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October 24, 2011

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: She is 24 years old with 24 career singles titles, including three majors, Wimbledon, and Australian Open.
Good morning, Maria. Please welcome our 2004 champion, Maria Sharapova.
Do we have our first question, please.

Q. You always said that you believed in yourself to get back after that dreadful injury you had. But given that very few players ever do so from that type of injury, you're back now to world No. 2 and playing in the year-end Championships for the first time in three years. Does a little bit of you think, I'm amazed at what I've done?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. This is a big stage to be at. This is the tournament where, you know, when you start off the year it's certainly one of the biggest goals in terms of knowing that if you're playing well enough, if you're consistent enough, if you're tough enough, you're gonna make it.
It means a lot. You know, the last couple of years at this time I was sipping a margarita on the beach, and now I have another tournament. So I'm quite excited about it.
You know, it's that last go of the year, and I look forward to it. Obviously I'm coming in with not a lot of matches and the ankle injury in Tokyo, so I really just want to enjoy it.

Q. It may be difficult to compare, but has it taken more resources and effort and ability from you to get back to world No. 2 than it did originally as a younger woman to get up to world No. 1?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Through most of my career it was -- you know, when you're young and you're up and coming, every little step that you take forward is, you know, you're just happy about it. It's new. You're getting the experience. When you're moving up, every part is just exciting.
And then, you know, when you have that dip and you see yourself out of the game for a little bit, you know, you almost forget what it's like to just keep moving forward, because that was kind of part of the norm.
You know, you just go from every tournament. You win some, you have some tough losses, but you just keep going. When that's kind of at a standstill and you have to start from scratch, that's always difficult.

Q. Yesterday there was a big earthquake in Turkey with many casualties. I'm just wondering if you had an opportunity to reflect on that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Um, I think, you know, sitting here as a tennis player, I think -- I mean, everyone in this room and whatever their job is, I think it gives us an opportunity to sit down and say, We're very, very lucky and fortunate to be doing what we're doing.
You know, these things that happen around the world, you just never know where it can happen. I mean, this was only a few hours from here. Obviously we're very saddened by the news.
You know, I received many phone calls and e-mail asking if everyone here was okay just because of the uncertainty of it all.
Yeah, the first thing is obviously recovery.

Q. When you look around to the other players here between the eight players who are here, which one you miss? Which one do you thought must be here and is not? Which one is the biggest surprise for you, your eyes?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not sure. Whoever is here deserves to be here no matter if they're, you know, if they -- there are times of the year where they performed well. I don't think anyone here you can't lie about their results. They're here for a reason.
So no matter if they're the first person that got in, the last person that made it, they have been playing extremely well this year.

Q. Can you just give us an update on the ankle?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, ankle is doing much better. I'm in a much better situation than I was coming off that match in Tokyo, and, you know, I've progressed really well. I would say I probably wouldn't have gotten back on the court as soon as I did if it wasn't for this event.
But I'm doing well. I mean, I -- yeah. You forget how nice it is to walk normally.

Q. How would you rate it percentage-wise and what did you do to rehab it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A lot. I was doing treatment four times a day. You know, my trainer and I, I think, are a little sick of each other right now.
But it's a process. It's part of the life. You never know when these things happen, and I was fortunately I didn't have any major damage, just a few little things that I had to be careful about in the beginning. And you never -- I think everyone's body reacts differently, and I was just fortunate it wasn't as major as it could have been.
So, yeah.

Q. Just on No. 1, you're one of three or four players that has a shot here to take the year-end No. 1. Where does that rank in your mind, and how much is that a motivation or is it sort of on the back burner?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Tough to talk about that, especially coming off of the injury in Tokyo, not even knowing if I'd be able to compete for the rest of the year.
I think I'm just fortunate enough to say that I'm here and I'm gonna be competing. That, to me, is a big accomplishment by itself.
So whether it's No. 1 or 2, whatever it is, I'm very pleased that I made it here and that I have a chance to compete and do well.

Q. During a woman match, there are so many ups and downs, even when a match finish 6-2, 6-3. This is the exciting part of the game. A lot of people, they watch you because they never know how it will be finished.

