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Maria Sharapova Interview
March 14, 2011
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - BNP PARIBAS OPEN
M. SHARAPOVA/A. Rezai
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What's the T-shirt?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's the 25th year of Chernobyl.
Q. Seems pretty appropriate the way things happened.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Crazy, right? Can you believe one disaster 25 years ago? Now another? I heard there's a big cloud coming towards the West Coast.
Q. They think it will dissipate...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: So the tournament goes on (Laughter.)
Q. We're here talking about backhands down the line and so forth, but what are your thoughts about the situation over there? It's in an area of obvious great interest to you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it is. And certainly -- are you talking about Japan?
Q. Yeah, and just the nuclear...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, in terms of what's going on over there, it's crazy and something that, you know, you can't even prepare for. It happens, and you see the coverage on it and the videos, and it's really incredible that something like that can even happen in the world.
It opens your eyes, and obviously puts a lot of perspective in your life. It's a country where I have very great memories from. I started playing there when I was very young, and I always loved my experiences there. So to see it going on there to its culture and the people, it's really sad.
Q. You've been so impacted in your own life by Chernobyl and done a lot of wonderful work around that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah.
Q. Are you a little cautionary about nuclear...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think, you know, in the beginning my job was raising awareness to the world really and basically getting the message across that even though something like that happened such a long time ago, it still causes many people on a daily basis, especially families that were -- you know, kids that were born and now are having kids, you know, you also find that they have something in their body that's not allowing them to live a normal life from the pollution.
I mean, some of the coverage they shot when they were doing the documentary and in the radiation area, because I have never actually been around the area. ESPN covered it. I wanted to get all the coverage and all the videos around it, because it's really unbelievable what you see. This big huge area, no one is -- it's completely deserted. No one is around it.
Everyone has complete completely fled. They took their passports and that's all. That was their only belonging that they really wanted. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it really is.
Q. Solid outing today.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Well, it started slow. I started like I didn't have my cup of coffee or something, didn't have my peeps around. So that was disappointing.
I got it together. It was a very different opponent to someone I played in the first round who maybe hit a lot of balls. This is someone who can hit a winner from any part of the court really, and you just have to be ready and try to make her hit another shot.
When she's on, she can be one of the toughest players to play against. You know, she had a lot of errors today. But, yeah, overall it was solid. I had good return games, I returned a lot better, and served a lot better in the second set.
Q. How important is it to you right now to put yourself in a position to win a tournament like this?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course it's important. It's great. It's more important that I'm playing matches and that I'm here and competing.
Q. Can you just talk about the serve? You've changed your stance, is that correct, a bit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, a little bit.
Q. Why did institute that, and what are you trying to do with that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, just trying to find just a little bit more of a comfortable stance so I can create a little bit of more -- feel the spin just a little bit more from the first serve to the second serve and have a little bit more options.
Q. Do you feel like it helps the kick serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, I think when I used to stand -- I mean, I've had so many different motions, but most of my motions I used to stand pretty far over, kind of parallel to the baseline.
I don't know if that's the best thing for the shoulder, because you always have to work a little bit more.
So, yeah, I just started staying a little straighter, but I think pretty much it's the same except the stance.
Q. Is that a function of the racquet change or coaching advice?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, nothing with the racquet at all. Just trying to find, you know, the best kind of stance and the motion that can help me, you know, feel the spins a little bit more.
Q. Obviously you're a basketball fan. Can you comment on or talk about the basketball tournament, college basketball tournament? Were you paying any attention? Any thoughts on the Bruins or the Trojans, anything along those line, or are you just a pro fan?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You just spoke a foreign language to me. I can speak NBA; I can't speak anything else. No, actually I'm not following that at all. I'm sorry. I'm not very good with -- it's terrible. I've lived here for so long, but I don't really follow too many college sports.
Maybe if I participated in one and had that whole college experience I think I'd be more involved. I felt it a little bit when we were in Oregon playing in the Nike exhibition, because you had that university crowd that was just incredible.
Q. Go Ducks.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Exactly. I was like getting used to the whole sign thing. (Laughing.) God forbid that I said something that was against their team.
But, yeah, no, they're so into it. I think that's great to have so many people enjoy sport in a country, and it's really big here.
Q. Care to give us your NBA predictions then?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I'm not a predictor, not publicly.
