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Sharapova Interview
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Day 12 - An interview with Maria Sharapova - Thursday, June 7, 2007

Video InterviewTranscribed Interview

Maria Sharapova

Q. It's hard to imagine you could have seen that coming from her. What are your thoughts on that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it definitely was to her level. That was expected, especially how well she's been playing recently and the confidence she's come to this tournament with. She definitely carried that over.

But yeah, I still felt like I gave her the chances, you know, to open up the court. And I felt like she was always the one getting the first hit on the ball, so, that's not really the way I should have played, but...

Q. The serving clearly was not where you want it to be. Can you just comment on that. Was it just a bad day or shoulder issues?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I mean, I -- I would have liked to -- I would have liked it to be a little more effective. I did feel like it was very important, you know, to get a good first serve, and if not, you know, get a good second serve. But she seemed to be jumping a lot at the serves. And I didn't do much with my return either. So giving her the first ball isn't exactly a great game plan.

Q. If we look overall today, do you think that your main problem was mental or tactical, or what do you think went wrong, really, with you and the game today?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I started off slow, and I think that once you start slow, and even though -- you know, I still felt like I could have -- I had my chances, and when I did, I just made sloppy errors. You know, I made a few swinging volleys in the net and long, which is usually my favorite shot, and also one of my best shots. And I just -- yeah, I didn't feel like I quite had the rhythm today.

Q. You can say I lost today, but you can say also, I am in semifinal on clay for the first time, and this is your --


Q. This is your --

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, despite losing today, I think this was a very positive two weeks for me, considering I was out for so long. You know, I still got to learn, and, you know, move forward from this loss.

But, yeah, I'm excited, you know. My favorite time of the year is coming up, the grass and the hard court season. So I'm very looking forward to it. And this has been great preparation, so I guess it can only be a positive.

Q. You said you didn't find your rhythm today. Why not? What do you think was the problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just some days you don't. You know, like I said, I think when you give a girl who hits a pretty big ball and deep ball, and who likes to hit off a good strike zone, it's very important to keep her off balance. And I was always the one that let her control the point from the beginning, from the beginning of the point. And like I said, every time I did feel like I had my chances, I was making unforced errors.

And once you start off slow, and I started off slow in the beginning of the first set, and the second set, I mean, the train's already in London. I mean, it's gone.

Q. Do you think she can win the tournament?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely, why not? I mean, you know, if she goes for shots, I mean, I don't know who she'll play, but yeah. I think everyone that's in the final has a chance to win.

Q. How is your shoulder?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's held up pretty good. You know, I must say that that's been a very positive, as well. I mean, it's still not where I want it to be, but that's to be expected. I've played -- this was my sixth match here, and I played three in Istanbul. So considering the amount of matches I've played, I think it's been good progress.

And, you know, now I'll have to take a couple of days off and move on to the grass.

Q. You said the train's already in London. Are you looking forward to being there yourself? How's your motivation and spirit for Wimbledon?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, it's great. It's always great. I love being part of that tournament. I -- you know, I don't know, I can't even say how happy I am when this time of year comes around. I always look forward to it. And I'm always thinking from the beginning of the year, I hope I'm always healthy when Wimbledon comes around, because it's a very special place in my career, in my heart. And I always love going back there.

Q. Having gotten this far with your shoulder in this slam, are you more aware of what you have to do to make sure it's going to be good all the way through Wimbledon?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I have to, you know, I have to keep it under control. Every day's going to be different. I mean, you're going to have some tough matches. You know, you might need to rest more than you usually do the days in between where you don't have to play.

But I think I've done a good job of monitoring it. And, you know, I've still been able to do a lot of strength on it these last couple of weeks and on my days off and the days that I've been playing, and a lot of treatment. And hopefully, yeah, as the weeks go on, you know, my shoulder will be strong.

Q. What will you do between now and Wimbledon?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm not sure yet. I think I'm going to play Birmingham. I think that's the plan right now. But I'm not 100%.