Q. How do you explain that? Is it because the gap between the players is so close? Is because is very, very tough, the pressure, or whatever?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's the uniqueness of a match situation. You can be on the court for an hour, you can be on the court for two hours, even longer, and it's just you and your opponent.
The reality about it is that it's pretty tough to maintain the highest level throughout that whole time. Mentally and physically you're gonna have a few dips and you're gonna have points and shots that you miss that maybe you wouldn't normally.
It's all about how you recover and come back from that and how you -- and really how you finish. You can have a slow start and you can have a slow middle. But if you finish well and if you win the match maybe sometimes not playing your best, sometimes it's that, that means a little bit more.

Q. Back in 2008 in Beijing, Olympic Games in tennis, gold, silver, and bronze medal went to Russia: Dementieva, Safina, and Zvonareva. Now we have, next year, we have London games in 2012. What's your opinion about Olympics? Do you want to represent your country there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. It's been one of my biggest goals. Since I was a kid, you know, growing up in Russia, tennis wasn't, you know, the biggest sport in that country at that time.
It was more the Olympic sports of hockey and figure skating. I actually grew up watching those sports on TV a lot more than I watched tennis.
It was huge for our country to represent, be part of the Olympic parade and be part of all the athletes. And even though in tennis we represent our country on a daily basis, I don't think it's the same feeling that I will have when I compete next year in London.
You know, I was very disappointed to miss it in Beijing. That was one of my biggest goals. Yeah, to be an Olympian will mean a lot to me.

Q. Welcome to Turkey and Istanbul.

Q. Turkey is not actually totally a tennis country, but if you ask the Turkish people in the streets what the tennis means, maybe they answer about tennis means Sharapova. What do you say about that?
I think the good thing that, about, you know, Turkey not having, you know, a lot of tennis events in the past is that I think this is a big step forward. This is one of the biggest tournaments for us, and for it to be brought to Istanbul in one of the fastest-growing cities in the world I think is a big achievement, you know, not just for us as tennis players but for the country itself, for the young girls and boys that are growing up that have watched the sport on TV that haven't had the opportunity to watch this type of tennis.
I think it's a much different experience seeing it live and seeing the emotions and the physical aspect of the sport than it is watching it on TV. And I really hope that that brings so much to this country, because I -- I mean, all of the girls that are playing here really believe in our sport and what we do, and we really love it. We hope that we can bring that excitement to the country of Turkey.

Q. What are your impressions of Istanbul? You're well-traveled.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, we're kind of on the outskirts of Istanbul, so in order to get into Istanbul you really have to go through a lot of traffic. I haven't had too much time to visit, because as soon as I came here I've just tried to train as much as I can in, you know, really my first few practices here that I had since the injury. So it was really about tennis for me.
But as far as the everyday life, I've been able to experience it normally in a way, because my fiancé lives here right now. So it's been nice not to have to be in a hotel-type environment and kind of get to know the local spots and things like that.

Q. By the way, is that where he plays, the stadium?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, we've taken it away from him, from them.

Q. Any tips? Have you been over here? You've practiced there, right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, we have. It was the first time he actually saw the stadium was at my practice. He was a little disappointed. It's a beautiful stadium.

Q. Do you think you will have time to watch a basketball game this week or next week?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Maybe -- I'm not sure about this week, but I did yesterday. Yeah. I watched the Turkish League game. They won, yes.

Q. It's not so long ago that you were saying that you were pretty sure that you would stop tennis by the age of 25. That's not so far away now.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not sure I said 25. I just said I wouldn't be playing at 40. (Laughter.)

Q. In view of all that you've achieved, have you pushed the horizon of your tennis career a bit further away?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I love this sport too much, and I really love what I do. For me to say that I'm gonna stop when I'm 25 -- I mean, maybe when I was 17 and you say 25, wow, that's, you know, that's a long time. You know, here I am at 24, and I feel as energized as ever, motivated.
It's obviously been a tough couple of years, but this year, you know, I've really -- I've improved. You know, I see a lot of motivation myself whether I'm practicing or playing. And I don't see my self stopping any time soon.

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