Q. You have had a lot of ups and downs and really good wins and some disappointments. Is it more strategic things you've had to learn over the years or more stroke changes? Could you tell me a little bit about what you have had to focus on over these last two or three years?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, not so much technical. I mean, I haven't changed my strokes dramatically. I haven't done, you know, too much. I had to change my serve a little bit when I came back after not playing for a while in the beginning, having a little bit of a shorter motion.
Yeah, I think it's a process. You learn. When you're out for a while, you get back into it. I always feel like every day that you miss practice you almost get worse a little bit, because you feel like everyone's practicing, everyone's getting better, and you're not out there trying to get better.
So when I went on the court, you know, you learn that you just try to work as fast as possible to get on the court. And when you're actually playing matches, you learn a lot by being in those situations.
Also a lot of it is, you know, mentally getting used to the situations and almost being like on autopilot, where when you're playing so many tournaments, playing a lot of matches, a lot of things come naturally to you. You know, those feelings, and, you know, not worrying about having to hit certain shots or it just comes kind of fluid.
It's a tough thing to explain, but it's one of those things that just come automatically. When you're not competing, when you're practicing or not even practicing, you lose that touch and that feel. So it takes a while. You know, losing early certainly doesn't help because you find yourself obviously back on the practice court and practicing, and then you go into a match. That's why I always say how important it is to play a lot of matches.
Q. Just to follow up on the Nike thing, they made a lot of special designs, Hepburn, red rhinestone. If you had to pick one that is still your favorite outfit, which would that be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That I've worn?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've had a few favorites. But probably the night dress at the US Open.
Q. The black one?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. The lady that designed it was a good friend of mine, and that was the first dress that she had actually helped design in terms of within Nike and out of like a contest of a few people. So it was kind of interesting how it all worked out. You know, she helped design it and then I wore it and then I ended up winning in it. So, yeah, that was special.
Q. If I could just ask, it was mentioned about the racquet change. Sometimes it can be a pretty dicey thing. You haven't had that many tournaments, I don't think.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, not too many.
Q. Could you talk about the change, how that's affected your game or your stroke?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. It hasn't affected too much. But when I had a lot of time to think about what maybe I needed help in and what areas of my game, I really felt like a racquet could help me.
I tried a few different frames in I think it was in November. And, yeah, Head was experimenting with a few racquets at that time and they were coming out with a new collection. When I picked it up, I loved it. One of the things I really liked about it was when I was maybe on the stretch I didn't feel like I had to work as hard as maybe before that. It really helped me on the run and on the defense.
But it also, when I felt like I had a good ball to hit it, I didn't feel like it was flying on me a little bit, which sometimes -- because sometimes I like to be aggressive, and sometimes you feel that with little changes it can hinder that and the balls fly a little bit more with a more powerful racquet.
So I had that really good balance of really helping me on the defense and adding a little bit more power, but also being really stable when I had a good ball to hit.
Q. Dinara said after she got back from the Australian Open she called her mom told her she was going to retire because she was so frustrated with just trying to come back from the back injury and all that goes into that. Can you just talk about your own experiences of, you know, being down at that level and then just trying to scrape through it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. You know, as athletes, we have many ups and downs in our careers. We have moments where we either come back from injury or we have had tough losses where we feel like our game isn't there, and we've had some changes in our careers, whether it's coaches, whether it's other things. Obviously everyone goes through different things.
I mean, our sport is not always -- you're never always on a high level. You have to go through these patches of being frustrated and down and losing matches and going through injuries and injuries that, you know, sometimes force you to be out of the game for a while.
You just have to be really -- you know, thankfully she has a great team around her, you know. You can say she's really lucky that she can call up her mom and ask her for her voice. I think that's really important, because my parents have always been there for me. Have always encouraged me to -- they've always said to be true to who I am.
At the end of the day, when I was out for a long period of time, when you have so many questions going around whether, you know, whether it's something that -- it's obviously a long process to get back. Is it something that you want? Is it something that's worth it, all the hard work and the days and the mornings?
And you know what? It is, because you do it from such a young age and you compete for so long that it's such a bore when you don't do it anymore. It really is.
As much as we hate the grind of every day getting up in the morning and practicing for hours on end, I mean, there are a few that might love it, but I wouldn't say that, you know, it's a true, true passion of mine.
I love playing matches and points more than anything, but, yeah, it's tough. But I think every athlete goes through it.