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INTERVIEWS

March 11, 2007

M. SHARAPOVA/N. Dechy

7-5, 6-2

An interview with:

MARIA SHARAPOVA

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria, please.

Q. Have you found it a little bit of a struggle to get into the swing of your own game in these last couple of rounds?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, but I think that's to be expected. You know, when you don't compete for that amount of time, it's normal. It's hard to go into this event. In as much as you know you've worked hard and you know you're ready to play, you can't really expect amazing things from your game.
So, yeah, I definitely feel like these matches are getting the rough stuff, you know, working on things here and there. But it's just good to be back on court and, you know, being in those -- being in some tight situations. I miss that after a while.

Q. Are you feeling okay?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I'm sorry I didn't do the other press conference. I wasn't -- I was sick for a while, like, twice in a row, so I don't know if the first match overwhelmed me a little bit because I haven't played that much. But I needed to go home and kind of lie down. But, yeah, I feel fine. No, I'm good, yeah.

Q. Obviously you've struggled with the heat on that one day in Australia. It's pretty hot today. How does it compare?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The conditions are a bit different. It's a lot dryer here. But knowing that that it was going to be pretty hot today, I was ready. From yesterday, I was just getting hydrated, you know, as well as mentally being prepared for going out there and getting ready to play a three-set match.

Q. What's happened with the serve? It seems like match to match, you're struggling on and off and trying to find it. What's going on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. In Tokyo, I struggled with it a little bit. Part of it was probably the leg because that's how I injured it. I think that limited me a lot from serving a lot in practice. You know, I only started serving, like, five days before the tournament started because that's how, you know, I got the injury, when I landed on the serve. So I have to take it easy on that.
You know, just getting -- going out there and trusting it is the most important thing, you know. Going on the line and knowing you can do it.

Q. So it's not that you're not getting pushed. You're just a little bit worried on the landing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, because I injured it on the landing, yeah.

Q. So is there any pain at all?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's a little sore, but it's not -- it's not like what it was. No, it's not like an injury, no. But that's normal after you have a strain, you know, for it to be sore after you start playing.

Q. You seem to take a lot of balls mid court sort of floaters instead of --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Swing volley.

Q. Yeah, instead of it being a traditional volley. I'm just wondering is that a shot you practice, is that something you've always been aware of? I mean, 20 years ago, that really didn't exist, that shot.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I practice the swing volley quite a lot. Uhm, when I come in and when it's a floater, that's the shot that I like to hit.

Q. Technically what do you have to be aware of on the forehand and backhand on that shot?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. It's about seeing the ball fast, you know. That's sort of the transition shot for me. It's either the approach shot or the swing volley, because usually I don't -- I try not to hit a swing volley and run back. So my swing volley is kind of that transition to the net. But it's been one of my favorite shots ever since I was young.

Q. Do you think that there's a -- you see players doing that because of technology that we have of racquets and strings, you can make that an offensive shot or the lack of just traditional volleying skills? What do you think?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, thanks. Yeah, that's a nice way to put it. No, I think it's either preference. I mean, some people like to hit a volley from that shot. You know, if it's over my head, I'm not that strong to do the one-handed backhand volley over my head. So I just swing it with two hands, and, I don't know, like I said, it's just something that I've done since I was young. And I'm more comfortable with it, and if it works, it works; right?

Q. When is the last time you played a match, even practice match, left-handed?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Left-handed?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I play like silly matches here and there, but not even matches. I don't think I'd last. My arm would not last. I'd throw, like, the American football five times and I'm sore the next day. It doesn't work.

Q. So when you play, you play messing around left-handed, what, you just don't have enough strength there because you're still occasionally on the court --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I do.

Q. -- you're popping it back?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'd say my right arm is definitely stronger, but I still feel like I have a lot of feel with my left hand, you know, when I play. Especially on the volleys, I feel like I'm a lot better left-handed than I am right-handed. But I don't know. I just -- my arm does get tired after you play, but that's 'cause you just don't do it, you know.

Q. You just mentioned American football. James Blake came in the other day was all thrilled about hitting a hole-in-one over at La Quinta. What's the best accomplishment in sports outside of tennis that you've --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In sports?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not very good at sports. I'm not. Apart from tennis, I seriously don't consider myself an athlete at times, yeah. Like the other day, I missed hitting a baseball with the other side of my racket 28 times. It's embarrassing, but that's just the way it is.

Q. As an avid reader of Teen Vogue, I noticed you said in there, "If I weren't a professional athlete, I wouldn't be a professional athlete"?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, if it wasn't for tennis, I mean -- I like hit the jackpot with tennis, because with other sports, it's just -- I'm clueless, yeah.

Q. You're not very good at disco bowling?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What the heck is that?

Q. It's something that Roddick introduced here the other day when he said --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That's something he probably would do. It sounds just like him.

Q. They get the strobe lights going at 11:00 p.m., American bowling. It's pretty exciting stuff.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Is it? I wouldn't know.

Q. You mentioned in Melbourne that the heat was so severe you were hallucinating.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Mm-hmm.

Q. And can you tell me, has that ever happened to you before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not really, no. But I don't think I've ever been on the court for that amount of time at that temperature, so I think that was the first for me - and in that humid it.
I've played in pretty hot matches and tough conditions, but I was on the court for a pretty long time.

Q. How did you get out of it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: How?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I just took my bag and left.

Q. How did you recover from it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What do you -- like, how did I recover from it?

Q. Yeah, from playing, while you were playing. You said you were losing --
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. Because at that point, especially in the latest stages of the matches, I didn't really -- I wasn't really thinking a lot out there. It was tough to think. You know, you step on the line and you just try to win a point somehow. You know, I wasn't even thinking where I was hitting the ball, what should I do. I mean, she served for the match, so, yeah.

Q. Can you talk about Vera or Azarenka?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't played Azarenka before. She's a young and upcoming player, so that will be interesting. I've never really seen her play. So it's always weird playing players that you haven't played, going out and playing for the first time.
Last time I played Vera was in Australia, and so it's always a difficult match against her. She gets a lot of balls back and makes you work. But if I step in and play my game, I think I have a good shot.
THE MODERATOR: Two last questions.

Q. How are you going to prepare for tomorrow's match with the heat?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't play tomorrow.

Q. For your next match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just as I would do after every single match.

Q. The heat here isn't going to have you do anything different?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. No, not really. I'll drink two more liters of water, but that's it.
THE MODERATOR: Okay.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you.

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