Q. Difficult time to ask you this, but you came through a lot of hardship in your career. So can you relate to these girls, Jankovic and Ivanovic, coming from Serbia, grew up playing in a converted swimming pool, and they all had to leave their country as well. Does that make you feel any particular affection or respect for them relative to everybody else out there that's come up easier?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think definitely. There is a lot of respect towards -- you know, a lot of you guys in here probably don't see how much work and how much effort every single player, you know, even players that maybe lose in the first round, how much work ethic they have and how much they train and spend time in the gym. I mean, a lot of those things are behind closed doors. And people that come from tough backgrounds and haven't had the most pleasant situations to begin their careers in, but they've been able to find ways on their own. And they definitely -- I mean, it's very inspiring for other young people that don't have the same opportunity.

I mean, I -- you know, I grew up in a normal family, and, you know, all of a sudden, you know, had this dream of being a professional tennis player. And my family and I did everything we could to make that dream happen. And this is -- you know, all these other young girls who were brought up that way and didn't come from having everything in their hands, not coming from wealthy families and having two work for everything, that definitely means a lot.

Q. There's a complete lack of atmosphere at the start. Most people seemed to be still having lunch. Did you notice that and did it affect you?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I would have loved to be having lunch then, too. I don't blame them (laughing). I'd rather be having a chocolate croissant than being down 3-0.

Q. So you didn't notice?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I noticed that I was down 3-0, yeah.

Q. Following up one of the previous questions. Many of you come from difficult situations when you were young. I mean, the Serbian girls, you for some reasons, the Williams from where they were born. And do you think this is the reason why you are all up there in the Top 5, and the Top 6, and the Top 10? Or you must suffer, let's say, when you're young in order to become a champion? Or it's a coincidence?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's one of the reasons. I think it's one of the reasons. I mean, I wouldn't say -- I mean, I personally never really suffered, but I worked very hard, and I didn't have all the things being given to me. You know, not everyone came up to me and said, you know, here's all this money, and here's a car, and here's a house, and here, I'll give you this match.

You know, I think I've definitely had to work for everything that I have today, obviously, with the help and sacrifice of my family and everyone around me. But my -- I think the background is definitely a factor, because you realize that you've worked for everything that you have, and you know how hard it is. And you want to keep going. You know, you strive, you strive for more. Because you know you're capable of it. You know you're capable of being good, you know yourself, how good you can be. And that, you want more of that. If you do come from not having much, and you do become successful, you just want more of that. I mean, I personally do.

Maria Sharapova
Player Overview




Day 10 - An interview with Maria Sharapova - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Video Interview

Transcribed Interview

Q. It's maybe still a little too early to know, but if you were healthy and not emotionally or physically drained after Wimbledon, are you inclined to play Fed Cup against the United States in Stowe, Vermont?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right now it's tough to say, because after, you know, after playing here, and especially if I do well at Wimbledon, I think that's going to be very, very hard. Because that's the time every single year in the past I've taken ten days off. So, you know, I'll definitely have to sit down and think about that because, I mean, health-wise, it would be a really important decision for me, especially for the shoulder.

Q. It could be a blockbuster match.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Could be, yes. But I think health is always priority.

Q. During the match you were still moving your shoulders. Do you still suffer from it? Or is it like a habit?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I'm just warming it up. I always warm it up. I try to do it before every single serve.

Q. And how did you feel today? It seemed to be very good.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was pleased because, you know, it held up, especially after the tough match. You know, I didn't play too much yesterday, just hit a little bit, maybe 30 minutes. And I felt like I made good progress. That was a good challenge for it.

Q. What about your first serve, very good today?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, and I thought that was going to be very important. You know, I was able to go -- you know, I started the tournament having a good percentage of first serves, you know, not hitting bombs. And today I feel more comfortable. I felt like I could hit the big serve. And, you know, at times I still felt my arm, but I felt like I could do it more consistently today and feeling good meanwhile.

Q. Are you expecting a kind of a slugging match here coming up with Ivanovic on Thursday? You're both a couple of pretty big hitters.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. Yeah, she actually plays pretty similar to Chakvetadze. So, you know, she hits the ball pretty flat and big. You know, she's had some good success on this clay court season. So it will definitely be a very tough match and one I'll be looking forward to.

You know, I played a good match against her in Austria last year. Couldn't finish the match with her this year. But I'm looking forward to it, yeah.

