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March 26, 2008

Maria Sharapova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Since Sony Ericsson's sponsorship of the WTA Tour, the women's game has more sponsorship than the men's game. What does that mean to you personally as a player, and what do you think it says about the state of the women's game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, ever since Sony Ericsson got involved with the tour it has gradually become a much bigger sport than it was a few years ago. They've done an incredible job with marketing a lot of the players, and they've also personally made everything better and more exciting.
There are a lot of plans ahead as well. You know, when I wasn't a part of Sony Ericsson it was just the tour that they were working with, at the meetings that we had a couple times a year with all the players, they literally had plans in front of us which we never really had of what they were going to do with the tour and how they are going to market us.
These were plans they are willing to discuss with us and get our opinions on. So they were involved with the players, which is so important with the sponsors coming in and that does things with everyone.
Then my personal relationship, you know, is incredible, because I have seen what they've done over the last few years and seen the involvement with tennis, and it helps me so much, because they already understand my business and what I'm in.
One of the coolest things about Sony Ericsson is, although that's the sponsor of the tour and involved in tennis, they're such a broad company involved in so many other things than just tennis: Music, entertainment, you name it, they're part of it.
That allows me and gives me an opportunity to do those things as well, which I love.

Q. On Friday night out there at Indian Wells, you talked about being tired and fatigued and decided not to play. Talk about how you feel. Is it the shoulder or general fatigue?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's a combination of both. Actually, during my third round I believe against Bondarenko, I reached out for a backhand return and I tweaked my shoulder a little bit. It's nowhere as bad as where I had it last year, but when you come off of having something as serious as I did, you become very cautious of it and a bit scared.
So I was actually a bit surprised that I did play in the next few rounds. It's also been the amount that I've been playing in the last couple months and beginning the year winning a Grand Slam, which I've never done before, and after that not really having the time to give myself a break and reflect and relax and enjoy.
You know, it's been work, work, work since December, end of November. So it was just a smart decision because, you know, I'm at a point in my career where I don't want to jeopardize my health, because I'm playing my best when I'm healthy and when I don't have any concerns in my mind.
The shoulder injury was serious enough for me and a huge learning lesson in my career, and I've matured enough to make these decisions on my own now. When I finished that match I just came off the court and said, You know what, guys, I really need a break.
I think that was pretty obvious. If anyone saw the match it was pretty evident. There was not a lot of energy in me, so yeah.

Q. It must be hard obviously to be here on the grounds and see everything going on.

Q. Talk about that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: As an athlete, yeah, it's never easy withdrawing and having to do withdrawal press conferences. But I'd rather do this now than go out on the court and play in front of fans when I'm not 100%, nowhere near. You don't want to jeopardize being more injured. When you're physically tired you can hurt so many other things.

Q. You talked a lot when you did get hurt last year about how frustrating it was to be on, off, on, off with training. You've had some great momentum at the beginning of the season. How are you going to try to keep that going?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The main thing right now is just to get that rest and recovery, however long that is. My goal after the rest is to get on the clay courts and start training and do all the right things and do. Do all the things that I need to, and spend a lot of time on the court and work on my game on the clay courts.
As well as you know, trying to play -- I'm not sure which tournaments I'm going to play yet. Going to come down to the recovery process and see how the shoulder is. Really just the day I wake up and I'm ready to go out on the practice court. When I go on court ever single day I want to make sure that I'm willing to be out there and no one is telling me or pushing me.
So I think just the day that I wake up and say, I miss that racquet. I want to go back out there and work hard, which I did in the off-season, that's when I'll do it.

Q. So the short-range solution to the shoulder when it acts up little up, stop? Is there a long-range solution? Is surgery, for example, an option?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no. I just -- you mean what I did the last year or just what I did last week?

Q. In general. You said you tweaked it again at Indian Wells and it's time to stop now rather than play on.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I sort of jammed it a little bit, so I wanted to give it some rest. Surgery is definitely out of question right now.

Q. Did the doctor say it's because of the looseness of your shoulder it's going to continue on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I guess apparently so. But that's the way -- there are good things and bad things to having a loose shoulder. I'm very flexible and my joints are very loose. In a way that's very good because your body is not tight, but on the other hand you're very loose and more prone to getting injured.

Q. We just saw an on the Ocean Drive cover page. Here you say you have plans to, maybe in a few years, have your own brand for fashion.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I get inspired a lot by traveling around the world from people's culture to the way they dress, especially in Asia and Japan. I get inspired by so many things. The craziness of their style and the variety.
I have tried to incorporate that into my tennis wear, but hopefully in a few years that will -- my inspirations will take me to a new level, and hopefully one day I'll have my line.

