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June 30, 2011

Maria Sharapova


6-4, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Good evening. Maria Sharapova. Questions, please.

Q. How does it feel to be back in the Wimbledon final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's a great feeling. It's been many years, but it's a really great feeling.
Today wasn't my best match of The Championships so I was real happy to get through in two sets. But, yeah, it's pretty amazing to be back on that stage.

Q. Your start wasn't very good.

Q. How much confidence does it give you to be able to come back from that? Looking into the final, do you feel like you have one hand on the trophy after coming back so strong?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she started really well. The first three games she played very well, and I did quite the opposite. Uhm, you know, she served a lot better, and I was giving her way too many free points on my serve.
And then, you know, I told myself to take it one point at a time and really focus. You know, I felt like I just kind of got in my zone, you know, just remained focused, and kind of got back to 3-All.
I was fortunate to win that set and then get up a couple of breaks in the second.

Q. Does that give you a lot of confidence going into the final now, turning that game around?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, absolutely. When you find yourself in a position where, you know, you're not playing your best, you know, you're playing against an opponent that has probably one of the best serves on the tour and one of the fastest, to get that back - and then I was able to break her a few more times in the match - certainly gave me confidence, considering I wasn't serving my best today.

Q. Shoulder surgery is such a scary prospect for tennis players. How difficult of a decision was it for you to have it? How many opinions did you seek before you decided on it? Did you feel like you had no choice; it was the last resort?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It wasn't the first option, that's for sure. I went through maybe two or three months of rehab in Phoenix at a different facility in the beginning for a few months. Then I realized that wasn't quite working when we said we'll try to go back on the court at a certain period of time and try to serve, and I couldn't.
And then, yeah, we went back to New York. We just kind of talked about it. There weren't many options at that point because I did spend a lot of time in the rehab. I didn't rush it. It was a couple of months and it didn't really get better.
With a type of injury like that it was a 50/50 percent chance, and it didn't really go my way. So that was the only option at that point.

Q. What do you remember about your first final here? Is it a blur or can you remember everything quite clearly?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I remember that I was -- I mean, I was so thrilled to be in the final. I was down and out in the semis. I was ready to pack my bags and go home. Just happened to rain and I was able to change things around.
I mean, it was my first Grand Slam finals, my first Grand Slam semifinals. So, yeah, I just took it all in kind of.

Q. And how is this feeling different this time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I'm in a different stage in my career. You know, I'm 24 years old. I have a lot of experience behind my back.
But, uhm, I'm still playing tennis, so...

Q. Your mother was actually on a flight during that final, if I remember. Obviously you had trouble getting hold of her.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not going to make her go on a flight this time. Don't worry.

Q. Is she going to come over here to watch?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. She's back in the States right now, so, yeah.

Q. Sasha is a good free-throw shooter, and sometimes people will say there's similarities between serving and free-throw shooting.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Never heard that one.

Q. Has he ever offered any advice?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My free throw is terrible, and so is the rest of my basketball game.

Q. Has he offered you any advice on any tennis stroke, your serve or anything?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think I would allow that (laughter).

Q. Obviously you served quite a few double-faults today. Did you worry about them or just think they were going to come and get on with the next point?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, from the beginning I didn't quite serve well. I felt like I was just rushing things, you know, my first serve. She's someone that has pretty big swings and likes to take charge and hit the ball.
Uhm, I didn't really want to give her too many looks on second serves. I think maybe I overthought it too much.
And also, you know, coming from the indoor match a couple days ago, you know, I felt like my toss was just all over the place today, which I'll have to work on tomorrow, so...

Q. You're obviously favored to win Wimbledon. Does that add an extra pressure?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Uhm, you know, personally I'm thrilled to be in the final. And, as I've said, I was pretty realistic. I hadn't been past the fourth round in a few years. So to be at this stage, I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to go for it.

Q. Talk about the quality of experience. How is that an asset? Does it give you a sense of calm?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, experience is an incredible asset because you feel like you've been through many different situations, and at certain stages, whether it's a smaller tournament or, you know, a semifinal of a Grand Slam. You know, at the end of the day you really have to deliver, even if you have the experience or not.
Just today, uhm, even though I didn't feel like things were going my way in the beginning, you know, I just had to kind of go back to the basics and think, you know, Let's take it one point at a time; let's see where that will lead you to.

Q. Did you have any doubt during these three years after your surgery about your comeback?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There were doubts because, you know, I had many expectations on when I would come back. You know, I set myself certain goals. I never really met any of them, to be honest. There were many, when I wanted to come back, how I wanted to feel, where my pain level was. So that was frustrating.
And of course, I mean, you're going to have certain doubts, I mean, when you go through something like that knowing that not too many players have recovered fully from something like that. Yeah, of course it's normal.