Q. Given everything that's gone on in the last couple of months, and even your early descriptions of your movement on clay which weren't that positive, you've got to be pretty surprised that you're in the semifinals here, huh?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wouldn't say I'm surprised, you know. I didn't come off the court and go, Wow, I'm in the semifinals. That wasn't really the feeling that I had. You know, I still believed in myself with every round and every situation that I was in. You know, I still -- obviously, when I come to the tournament, I know in any tournament that I play, whether it's on clay or mud or whatever it is, I know what I'm capable of, and I believe in myself, and that's the most important thing.

And I wouldn't say I'm surprised. I'm more proud and excited about it.

Q. I know you'll say frequently I only focus on me, but did you see how shaky she was getting in that 4-All game emotionally?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think that first point was very -- oh, in the second set?

Q. Yeah.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think that first point was very important, that really long point. I don't know. It was like a 15-, 20-ball rally, it seemed like. And I got the better out of her. And after that point, I gained confidence, because I knew if I could win a 20-ball rally and finish it with a winner, then I could do it again. And I stepped in, and I gained that sense of confidence.

Q. But can you relate at all? Because her emotions kind of got the better of her towards the end. Do you remember a time in your career when you were late in a match, and you were thinking, God, I can't control myself emotionally, I can barely hit a ball anymore?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. Not really. I think it would be more physically challenging rather than mentally. You know, sometimes years ago I would say, you know what -- if it was after a tough game, I'd be like, Okay, this is what I have to do to win the match, there's no way I can do it, yeah.

But I think it's more physically than mentally, because mentally I'm usually pretty good at trying to keep myself going.

Q. The other day you were talking in a real interesting way about when you were injured and had the downtime.


Q. And you got to be able to do just the fun little things of life.


Q. Was there any sense of regret that you'd missed some of the interesting parts of life in your young life, or was it -- what were your thoughts at that time?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really, because I didn't know what the other life could have been like. You know, I never really went -- I mean, I went to a private school for two years, but other than that, I've always been home-schooled most of my life. I never experienced having, you know, ten friends, you know. I've always had about four really close friends. I've never really been that social. I've never had to go to class every single day. So I really don't know what that life is all about.

But on the other side, I don't think I -- I don't really think there's much to regret, because, you know, I got to -- obviously, I wake up and I practice, and it's about four or five, six hours of the day where I commit myself to my career and what I'm doing.

But when I'm done with that, I'm able to enjoy the place where I live, and my house, and my car, and probably those things I wouldn't be able to have without tennis, so...

Q. So you wouldn't rewrite anything?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, no. None of it. Why?

Q. So if you're not surprised to be in the semifinals of the French Open, what has surprised you so far here about your body, or your game, or something in Paris? Are you surprised your shoulder has held up as well as it has?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I really don't know -- I really didn't know what to expect from it. I don't know how it was going to be. I thought it was going to be worse than it was, so after that match, especially, and I'm very pleased. But I wouldn't say I'm surprised or shocked by the situation, you know.

Like I said, there are many interesting surprises in my life that have happened. But I'm not like -- I'm not blown away by them. I'm not -- I mean, even little things. But I'd have to think about that one.

Q. Would you be surprised if you won here?


Q. Were you surprised that Justin tried to ask you out on a date on TV?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, that's -- that's -- we're buddies. We've known each other for a long time. It's funny. It's always -- when he interviews me we always have a good time.

Q. Considering your previous results on clay, though, is it natural that some people might be surprised by that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I think more by the fact that I haven't really played that much on clay, yeah. And I didn't grow up playing that much on clay, apart from just junior tournaments. I played a lot of junior tournaments. I mean, most of them were all in France or in Italy or in Spain.

But the ITF and the challengers that I played were mainly in the States and always on hard court.

Q. I think you spoke the other night after the Schnyder match, about how gratified you were about the character you showed, and what it revealed about that. Are you finding that this test with your shoulder is sort of revealing something about your character you didn't know, or is it pushing it to a limit that it hadn't been to before?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think because of the things that have happened in the last two months, with it being so up and down, and also from the beginning of the year where I tried to be positive about it, and I think, All right, well, you're always going to have little aches here and there. But when you actually realize how serious it is, it's a little frustrating. Because it's kind of like a red light, where, you know, you're not going to be able to pick up a racquet. You don't know how it's going to be after the break.

