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Friday, May 27, 2005

ROLAND GARROS: Maria Sharapova Interview - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Q. This was a tough match at the beginning of a very long tournament. Do you enjoy tough matches at the beginning? Is it a special game for you or does it have a special meaning playing a fellow Russian girl, one of the many Russian girls which are so dominant now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, when I came off the court, you know, I really thought these are the sort of matches I play for because, you know, I would have loved to win 1:0. That would have been great. But, you know, when you come off the court and you feel like you were losing the whole match, and all of a sudden you pulled it out, you know, it's those moments that you feel you've trained for and you work hard for. Just lucky to get through. Of course, you know, playing other Russians is never easy. She's your compatriot. When you go on court, you just try to forget about my opponent, where she's from or who she is.

Ave Maria

Q. With the way the draw is this year, are you confident you can get past the quarters as last year and maybe even win it this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I always just play it one match at a time. I don't worry about how I did last year or what I have to do this year. I just worry about my next opponent.

Q. She was 3:1 up in the third with one point for 4:1. What did you think at that time? She kept running and running and running.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it was definitely tough. I mean, you know, when you're down a break in the third, you're just begging for mercy (laughter). But I just tried to fight it out and tried to find a way, just an opening. As the third set went on, I thought the conditions were a little lighter and the ball flew faster. I was able to hit shots that she wasn't able to run down. In the first and second set, I felt like she was running down every single ball. No matter how good my ball was, it was coming back. In the third, I felt like everything seemed lighter and I could hit the ball and I got a good advantage from it.

Q. What does your father mean to you? Did he give you advice to win?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, my father is first and foremost my father. About advice, of course, he tells me what I need to do during the match or whatever. But, obviously, both my parents have sacrificed a lot for my career, my life. A lot of these great and bad moments, you know, we share together. Especially the good ones, they mean a lot to my family.

Q. There are certain players which play much better in hotter temperatures. How happy are you so far with the clay court season? In Berlin the weather was not very good. Andre likes hot weather.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, of course, I prefer when the weather is sunny and nice, nice to play in. But when the conditions are heavy and the ball doesn't go through the air as much, I think my opponents have a bigger advantage of getting the balls back, you know, bringing them back and having the points go longer and longer. That's one of the things that I need to work on. I can be impatient and I have to hit ball after ball after ball. No matter how long it takes, I have to know that I can hit an extra ball than my opponent.

Q. With all that said, there have been players who haven't radically changed their styles for the clay, like Monica, for example, would pretty much hit out and did win this tournament. Do you think you need to play more defensively or do you think you could pretty much play your style, be more accurate and a little more offensive?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To tell you the truth, I can't really change my game when I go on any surface. I can adjust, you know, to do little different things, but I'm not going to change my game and all of a sudden become a typical clay court player that's going to get everything back. It's not in the nature of my game. There is no point in doing it.

I mean, of course, I realize that I have a game that's pretty powerful and pretty big. So on the clay, I don't get as much advantage as I would on faster surfaces. But I also, you know, know that as the years have been progressing, I feel that I can withstand longer matches and I can play longer points and come back and play a better point rather than last year where I felt like I was going to die.

Q. Given that Linetskaya is probably better than her ranking, she's 18, fast, has weapons, just talk about the quality of your own game and whether or not you thought, even though you were pushed, you did play a good match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think I played a good first set. I was letting her play her game. There's nothing on my balls. One, the conditions were heavy, yes. Another one, I didn't realize and I didn't change anything. When my balls were landing on the service line, I didn't improve anything. In the second set, I think I had a little more pace on my shots and whenever you feel like you're hitting a heavier ball and deeper ball, you get more confidence and you feel like you can hit it over and over again.

Overall, I mean, I'm happy to get through the match, but I don't think - - I mean, it definitely wasn't the best match I played. When you don't play well and you get through these matches, that also means a lot.

