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Maria Sharapova
7 6 2
Dinara Safina
6 7 6


Most likely candidate to win Wimbledon?








First round interview
Posted by: Editor


How impressed were you with the way you were striking the ball?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I was pretty happy because I kind of came from a slow court in Toronto to a pretty fast court here, which you always know going into the US Open, the Arthur Ashe Stadium is pretty quick. So it was all about adjustment.
I played a tricky opponent who doesn't give you much rhythm. It was just really important to stay on top of her and do the right things from the beginning. I thought I had a little bit of a slow start, but once I got going, I was able to do a good job of maintaining.


You came into net a decent amount for you. Was that part of the plan overall or was it tonight you were getting balls you were comfortable with coming forward on?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I think it's the mentality of moving forward. I think it also adds a little bit to my groundstrokes, as well, when I have the mentality of moving forward, trying to go to net. I'm certainly not going to be hitting, retrieving or hitting five volleys at the net. If I am, then I'm doing something wrong. Then my approach shot wasn't good enough. But I certainly want to go up there as much as I can, especially on a court like that.


When you were sidelined a year ago, how much did you follow this tournament? Did you watch any of it? Too tough or did you want to watch?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
This one last year I didn't because I remember at this time I was in Arizona for the whole tournament. I was in the physical therapy office every single day and the tennis was on.
But I made a point not to watch it. But after the US Open, I didn't care. I actually enjoyed watching tennis.


Why did you make a point of not wanting to see any of it?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
Uhm, you know, I don't know if you don't understand the position you're in when you're not participating in a tournament that you very much love and you've had success at, as an athlete and as a competitor, to not be there and not be competing is pretty tough, watching others compete, knowing you're not in the draw.


Unless I've missed something, this was the first time Frank Garry has been referred to in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
Well, he should be. He's a legend.


Talk about beautiful, flowing buildings. What are your thoughts about his work?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I think he's a genius. When I was young, ever since I was 12 years old, I started admiring his work. Unfortunately I haven't gotten to see too much of it around the world.
When Tiffany approached me and told me that he wanted to work on my earrings for the US Open, I was completely blown away. When his collection came out -- actually, it came out a few months before I won the US Open. That was my first stop after I won. I think I bought like five pieces from his collection. I went to his studio a little bit ago.


Is that in Malibu?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
In Santa Monica. I was completely blown away. I mean, he has about a hundred‑and‑something projects that he works on at the same time. This whole table, a little part of each table had just things thrown together or papers thrown together in a certain way, and materials. In the middle of it all he had some ideas for some earrings that I was going to wear at the US Open. It was completely crazy.


Did he follow tennis? Was he a Sharapova fan?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
He was actually a hockey fan. And the only thing he had up on the walls of his office were his pictures with famous hockey players. But he did like tennis very much. Obviously not as much as hockey, but maybe that will change (smiling). But he certainly loves sports.
I think he's Canadian originally. That's a big reason why he likes hockey.


How would you describe your earrings?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
Well, they're very much like a lot of his work. They're very architectural. But his whole idea and inspiration behind it were streams, comparing that to the movement on the tennis court, creating like two pieces of flowing rivers, connecting them.


Do you have any thoughts on your next opponent? She's a wild card entry, her first US Open.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I actually have not seen too much of her. I watched a little bit on TV before my match, and my coach watched her for a little bit. But I have never seen her play before.
It's always a little bit strange when you're on the tour and you're facing somebody for the first time. The most important thing is to go out there and try to figure it out as fast as you can.


Think back to the time you walked on the court in Warsaw to now, where you were then to where you think your game is now.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
Certainly improved. I've been fortunate that this summer I've been able to play as many matches as I have. I think in Toronto I played six matches in seven days. I don't remember the last time I did that. I think maybe when I was a junior or something. Oh, that was fun.
But I've just been thrilled that I can play these matches and beat these girls that have been playing all year long and that have had really decent, good results. I feel like with every match I've learned a lot and I've stepped it up. I certainly feel like I'm cutting down on the errors and getting the confidence back certainly.