So there's a lot of confusing thoughts going through your head, because obviously, this is something serious. So I think -- I mean, it's -- it's grateful to feel healthy out there. You just realize -- after being so up and down for such a long period of time, you're just grateful for every single moment you can be out on the court and feeling like you have a chance to be healthy, and you're out there enjoying yourself. Because that's really what I'm doing.

Day 7 - An interview with Maria Sharapova - Saturday, June 2, 2007

Video Interview

Q. You had double faults in the second. Were they caused by shoulder problems, were they?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, like I said, I can't expect a lot from my shoulder this week. Just try to loosen it up as the match goes on. Sometimes I feel it during the match, but it's normal. It's okay.

Q. Is it likely to threaten your continued participation here?


Q. Here, are you likely to have to pull out because of it, do you think?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, hope not.

Q. And the cortizone injection, have you just had the one this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Mm-hmm, just one.

Q. So when did you finally figure her out in that match?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I figured her out pretty quickly. I think I played a pretty solid first set, but I had a little bit of a letdown. It was a bit strange. I was making a lot of unforced errors in a period of a very short time and just got to -- in a way I was happy that I was able to come back and find a way to win after being 3-All and 4-1 down to two breaks.

But in a way, it was also lousy because I know not a lot of people are going to let me get away with that. So it's a good reminder for the future to not let that happen again.

Q. You said a few days ago you think you can win a lot of matches without your serve. You've won some. But does the level go up, and might you not need that shot in the next round or always looking ahead?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I threw in some bigger first serves today. In my previous matches, it was just -- I don't really -- I don't have, you know, a big first serve, and I was doing fine. I had a high percentage of first serves, and especially here, even if the conditions are lighter than the other days, you know, I don't think you can get a lot of advantage from hitting a huge first serve here.

You know, if I keep my percentage up, I feel a lot better about myself.

Q. You said two days ago that during your time off, you'd got grips with cooking and shopping. Is that one of the reasons you want to keep on playing with your shoulder injury, that the cooking and shopping didn't go too well?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Is that what?

Q. Is that one of the reasons?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Am I the only one not getting the joke?

Q. Is that one of the reason you wanted to keep playing with your shoulder injury was because the cooking and shopping didn't go too well?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it was a good time away from, you know, all the hustle and bustle that goes with the tour. But after a while, you come to realize that, you know, I really missed it and I wanted to go back on court. And I missed the competition. I really did. And after a while, it became, you know, boring, and I actually wanted to go to restaurants instead of staying home.

Q. Some of the TV people are suggesting that it might be an idea if you did pull out to save yourself for the grass court season. Has that occurred to you and are you concentrating on your shoulder?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: That's the first time someone's had an opinion about me. No, everyone is going to have suggestions and opinions, and in my career, I'm going to have a lot of those. But the most important person in this situation is myself and I listen to myself.

Q. Playing on with an injury problem can cause even more damage, can't it? Have you worked out that calculated risk of playing or no?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I've made it pretty clear that the doctors have given me an okay to play with it, even though, I mean, it's impossible to feel 100 percent healthy, even if it's not the shoulder.

I mean, you're always going to feel aches and pains somewhere, especially on clay courts. It's normal. As long as I know I can't damage anything further, then I'm cool to play.

Q. What sort of treatment do you get on it when you come off the court? Is there any specific treatment you have after every match?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, after the match, yeah, I loosen it up a little bit. I mean, I probably spend about an hour, hour and a half doing rehab every single day just on the shoulder.

Q. Is that ice or is that --


Q. Ice?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, more like strengthening and exercising. After the shot, I mean, it is weak and it gets weak, but so are other parts of my body. Everything seems to be weak, and everything needs to be worked on. So, but, obviously, right now, the shoulder is the No. 1 thing.

Q. What percentage would you put yourself out of your full potential at the moment?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't like to put percentages on myself. I don't think that's -- no reason to. I just go out and play.

Q. So if you play Schnyder and she's in a tough match right now --


Q. That's a long, drawn-out kind of tricky match on clay, on a surface that's obviously not your favorite surface and it's one of hers. So how do you approach that kind of battle?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm ready for any battle. It's definitely not an easy match. She's also a lefty, also likes the clay, and I got through that just fine. I'll need to be patient. It's going to be my mindset going into the match. But I also need to be playing my game.

