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Old Jan 14th, 2012, 01:55 PM   #3593
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Re: ** Masha News and Articles! ** Vol. 2

14 JanMaria Sharapova press conference before the Australian Open 2012.

Q. How is the body feeling at the moment?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, good. I′ve been in Melbourne for some time now. Came here a little bit early. I was thinking of maybe playing a tournament the week before. Just thought it would be good to stay here and train and get ready.
I wasn′t really in a hurry to go and play a tournament when I didn′t feel like, you know, I had enough practice and all.
But, yeah, it′s been really good. The body feels really good.

Q. You had a set on Margaret Court.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was good. I spoke to Craig Tiley a week ago and he mentioned the Kids′ Day, if somehow I wanted to be involved in it. I knew there was little doubles and stuff going on. I knew I hadn′t played a lot of matches. I thought it would be great if I could go out and play a set. It was good.

Q. Is the ankle healed right now or are you unsure of some moves?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it′s healed pretty well. It just didn′t heal as fast as I thought it would. But, yeah, it feels good now.

Q. Are you worried about lacking matches and starting your season in a Grand Slam?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I prefer to be going into the first Grand Slam healthy, not necessarily thinking that I′ve not played a lot of matches. To me health is the most important.

Q. There′s a lot of the top players carrying injuries coming into this tournament. Is that a little unusual?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I′m not sure. You know, it′s a pretty tough sport. We play for many months out of the year. My injury was a sprained ankle, so it was a little bit unlucky. Everyone has a few nagging injuries. It′s just part of our careers. It′s just how we go about it and try to heal it at fast as possible.

Q. Does it make it any easier to deal with?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To be honest, I think everyone′s really selfish and just thinking about themselves (laughter). I′ll be really honest with you.

Q. Does that include yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, yes, yes (smiling).

Q. You have the younger players on the tour emerging and some of the older players like Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters. You′re in the middle. Where do you feel like you fit in?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Do I need to feel like I fit in, placement on the grid?

Q. How do you see the battle between the younger and older players and where you fit into that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, define ′young′.

Q. Early 20s, Kvitova, Wozniacki.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Because 24 is not past 25, so I would say that′s still kind of early 20s. I just woke up a couple weeks ago and I thought to myself, When I was 18, I′d be thinking, Gosh, would I still be playing at 25. Wow, seven years. But now I′m 24 and I wake up and I still feel like I have so many more years ahead of me.

Q. Do you remember your first year here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In the juniors or in pros?

Q. In the juniors even.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I remember losing in the final of the juniors and not being too happy about it.

Q. Just coming to Australia, what type of person were you, what type of player? What was the experience like?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, at that age it′s all about experience. I don′t think there′s really a bad experience you can have. When you′re at that point in your career, you′re just learning and everything is coming to you. You win or lose, you′re benefitting from all of it. You learn if you lose the matches. If you win, you improve your ranking and so on, people notice you and all that.
Yeah, it was an important time in my career ′cause those were the years where I kind of went from the juniors and started playing more pros. It′s a pretty important transition for any player.

Q. Wozniacki was saying when she first came here she was 13. You got to be around the stars. Did you ever feel that way, wide eyed, not thinking, Oh, my God, there′s Steffi or Monica?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Was Steffi still playing then?

Q. No, sorry. She stopped in ′99.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually I had that experience more so growing up in Florida and going to the Miami tournament every year. I remember my parents and I would drive down just to go and see the matches.
I actually preferred going and seeing the men playing. I remember loving going to Marcelo Rios′ matches and having a good laugh, watching some fun tennis, Kafelnikov as well. Yeah, that was my real experience where I wasn′t there to play but just to see the players and to watch tennis.

Q. It′s hard for us to get an understanding who the favorite might be on the women′s side of things. We don′t know how bad all the injuries are. Do you see as a competitor somebody that stands out?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Is it any different than other years?

Q. Probably not. But there were four different Grand Slam winners last year. It′s tough to get a read on it.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You just want me to help you with that?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That′s a tough one because we all come in here trying to be as prepared as we can. This is the start of a new year for us. We′re coming off a little bit of an off season where we′re training on the things maybe we feel we needed to improve. It just kind of gives us time to settle down and get away from the tour life for a little bit. This is just where it begins.
I think it′s not just for you or anyone in this room, but for me, too, it′s cool to see how everyone comes out of it, where they are, where they′re playing, where their level is.

Q. What was it like when you went to Miami as a player?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: First time I went to Miami as a player, they had like a junior version of the Miami tournament. I think it was maybe eight girls. I remember playing Gisela Dulko in the finals of this tournament actually. We had quite the battle, one of those Court 17s or something.
Yeah, I think I won. Maybe I lost. I don′t know. I remember it was three sets because it was probably the longest junior match I ever played.
Yeah, it′s all experience. Like I said, that′s one of the most important transitional stages as a tennis player, from the juniors going to the pros.

Q. Is it fair to say that 2008 when you won here was the best level you ever had?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think throughout a two week stage, for sure. No matter who you are, it′s pretty tough to have a high level over seven matches in 14 days. You′re bound to have some letdowns, maybe conditions, your opponent, maybe just not a good day. I actually thought the final was probably one of the worst matches I played in the whole couple of weeks as far as level goes.
But, yeah, it was the toughest draw that I think I ever had in my career, as well, so...

Q. Then your level over the last year compared to 2008 at times.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think my level was much more consistent than where I saw it at the couple years before that, you know, following the shoulder surgery. It was a big step for me in the right direction. We talked about all my changes that I made in the beginning of the year, new coach, new racquet. Obviously a lot of uncertainty. One level where I wasn′t going up or down. It′s tough. You make those changes and you want to benefit from them, but you′re not quite sure when and how.
Yeah, I didn′t really start the year off on the best note. I lost here in the fourth round. I got sick playing Paris. Didn′t play in Fed Cup. It was kind of, Where is this going? Then all of a sudden things clicked because ultimately when you put in the work, it′s going to pay off. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in one week, but maybe in many months.

Q. Can you talk about the things that you′ve been working on in your game now.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, for me it′s just being aggressive and finding ways to move forward and finishing the points closer to the net. I mean, if I′m running around and playing 10 , 20 ball rallies, it usually means I′m not playing my game.
You know, first ball after the serve, being aggressive on the return, the first balls are very important. Yeah, things like that, moving forward, getting faster, yeah.

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