M. SHARAPOVA/A. Harkleroad
An interview with ASHLEY HARKLEROAD
MODERATOR: Can we have questions for Ashley Harkleroad, please.
Q. Much better match than the score, wasn't it?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: You know, it wasn't a bad match, but there's really nothing that I could have done. You know, she hit like probably 40 winners and she hardly missed a ball. You know, that's good tennis for her part. You know, she's a good player. She's going to go a long way.
Q. Must be pretty frustrating for you.
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Yeah. But, you know, I've been over here a long time, like nine weeks. I've had a pretty good run over here. So I'll just go back and relax and have a little vacation and then start working hard again. See how my summer goes after that.
Q. You've had a very good year so far. When you play a match like today, does it show you how much more you perhaps have to do?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: You know, I'm not really big on playing on grass. But I just try to do my very best. You know, when you play somebody who's really playing the best tennis that they are right now, and not missing one ball hardly, there's really nothing that you could have done. I think she could have beaten anybody on any given day, and she probably will, so...
Q. How much were you affected by the noise?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: No, I really hardly -- I mean, she grunts loud. Everybody knows that. I was just trying to make it a more relaxed atmosphere because I was getting my clock cleaned out there.
Other than that, you know, that's just the way she does it, I guess.
Q. Doesn't really bother you, distract you?>
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Well, you know, a lot of girls, before I played her, they say, "You know, her grunt is ridiculous," this, this and this. You know, I mean, I've played her a couple other times, and it's just normal. She just does it, I don't know why. That's what she does.
Q. Not too soft yourself?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Actually, I grunt pretty loud, too. If I'm playing her, I'm trying to be a little bit more loud (smiling).
Q. Who won that battle?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: I think she might have won it.
Q. Does it affect your concentration?>
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: No.
Q. First Wimbledon. Have a good time, despite losing?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Despite the losing, you know, I love it here. You know, it's a great atmosphere. You know, I need to work on playing on grass a little bit better. But other than that, I do enjoy being here. It's nice, a good atmosphere.
Q. There is obviously the attention that you and a lot of other female tennis players get away from the court.
MODERATOR: We'll stick to the tennis questions.
Q. It is tennis related. How does that affect your tennis? How does it affect your focus going into a match?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: I mean, I really don't think about what's going on, what everybody thinks is going on, because basically there's nothing that goes on besides me playing tennis. I don't really know what you're talking about besides people saying, comparing us.
Q. The mass media obviously look at people like yourself.
MODERATOR: We're doing tennis questions here. Anyone else have a tennis question to ask?
Q. So you don't want to answer any questions about tennis at all?
MODERATOR: Tennis is fine.
Q. How easy is it for you to prepare going into a match and you know there is attention about you?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: It's not difficult for me. I mean, I don't worry or listen to what everybody else says about that part, what you're talking about. I just kind of try and always do my best. Some days, you know, I'm going to run into somebody that's better than me. Today, you know.
Q. Do you read the tabloids at all?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: No. I'm not even in the tabloids. I don't know what you're talking about (laughter).
Q. You've been touted as the great American hope. Maria is the equivalent in Russia. Is it conceivable that you could meet in a Grand Slam final in five years or so?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: I definitely hope so, you know. That would be very nice, you know. But, like I said, I mean, I'm going to go back and have a little vacation and then work on some things that I think I need to work on, hopefully get better.
Maybe I'll see her in the finals of a Grand Slam one year.
Q. If I write this is the start of a great rivalry, that is too premature?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: I'm sure you're probably right (smiling).
Q. What are your plans for the summer?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: For the summer?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Like I said, I go back --.
Q. Tournament plans.
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Probably Stanford, San Diego, LA. But I can't continue to play tournament after tournament after tournament because I get fried. I've been over here already for nine weeks, and I'm ready to go home now.
Q. You didn't go home after Paris?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: No, I didn't - and I'm ready to. I need to figure out a good schedule for me to, you know, do and how many tournaments I should play before having a few weeks off. Because, I mean, I can't play that many tournaments when I'm 17, then turn 18, get all excited. I want to play everything, but I can't do that because it's very tiring.
Q. The grunting issue one more time. In other sports like basketball, football, there's no regulation or concern about people making noise. Why do you think in tennis it is? Do you think there should be any attempt to squelch it?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Tell you the truth, it really doesn't bother me. She grunts loud, yes. I grunt loud probably. But, you know, there are some other girls that get annoyed with it and think it's ridiculous with her. But to me, I don't really think about it that much.
I don't think if she doesn't grunt, she's not going to be as good of a player as she's going to be. She's good. It doesn't matter if she grunts or not. She's been doing it since she was four, so I'm sure it's just normal.
Q. You, too, since four?
ASHLEY HARKLEROAD: Me? Probably.
Pretty good interview from Ashley, she didn't seem too upset as she realizes grass is not a good surface for her. I'm also glad that she realizes she's been playing too much and is going to stop playing week after week.
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