Q. Do you think you might appreciate it a bit more? Sometimes there's a danger of taking things for granted.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. In a tennis life everything happens automatically. You know when the next tournaments are. You wake up in the morning, you know you're going to go to practice. You know you're going to have a couple of days off. Everything is kind of on autopilot.
Then all of a sudden you just stop. For a time, I just wasn't putting on my Nike shirt. I was able to wear whatever I wanted, and it was just strange. I wasn't used to it.
I certainly didn't like being in an indoor center doing these little exercises with 30 repetitions every time. It was so annoying. It really was. It was just, yeah.

Q. Were you ever at any point close to giving up?

Q. Or did you always think you would be back on top?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not really the type of person that ever gives up. Even though it was tough, I believed in myself. I give a lot of credit to my team that was around me. You know, no doubt my parents, who were so influential at that time.
Also my former coach, Michael Joyce, who was with me every trip that I went to Phoenix. You know, he had come through a lot of surgeries in his days. He kind of knew the process. This was my first time being away from the sport.
So, yeah, that was really important to have him, and I'm really thankful for that.
But it takes a good team to really keep you in high spirits.

Q. Was getting back into this final and winning this title again one of the things that kept you through the dark days?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think when you know how good it feels to lift the big trophies, the ones you really want in your career, and when you know how good you can play, I always felt like I could be better, and that's why I never had the interest of stopping. I always felt like I had a lot better things in me.

Q. You haven't dropped a set in the whole tournament. Does that give you a feeling it's going to be your year again?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I guess it's a good fact. But the next match starts from scratch. Everything that kind of went before that doesn't really matter.

Q. On the flights between L.A. and Phoenix, did you ever envision the green lawns here and the possibility of reaching the final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, when I was eating my peanuts on Southwest Airlines?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I never thought of the grass at Wimbledon.
But I think it was just a general thought of coming back and, uhm, you know, there was nothing really in particular. I look back on to my success, and those are always good memories to think of.
But there wasn't really a particular moment, you know, I would say, it was Wimbledon or something that I thought of.

Q. Sometimes when you come to a press conference, do you have fun, or you would always like to avoid it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You're asking me if I'd rather be at home right now on the couch or I'd rather be talking to you? Oh, God. I'm not going to answer that question. I'll be polite (laughter).

Q. What do you expect from your final opponent?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I expect her to be a really tough opponent because, uhm, number one, she's a really good grass-court player. She's proven that last year getting to the semifinals. She's also a lefty, which I've said before on grass is very tricky.
You know, she's using her serve really well. And, yeah, it will be tough. She's been playing really good tennis.

Q. How much can you take it easy on yourself in matches mentally if you're not playing well?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Compared to when or just in general?

Q. You're in a match, not playing well, not going well on the day. Are you thinking that you can't believe you're playing so bad? Are you kicking your own butt mentally?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A little bit. I mean, you have to. You have to give yourself a little push, whether it's in the butt or somewhere else, in the head, I don't know.
Yeah, you got to find a way to get going in a way, but you also have to find a sense of calmness, as well. Because if you get too ahead of yourself, then that's a recipe for disaster.

Q. When you give up your serve on a double-fault in the semifinal and then you do it again and then you do it again, potentially that's a very dispiriting experience. What is the mental process you go through to override that each time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, well, considering that I didn't serve well and I was playing someone, you know, that's been serving extremely well at this tournament, you know, I'm really happy that I won the match not only in two sets, but I was able to break her a lot.
I think that shows the fact that I, you know, did some other things right. So at the end of the day that's the most important thing.

Q. How, if at all, has your relationship with your dad changed now that he's just your dad and not also your coach?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I don't tell him to be quiet that often anymore (laughter).
No. I mean, at the end of the day he's still my father and he's someone that knows me the best as anyone's ever going to know me - my mom, as well. I've always had a really good relationship with my dad.
When things wouldn't go well on the court or we'd have an argument at the end of the day, we always ended with laughs at a dinner table. We'd go on to other things, or my mom would be pushing me for homework, to do my stuff.
So it's a pretty nice relationship to have.

Q. You said a moment ago that experience is an asset.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You don't like to listen, do you? Go ahead. Just picking on you.

Q. I'm wondering, you won here in 2004 in your first final. Can inexperience be an asset, as well?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, because it's something where you don't really know what to expect and you almost have that feeling of nothing to lose and you go for it. I think that's kind of what I did when I was here at, you know, the stage of being 17 years old.
I didn't really know what was gonna happen. I knew that I was facing a really good opponent that's done so well on grass, you know, former champion.
But that didn't really bother me, so, yeah.

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