Q. 2005 is very different in women's tennis than 2004 because the two strong Belgian girls returned strong. Do you enjoy that this year will be much more competitive?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. That's what the sport is all about. That's why I play it, is because of the competition. I love competing against top players, win or lose. I learn from my losses. And wins, you know, they're great because you know whoever you're playing is the top. That's why, you know, the championships meant so much to me because, first of all, you're playing against the best eight that are in the year, they've done amazingly, done the best in the year and you're able to beat them. Of course, it's going to be more difficult already in the quarterfinal you're going to play against a very tough opponent, but it's normal. That's the way the game goes. I mean, nothing's going to be easy.

Q. Strong finish for you. Two double-faults from deuce didn't help very much.

Q. What happens? Does your toss get low? Are you tired at that point? Going for too much on the second serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I just didn't have the timing on my serve today. I've been serving pretty good in practice. You know, whether the heavier balls today, I think in my practices the balls have been flying a little more. Today maybe in the first set I felt like I needed to go for more. Then the third set when I wanted to go for more, it was either going long or my toss was somewhere else. You know, it's just one of those days where you just go up to the line and you feel that you're not serving your best.

Q. Obviously you've had some fabulous wins in your career. You mentioned you learn from your losses. If there were one or two losses that you learned the most from, what would that be and what did you learn?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think one of them was against Serena in Australia because it's a big disappointment to lose a match where you're one point away from being in the final of a Grand Slam. It's very disappointing. I think I just realized that, you know, it's a bad loss, but I was mentally really tough. The next week I came out and beat Lindsay in the final of Tokyo. I feel like I put that behind me really quick. In the past I've had matches where, you know, I lose them and I think about them too much. I think what I did wrong and what I need to improve. I think as fast as you correct your mistakes and forget about the match, you know, it helps you. I think in Australia, you know, it helped me a lot. I realize I'm not going to be able to win every single match, but I also can come back strong after losing such a tough match.

Q. Do you see Australia as more of a matter of your focus going off a bit or Serena stepping up?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I felt like I was just in control of the whole match and all of a sudden it just slipped away. I mean, it was too long ago. Really, there's no point in going back and talking about it.

Q. Overall how happy are you with your form at the moment? Do you think there's anything you should be improving on or could improve on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, the serve for sure. I think tomorrow I'll be working on the serve a lot more, you know. Playing for two and a half hours, I was getting a better rhythm as the match went on. You know, there's not too much you can do with one day off in between your next second round. It's not like you're going to go and work six hours a day on something. First round is never easy. You just have to try to improve things in the second.

Q. Top seed here. Lindsay hasn't really done that well in recent years on clay. Not a lot of talk about her. How dangerous do you see her? Do you see her as a threat to win the tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think Lindsay can always be a threat. I mean, who needs to run around the court if you can hit aces all the time and hit big returns? If she's on, she's on. It's basically unstoppable just because of her power and the accuracy of her shots.

Q. You talked about being No. 1 at one of your goals. She said recently she's not concerned about No. 1; she's sort of detached from it. If she was concerned about it, she would have come over and played the European clay court season. Do you find that attitude strange or what do you think about it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just great, don't play and I'll become No. 1. Thanks, Lindsay (laughter). She's had an amazing career, so I think at this point she's just enjoying herself. I mean, she's been No. 1 before and she's won Grand Slams. I think, I mean, just tell her in the next press conference to step back and give me the place (laughter). No.

Q. Andre has been one of your heroes, correct, someone you looked up to?

Q. He was a legend around Bollettieri. He's going through some tough physical times. A little bit of perspective on whether or not
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Did he lose today?

Q. He did. He got hurt and lost the last two sets. Could barely walk through it. Do you think athletes in general can stay around too long? As good as he's been, do you think there's a proper time for people to walk away from the sport?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It really depends on the individual. It's so hard to say. It depends on your physical condition. That has a lot to do with it. And also your desire to be out there and still compete and enjoy it at the same time, and wanting to improve every single day. But when you wake up and you feel like you just don't want to do it - - I mean, there's a difference between waking up and saying, "I'm really tired, I don't feel like going and playing today." There's another difference where you just wake up and you feel like you've had enough. You've had a long career, you've had a great career.

At this point I can't really say that about myself (laughter). It's not that long. But it's hard. It really depends on the individual.


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