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Monday, June 27, 2005

Maria Sharapova Interview - Day 6

Q. A bit different to your first two matches out there today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, a lot tougher I think. The score doesn't say much about the match. It was a lot tougher than it seemed. Even though I was up in the first set, thought that she was able, you know, to come up with some good shots and put me in difficult situations. But I was able to, uhm, serve well when I needed to, even though I wasn't serving quite well throughout the whole match. But even in the second set, she had the opportunity to come back into the match. She had four breakpoints at the end of the match. I was able to hit really good first serves. That was the key.

Maria Sharapova

Q. Heard you mumble under your breath, "The courts are slower." Are they that much slower than last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't say that.

Q. You didn't say that?

Q. Must have been my interpretation of Russian.

Q. Your thoughts on that? Are they slower?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Today they were definitely slower just because of the conditions. But, uhm, the air is heavier. The balls don't fly as fast through the air. The previous days it was really hot, so the pace of the shots we're going through the air a lot faster. Today the situation's different. But just have to adjust.

Q. How would you compare your thoughts after week one of this year's tournament with being through week one last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think last year I was really excited to be in the second week of a Grand Slam, and this year, I expect myself to be in the second week of a Grand Slam. So, of course, it's different. But I still feel really happy to be in the second week of a Grand Slam, no doubt about that.

Q. Were you surprised by the challenge that she gave you today or were you pleased because your first two rounds were very easy and you have tough challenges ahead of you. You needed a good workout, didn't you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: For sure. I enjoyed having those tough situations where your opponent puts you in tough situations, especially in the early rounds. If you don't have those positions, you know, in later rounds you get to that point and, you know, you might be a little bit struck by it. Like I said, it was definitely a tough match. Every single point, I needed to find a way to win it. You know, she can be a very dangerous opponent, especially on grass. She has a great grass court game, big serve, has a great chip, comes into the net a lot.
Of course, it's going to be difficult.

Q. In Japan we print stamps with you. All this publicity is helping you to climb to No. 1 of the world ranking?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Those things definitely don't help me to become No. 1. What helps me to become No. 1 is the hard work I put in on the practice courts. Not the stamps, that's for sure.

Q. Anything you weren't happy with today in terms of your game? You seemed to fly away at the start. A lot of the games after that were pretty tough?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I thought I could have served better at the beginning of the games. I was able to serve well when I needed to. You know, it's better to start off serving well and getting an advantage rather than waiting for the whole game and being down a breakpoint to start serving well. A lot of that had to do with the conditions. Maybe I thought I needed to go for a little bit more because, you know, the serve didn't have as much penetration as the other days. You know, it's all right. Still got through it without serving great.

Q. Pretty satisfied then?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, pretty satisfied.

Q. Going to be tougher to defend it than win it, isn't it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. It's never easy. I'm just excited to be a defending champion rather than, you know, losing first round last year and coming here.

Q. What about the atmosphere out there? Did you feel it took a little while to warm up? Usually a lot of excitement when you appear.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, atmosphere's always great for me. I always feel excited to play in front of a Wimbledon crowd. But I try to block a lot of that out when I step out onto the court.

Q. What is the more fun? You said you came here last year not expecting to get into the second round. This year you did expect to. Last year was sort of a joyous journey into the unknown. This year you want to win it and you almost expect to win it.

Q. Does that remove some of the fun or does it make it more fun?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Every experience is a different challenge and every year is a different challenge. Obviously, last year I didn't have ?? not a lot of people expected me to win the title, and I did. That was exciting. But it's also really exciting coming back as a defending champion. It's a great feeling to have, something that you'll always cherish forever. But, you know, it's a different challenge, of course. Every tournament's going to be a different challenge, different opponent. But that's why I play tennis, because of these challenges. I enjoy difficult, different challenges, yeah.

Q. You're very good at blocking things out. Do you pay any attention to the rest of the tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just my next round.
Q. You're not looking over here to see how Venus and Serena are doing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I mean, I can look at the score board and see the score, but it doesn't really...

Q. Do you watch the men?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not a lot. I like when there are going to be exciting matches. But not a lot, no.

Q. What was your reaction earlier this week when Martina said you should focus less on publicity and more on tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, well, you know, I pretty much am in control of the things I focus on. I feel like I've balanced that really well in the past. You know, I'm No. 2 in the world. And I don't think so far anything has distracted me. It's hard to say. I don't really want to change anything right now because I feel really satisfied, you know, with how hard and how much I work on the court, and then what I do off the court. I'm still enjoying it. Like I said, if I wouldn't be enjoying anything that I did off the court, I really won be doing it.

Q. You're going to be playing the winner of Dechy and Bondarenko who play later on this afternoon. Can you share your thoughts with us on how difficult a match it might be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think Dechy would probably be the favorite to win that match, but you never know. I played Dechy maybe once before. Actually, I played her on grass a few years ago in Birmingham. But a lot of things have changed since then: her game, my game. It's going to be a new experience. I know a little bit about how she plays, but it's not really about how your opponent plays; it's about your game.

Q. Can you imagine it being the next step up, perhaps?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, always the next rounds are going to be tougher and tougher.

Q. Can you describe what you'll do this weekend in preparation for week two?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Rest, read. Nothing special.

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