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Monday, June 26, 2006

An interview with Maria Sharapova, 24 June 2006

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I love coming back every single year. I won this tournament before; I think I can win it a second time. I look forward to this tournament.

Once I get out on court, my game will come into place, and I'm looking forward to starting. It's the biggest tournament of the year for me, so, yeah.

Maria Sharapova

Q. Inaudible ‑‑ how does that affect you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It doesn't really affect me. It's part of Wimbledon, actually. It doesn't happen too often except it can get a little bit wild. I don't know, just the English tabloids.

Q. At this time last year you were talking about getting some tingles up your spine, coming back here, do you remember saying this, where you made your phone call and everything about that?


Q. That was obviously after winning. Obviously this year you come back having not won last year. Do you still have that same excitement about being back year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I get that excitement every time I come and every time I'm walking.

When I was in Birmingham I was just being looking forward to coming here and being in the village atmosphere; and walking around the courts in the first week when it's empty and getting to see the whole place when nobody's there, it's a very, very special place.

I got to go to the museum yesterday and see all the amazing history. Usually museums could be a little boring, but that was actually one I didn't want to leave. It's just so exciting to see the whole tradition of this event and how it just started. And the fact that, you know, you've held that plate before, it's pretty amazing.

Q. Centre Court, have you had a chance to have a look at Centre Court yet?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I had a little peak. I didn't really do much on it.

Q. Obviously the Wimbledon title was your first, so far your first Slam and obviously not easy to win any Slam, how do you feel now two years on, you're two years older and I'm presuming better because you're more developed, how do you feel about trying to win your second Slam?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, every single Grand Slam, obviously you want to win it. I didn't expect to win Wimbledon at 17 and obviously from that point on, I knew it was going to be tougher and tougher to win my second one. I didn't think physically or mentally I was ready to step it up on a whole new level for two straight weeks, and surprise, surprise.

But that's something that's going to take years and years to develop. I've said this before: I'm not at the peak of my career. I don't feel like I can dominate at 19 years old and win every single tournament. My body and my mind is just not ready for that at this point.

But I do my best to work every single day in order to get better and looking forward to times when I am going to be stronger and when I am going to be playing tournament after tournament, feeling physically and mentally strong.

Q. Physically you can gradually get better, but how do you get past the mental stumbling blocks?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know, but I think back and sometimes you wonder, I wonder, why did I win Wimbledon at 17 years old? I mean, it wasn't because my game was so good that I was dominating everyone. I was just really fearless out there. You know, I didn't care who was on the other side of the net. I didn't care, you know, what people thought. I didn't care about any expectations. And I blocked that out of my mind in every single match that I played.

You know, when I look back and I think about it and now I'm like, well, all right, I've got to keep doing that. Looking at me two years ago, you wouldn't say that I was the strongest player, that I did everything right or, you know, I was just dominating. I just found a way to win and I did. I took my chances and I won.

But mentally I was really strong and I think that's definitely helped me throughout my career and being mentally stronger. You know, having that little bit of advantage. Even at the French, I was down a few match points and I just, you know, figured first round, don't lose now. Just give it all I have.

When I'm fearless, I don't really care what people think or any expectations. As long as you can block that from your mind, I think the rest will ‑‑ if you've got it, as long as you keep developing it, it will come in years.

Q. Inaudible?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think physically, especially on clay or slower surfaces, you know, I still think I have a lot of work to do fitness‑wise.

But, I mean, I don't know, I'm a tough girl. But it's not just because of that I'm going to all of a sudden become strong and I'm going to hit every single ball and win everything. Like I said, it takes time to develop, and it's going to take time for me to be at the top of my game.

Q. I know you were saying that you weren't expecting to win at 17, but you did win and obviously you came back last year and suddenly there's an expectation which probably there wasn't the year before. So how much did it hurt, not being able to defend your title, and how much has that motivated you for this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: The loss last year hurt more than any other loss in my career honestly; even my loss against Serena in Australia last year. I don't know, you just walk off the court and you think, I tried to do everything possible to win, but she was just better that day.

But that's just how much this tournament plays on me. I love going out there and I love giving it all I have.

Q. How much of a motivating factor can that be for you now coming in?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it is, I had a really decent beginning of the year. Unfortunately I had my ankle injury and wasn't able to play any matches before the French, and then it's difficult coming into any Grand Slam without any match preparation.

But, you know what, I have to put that behind me. I'm physically feeling good and hopefully, you know, as I play match by match here, I'll get a grip for everything.

Q. You're playing against Anna Smashnova from Israel in the first round; what do you know about her?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I played her a couple of times but that was really awhile ago. There's not much to really think. I haven't seen her play in a while. I've just got to go and play.

The first round, I don't know what to expect. You don't know how you're going to play. You might be a little nervous. Yeah, just got to go and hit.

Q. What are you doing to relax in the build‑up to the tournament?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just, I don't know, it's pretty boring.

Q. Watching the World Cup?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, honestly ‑‑ I have been now in the knock‑out stages. The round robin is a little boring. I'm ready for the real big‑time. The penalty goals are really fun to watch so I'm really looking forward that. (Laughing.)

Q. Who are you supporting in the World Cup?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Don't ask me because if I say, I'll get absolutely ripped tomorrow. (Laughter) But saying that, the biggest country in the world didn't make it, that's kind of pathetic. Countries like Guana and stuff, I shouldn't be talking about soccer.

Q. Is your tennis even stronger than last year, for this year at Wimbledon?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: For sure. I feel like I'm a much more experienced player, yeah, with every month that goes by, I feel like.

Q. How strong are the Russian players this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: How strong? You mean "strong," how good?

Q. Yeah, how much can they compete this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know how much they lift, but ‑‑

Q. How do you feel in relation to the other Russian players?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I can lift a 10‑pound plate. That's all right. (Laughing).

I mean, I don't know how strong they are. I can't speak for everyone else, there's so many. But, you know, again, this year, you've had a lot of great results from Russian girls.

Q. Andre Agassi announced a few minutes ago that he's going to retire at the end of this season after the US Open. What will be his legacy in your mind?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I don't think there's one bad thing you can say about the guy. He's achieved so much no matter any tournament he goes to, no matter what he's seeded or, you know, how, what losses he's had in the past weeks or whatever. I mean, that guy is just a champion. It's amazing to still have someone around that's achieved so much and that's done so much for the sport.



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