I mean, I've played her on clay before. I think last time I did before was in Rome a couple, few years ago, and I lost in three sets. But, you know, it's a different situation. I mean, I've got to do the things that I still do best and compete and fight, and hope that, you know, I don't have any letdowns. Because, obviously, she has more experience than the girl I played today, and she's not going to let you get away with that.

Q. Here on clay, is it a bigger test of the mind or bigger test of the body?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Probably the body, yeah.

Q. I know that sometimes you work in Valencia, on clay court. But for your game, do you think it's possible to shoot security and risk, because by the shoulder last year got to the semis last year by hitting hard. But this is clay. Do you practice this?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Practice what?

Q. Patience in the court, let's say.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Patience on the court.

Q. Yeah.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't -- yeah. The last time I practiced in Valencia was, I think, two years ago. But I've been just fine since that. So, I don't know. I mean, I don't think it matters where you actually practice it or not. I mean, you know, some people have their own strengths and weaknesses and try to work on their weaknesses. But I don't think patience is necessarily one of my weaknesses and something I need to go to Valencia to work on.

Q. When you play on clay, sometimes you're hitting the ball hard, hard. If it doesn't come in, you must be more patient with --

MARIA SHARAPOVA: You're maybe a coach? I mean, it's like more of a coaching advice rather than a question here. As I said before, I only play on clay for about a month and a half, two months a year, and especially in the last few years. Last year I was injured. This year I was injured. It's been quite unfortunate, but it's also a very short amount of time.

There are tournaments during the year where you can go to Europe and play clay courts, but that's not an option. I'd much rather play on a preferred surface. So, you know, that's just the way it is. Everybody's different.

Day 5 - An interview with Maria Sharapova - Thursday, May 31, 2007

Video Interview

Transcribed Interview

Q. On Monday you said your shoulder was still giving you a bit ‑‑ or was it Tuesday, your shoulder was giving you a bit?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Wednesday, yeah.

Q. How did it feel today?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I feel it at times in the match, but I don't know. I try not to think about it, yeah. It's still there at times.

Q. It seems like you're moving pretty well. So is there some benefit of having that time off just conditioning‑wise, footwork‑wise?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, in a way. For one week I couldn't do anything just because I couldn't really move my shoulder up and down because there was a significant amount of pain when I did so. So I really couldn't do much for a week.

But after that, for one week I was basically, you know, in the gym and on the court without a tennis racquet for four hours a day. And you know, that's something new. That's probably something I will get to do in the off‑season, November and December. So it was something new for me.

Yeah, I worked a lot physically as well, but it kind of has to be what you're doing because you don't have another choice.

Q. So do you feel when you get back on court after not hitting balls, do you actually feel stronger and faster as a result?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I feel terrible. I feel like a cow on ice. Especially on clay.

Q. Really?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, the first few days, definitely, in the first few matches you play.

Q. Why, because the first step doesn't come back?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Why? Because I don't play on clay for the other ten months of the year, yeah. It's not as natural for me, just because I don't play that much on it.

Q. Does it come back faster though because you've been playing now, whatever it is, five, six years on clay? Does it come back faster than say it would last year, just the movement, the sliding, the planting, all of that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, fortunately and unfortunately, but last year I had a foot problem, so I really couldn't do a lot of movement. I could do shoulder stuff and I could do all of the things, I could do the bike, but I couldn't really move on the court and off as well. So there's not a lot of preparation movement‑wise. Whereas this year I could do a lot of movement and I just had to take it easy on the shoulder.

Q. Players in the past, I think of Rafter or Henman, who have invested a lot of time playing on clay, that's not their natural surface, because they're convinced it will help them with their game on other surfaces. Do you think there is anything about the time you invest on clay that will help you on grass or hard courts?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the only time you can significantly play on clay is basically after Miami, and that's really when I had to take the time off. So basically, it is about eight to ten weeks where you can spend, because Miami is the last tournament. If you do well, there's only like eight weeks of preparation. So it's just ‑‑ on hard, even indoors, it's a lot similar to a hard court.

Grass is obviously very different, but I adjust and I feel more comfortable there, just because of the gripping of the court.

Q. Two new faces next to your father in the stands. Does it mean that you are not working anymore with Michael Joyce and your physical trainer?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, no. Michael's coming to Birmingham. His mom passed away a few weeks ago, so he's been with his family at home. And he's joining us, yeah. But I talk to him every day. He's actually more tired now than he is on the road, because I talk to him in the middle of the night and he's watching my matches, so...