Q. You said that in a few years you have plans to open some tennis classes.

Q. Because you had to move here. Can you tell us a little bit and how that was, the experience when had to move from Russia to here to take your classes?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: One of my goals is to definitely try to open an academy back home, because that was one of the reasons I left the United States was that the conditions in Russia were not very good, especially in the winter.
There's no real facility to train out there. There's not many places you can go and have a day of training. It was either one or two courts at a local park, and not always could you get a court because obviously it was recreational.
So you never really had a set schedule, and I think that can help. The development of tennis is a lot better obviously right now than it was when I started because of the popularity of tennis in Russia right now.
I definitely hope that grows, and I, for sure, would like to incorporate an academy somewhere back home.

Q. Congratulations also on your Fed Cup victory. I want to know if you can share your feelings of going to the biblical homeland. There are a lot of Russian Jews there. There what was the reaction for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was incredible. It was incredible on many different levels. I honestly did not know what to expect from Fed Cup itself. Never been to Israel before that. It was a whole new experience.
it wasn't so good the first few days because we arrived to a hurricane that we were witnessing outside my hotel room for a the first few days. So I was literally in my hotel room, watching movies nonstop, thank God, in English. And I didn't get out much at all.
We had a couple of team dinners but we couldn't really get out much because of the weather, and we practiced for two days, it was. The other two days was playing in front of thousands of screaming fans.
None of the girls has ever seen a crowd like that, so it was really funny because after my match when we were all in the player lounge, I came back and they were like, Welcome to Fed Cup. That's the way to debut your Fed Cup.
It was all a joke, because the first time I come out, you know, we have this crazy crowd, and so many vibrant people. I wish I could see more of the country because I've heard so many great things about it, but I was literally just in the hotel, eating, and playing. So, unfortunately, I'd love to go to Jerusalem one day.

Q. Did you ever meet Anna Smashnova, because she's originally from your country?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I knew her when she was on Tour, and I played her a few times. I don't know her personally that well?

Q. You've won a Grand Slam on grass, you've won a Grand Slam on hard court: Two part question. First, depending on how your shoulder is, would you be interested in taking a wildcard at either Amelia Island or Charleston?

Q. And what is your commitment? How great is it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: If I'm ready, and if I've had a good week or nine days of practice, then I would definitely consider taking those wildcards.
As far as the French Open goes, I mean, I take every Grand Slam seriously. You know, I've always mentioned that the French Open is always going to be the most challenging Grand Slam for me to win. But as you all know, that's why I play the sport is because of these challenges. I have a lot of respect for the tournament. It is an incredible tradition and one that I would love to win eventually. Some time in my career, whether it's this year or some other year.
But there is definitely a huge -- I mean, last year considering I was playing with an injury and getting into the semifinals gives me the confidence that I can get further if I'm healthy. So, it's just going to take a lot of work and patience. Which I'm getting a lot better at, and we'll see.

Q. What is the key for you in Paris? Is it movement?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I think it also depends on the conditions of the court and the weather. Because the speed of the court and the way the court feels, it changes depending on the weather. I mean, if it's really sunny out, the court is usually drier so the ball goes faster through the air.
I think you also have to be prepared mentally for that. To be able to change and adapt to the conditions, you know. When it's raining, everything seems a lot heavier and the ball is heavier, and there's a lot longer, lot more longer points, not as many free points as well. So it's just much harder work.

Q. Steffi won the French Open with a pretty flat forehand and a pretty flat backhand. Can you win the French Open with pretty flat shots both sides?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't see why not, yeah.

Q. How do you see the Latin American players nowadays in 2008?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: If I have to, if I was looking after other countries in the world and their players, I'd go completely bonkers. I don't -- I try, I really, honestly don't follow too much of other players and other players from other countries. I've had a lot on my plate this year to look after that.

Q. Can you talk about what you like about Miami, and what do you plan to do while you're here? How many days are you here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just a couple. I have a couple commitments today and tonight. And I think I'll be out of here in a day or two.

Q. Where do you spend most of your time? You travel a lot? When you go home, what are you doing in your free time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I spend my time mostly in Florida when I'm off in Sarasota. And I also have a house in Los Angeles in Manhattan Beach, which I spend quite some time there as well. Depending on where I am in the world and where I'm coming back from, that is usually the place I go to. The place that's closer.
As far as what I like to do in my off time, just spending time around the house. I know it sounds very boring, but like to make sure things are in order, and you know, clean up, and I'm literally living out of a suitcase, so I'm always packing and unpacking. I'm learning how to cook as well, so it's been taking a lot of time with some guidance from my friends.
You know, just normal regular stuff. Read, watch movies. But I'm not a party-type of person. I prefer spending my time in a quiet place, and just spending it with close people.

Q. You're having a dinner party, what dish have you mastered yet?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Let's not go that far. I'm far from mastering a dish.
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