You said you still feel you're not going to be a championship contender for a Grand Slam until 2010 Australian Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I never really said that. Well, when I'm in the draw, I'm a contender.


Think back to when you were very young on your dad's bicycle getting started at the academy in Florida. That very young girl, what would she think of Maria Sharapova today?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I don't know. The amazing thing when I look back to being that young is I really didn't care who anybody was. I don't know. I certainly didn't watch a lot of TV. I actually didn't watch much tennis on TV. That's why when people ask me who was my hero growing up, I never really had one. I don't know why. I don't know if it was because I didn't get to watch so much on TV.
But I remember many big names coming to the academy and practicing. I wasn't overwhelmed by them. I admired them. I always wanted to watch them practice. But I wasn't sitting there with my mouth open and saying, Oh, my goodness, I want to be that person one day.
From this day on, when people tell me, like a girl or little boy comes up to me, say, We're so inspired by you, I want to be just like you. I always say, No, you want to be better than I am. You always want to be better. By no means am I perfect.
I think that's from when I was very young, I never thought anybody was perfect. I admired Hingis' quickness and the way she thought on the court, but I certainly didn't think she was perfect at everything. So I don't know.


Stardom wasn't part of your mindset?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
It wasn't, no. For some reason it was never really my thing. I mean, there were big names coming into that academy in all different sports. I was never ‑‑ never really did anything.


Was it your mom or dad who said you should be better, you want to be better than the next person?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
Nobody really told me that. Actually my dad always pointed to the positive things that certain players did, and he made me watch them. He made me watch many videos. I had to study many things of what people did well.
But no, he was always on top of that because he liked that those players could set an example, you know, for someone like me who was young and a little bit inexperienced in many areas. I really don't know.


A lot has been said about your comeback being very good for the tour, inspiring to others. Kim Clijsters is back also. Could you talk about what you see as things that both of you perhaps bring separately to the tour?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
Well, I think comebacks are great for the sport themselves. I think both of us, it's great because both of us are kind of coming back from different stages in our life. She was out of the game, you know, had a kid, and is coming back after a couple years. And I'm coming back after almost a year from an injury.
We're both still very young, considerably very young. I just think for women's tennis, it creates a story, you know, it creates excitement and buzz, considering that we're contenders. We've won Grand Slams. We're big competitors. We love the big stage. It's definitely great to see Kim back.


How much of an issue is the shoulder for you now? Is it something you think about, something you make adjustments for, worry about?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I mean, I'm certainly still making adjustments. You know, I'm still ‑‑ usually, you know, after a tournament like Toronto, I'd probably get back on the horse after just one day off. It takes me a little bit longer for my arm to recover after such a long week, which I'm usually not used to. Especially my arms, when I would play really long matches, that was the last thing that would either bother me or get sore.
So that's kind of a little bit of a new stage for me, kind of dealing with that, and really being smart on the practice court, as well. Obviously, you have a week to train before a Grand Slam, but you want to do the right thing. You want to ‑‑ I still have to work on my strength and do my program every single day of last week, but also I want to go out on the court and hit tennis balls.
It's a compromise. It's something that's definitely new in my career, but that's okay.


Can you explain the new serving motion that is a little different?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I'm just trying to do something that's easier on my arm. I'm pretty mobile. My joints are pretty loose. You know, by the time I would ‑‑ I had a pretty loose motion. By the time I would get to the hitting position, as I was explaining, my rotator cuff would be out of place because I'm so mobile. With a shorter motion, it doesn't have so much room to move around. It's a little bit more stable in its socket. It's a little more technical.


It's been a great night for Southern California tennis. Are you happy you moved to Southern California?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:
I am. I still spend a lot of time in Florida, especially when my tournaments are in Europe. It's usually half and half. I spent two months or five weeks before the French Open over there working on the clay courts. That's one thing I think we need in California, are clay courts, and good maintenance people.
But I love it. I love the lifestyle of Manhattan Beach because I feel like everybody is so down‑to‑earth, doesn't really care. They're almost all almost like beach bums in a way. Then there's the Peet's coffee, which is good coffee.



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