I told him to get his butt over here, yeah. I'm with his hitting partner, that is with my dad right now, Eric. He's Mike's friend, and I've known Eric since I was very young as well, so...

Q. Has there been a time since during the season since you turned pro when you've had this much time sort of off as you've had the last few weeks?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Have I what? Say it again.

Q. During the season, has there been a time since you turned pro where you've had this much time away from tennis and off?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Probably not, no.

Q. What do you think about that? How did that feel?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's incredible. I don't know if it was good for me or not, because I want more of that sometimes. You know, like I said in my first interview, I don't think you actually realize what your career has given you or brought you until you actually get to spend the time there and see it for yourself.

I was able to live a normal life alone by myself for a few weeks where, you know, I got to go to the grocery store, and I had to cook my own breakfast and my lunch. It was just so unusual for me because when I'm a week here or week there at home. Either my mom comes and I see her, and she'll do all of that great stuff, and she'll be the one going to Target and buying toilet paper. I think I seriously ran out and I had to go to a friend's house next door to get some, which is very unusual, a new experience for me.

I know I'm 20 years old, but in a way, I am so mature because of what my career has brought me, but in ways I've missed out on the normal things of life which I'm really not used to. And it was wonderful, I love it.

Q. Can a grocery store be a little overwhelming if you haven't spent much time there?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely, the first time I was lost, absolutely lost. Now I've got it under control. I know where the vegetables are, where my favorite cheese is, I've got it all going.

Q. So how's the cooking?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: The cooking is awful (laughing). It's completely awful. I always call my friends over to help me, yeah. I'm not very patient, and I can't wait for things to boil and to fry and make sure it's not red and all of that. But I usually go to my friends house and help them cook, which is just cutting up a vegetable, yeah.

Q. Just for someone as focused as you are all the time, that kind of a mental break, do you think it will really help you, or do you think it's something that might actually be somewhat of a distraction?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely is not a distraction. You know, once I'm back on the road, I actually start to miss it. I mean, after a while, when I was talking to my friends the day before I left, I, you know, was telling them, "It's crazy. I'm not going to see you guys for the next eight weeks because I've seen you for so long."

They're like, "That's actually a good thing, Maria."

They were very happy I was leaving, because they don't get to do a lot of work when I'm there. So they're actually pretty pleased that I was going away.

Q. In what way, what did they mean?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: They were relieved that they could actually earn some money while I'm gone, and go to the office and get some work done. Because when I'm there, after my practices, I'll call them up and I'm like, "All right, we're doing things together," you know, because I don't get to see them that much.

So when I'm home, I like to spend time with them. But, I mean, it gave me a different perspective on life as well. Because also the things going on with Michael's family. It was a lot of ups and downs injury‑wise, family‑wise. You know, no one really that close to me has ever passed away before, so that was a little bit of a ‑‑

Q. Were you there when his mom passed away?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was in Los Angeles, yeah.

Q. Did you go to the funeral?


Q. Have you ever been to a funeral before?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. It was pretty sad. It just makes you realize that, you know, I'm sure his mom would have loved getting a cortisone shot instead of chemotherapy. It just makes you realize that there are so many worse things in life. And that's why being home, being around his family also helped me a lot. I'm very close to them, and I've known his family for a very long time, since I was 10 or 11 years old.

Q. So that must have been just a little bit different for you, for you to be in the supportive role for Mike, instead of him being in the supportive coaching‑friends role, too?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely. But it was, you know, I didn't feel the need ‑‑ he made a lot of effort to be on the practice court when he could. You know, when she was going through the chemotherapy and when she was really sick, he would practice with me in the morning and then go straight to see her and be with her. Then I'd see her once in a while.

But it's sad, you know, because she gets the perspective of the people around her she's never going to see again. So it was a very ‑‑ it was a very different experience because there is only so much you can say to make someone feel better. Tons of people can say I'm sorry, but Michael and his family are the only ones that can really feel what it's about, because it's their mother.

Q. Totally different question. Do you know Alla Kudryavtseva?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I saw her play a little bit before I went on. I saw a few points on Dulko, but other than that, I've never seen her play or anything, no.