not 17, maybe I wouldn't be seen as more of a veteran. I'd still be considered young.
But I don't regret for a second that I had a lot of success when I was young, because I feel like I got to learn so much more than players at my age.
Yeah, it is the way it is, right? Can't do anything about it.

Q. The players here though is kind of the young group coming up, the players that are left here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, in one sense, yeah, they're coming up, because they're reaching the bigger stages of the Grand Slams and they're trying to, you know, win their first one as well. But I also feel it's not the first time I'm seeing them in the draw or seeing them at the tournament, as well.
It's not like they're 15 or 16 years old, so...

Q. You haven't been in this position really for five years. You said it's been a while. How would you describe the road back and what you've been through?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, well, obviously I would have loved to be in the semis -- I would have loved for it not to have taken that long, but I'm not complaining. It's the road that you sometimes have to take. It's not always straight. There are a lot of zigzags.
A lot of time you feel like it's a dead end. You have to turn around and have a few other options. The navigation is not always correct, especially in the cars. You know, they're always a little off. I don't like to use them.
I've worked really hard to get in this stage, but I'm not saying this is where I want to end. I want to keep going.

Q. Has it been a growth process for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. I feel like you learn so much along the way, and this sport really requires you to learn fast from a very young age. You really have no choice.

Q. What is the difference between a coach and a father? You have been through both.

Q. The Williams have a father; Bartoli has a father; Lisicki has a father; Dementieva has a father; Capriati, father...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I get the point (laughter).

Q. You are the only one that changed recently from a father to a coach. Can you tell us what is the difference, and was it your choice or your father's choice?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I can't really say it was my choice.
After I won the Australian Open in 2000-I-don't-know-what-it-was, we sat down. My dad spent and sacrificed so much in his life and his career. He never missed one practice of mine, no matter if he was sick or didn't want to be there or I was mad at him and gave him bad attitude. He was always there, even if I told him to be quiet.
He committed so much of his life. I think after a certain point I was really happy that he came to me and said that there are other things in life he wanted to do. He certainly deserved that. I mean, I can't thank him enough for all the support.
That doesn't mean, you know, he's still not involved in my tennis, in my career. I spend a lot of days with him on the court. He always tries to help me in the off-season and the weeks between tournaments.
But, yeah, it's different. You know, you also grow. I'm also 24 years old. My father has been with me -- I mean, there's no one that's going to know you more than your parents, especially if you spend so much time with them.

Q. But if they don't know tennis...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My dad never thought that he knew everything in tennis. I think that was why I appreciated his decision so much, is because he never thought he was the guru. He never thought that he knew everything. He always tried to take me to the best people possible to help me in certain areas of my game. He would learn from them and he would try to, you know, gather all this information and then help me.
But then after so many years on tour you learn a lot more than maybe coaches, as well, so...

Q. You've had years of experience. Do you think lifting a Grand Slam trophy would somehow have more meaning or a different meaning than the ones before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely more meaning, yeah. When you're put into a situation where you don't quite know if you're ever going to not only play tennis, but play as a professional and a very high level where you're beating and trying to beat players day in and day out, absolutely it would mean more to me.

Q. What's it like to walk into this club as a former champion? Any special treatments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You can visit and you can use the club all year round, even though I haven't had the pleasure of doing that. I think you can get a good discount on afternoon tea, which I haven't used, as well.
But I really hope that after my career I'll get a chance to experience that and be able to come to the grounds when it's empty.
Actually, I got here a little early this year. Because I was a member, I was able to practice a little earlier than everyone else.

Q. Coming off the shoulder surgery, you talked about the difficulties and wondering about playing tennis level and playing at a top level. How long did those doubts linger for you? Can you point to a moment when you said, Here I am again?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There were different stages of the process. In the tennis world you always know where the next tournament is going to be. You always have certain goals for when you're going to be ready, when you're going to try to peak, and when you're hoping you're going to be in form.
During the injury process, I was setting a lot of timetables for myself in terms of, I want to be back for this tournament, and I never really met those goals. That was really frustrating for me because I'm not very patient and I'm very stubborn. That's just a terrible combination when you're going through a difficult injury.
And then when you're finally playing, I think it's a lot of patience. But I don't think there's a certain point where you say, Oh, I'm back. I mean, I don't have that much self-esteem. I don't think anyone really does.

Q. Sabine has a terrific serve. Your groundstrokes today were crisp and flat. Do you expect the semis will be a question of power more than finesse?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm sure it will be powerful. She hits very hard. Like you said, she has probably one of the hardest serves on the tour, and that's very beneficial. She's used that very well on the grass. So that will be challenging, yeah.

Q. Looking back at the French Open semifinal, any thoughts about it after a while, thinking about what happened?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really sure you want to look back to that. I think it's always important to move forward. It was just a bad match. I didn't feel like I played my best tennis. But my opponent played extremely well and went on to win the title.
This is just a new opportunity for me.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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