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Australian Open Semi-Final Interview

Posted on January 22, 2013

Q.  Dropped nine games all the way to the semis.  Are you pleased about this?  How did you feel about today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yes, I am.  I thought today was going to be a really good test.  She's beaten quality players over the course of last week, and I know that she's capable of playing really good, you know, with deep hitting.  Also a lefty, which is a bit tricky.
So, yeah, I thought I handled that pretty good and was able to keep my focus all the way through the match.

Q.  Did you get to see the game earlier today or is that something you'll watch tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I watched a little bit of it.  I did, yeah.

Q.  You really haven't lost focus at all for more than, what, a game or a few points the whole tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  No, I'd probably say more, but that's probably because I'm critical.
No, I mean, that's always one of the toughest things, like I mentioned before, it is keeping that focus, especially when you have    when you feel like you're doing the right things and you have your opponent in the right position, sometimes they start changing things up or going for it a little bit more, and that can be dangerous.
You really have to follow through with what you've done and keep doing it.  Meanwhile, you know, keep your head in the right direction.

Q.  I guess the next match, you know her very well.  She's been playing great; she's a veteran player.  Last time you played her, was it Rome?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  No, we played in Beijing, in the semis.
Yeah, I mean, I've beaten her the last few times that we've played, but they've always been really good matches, really tough matches.  I certainly expect it in the next one.
She's had a great start to the year and playing really well.  She was, you know, the most improved player towards the end of last year as well, so that will be hopefully a high quality semi.

Q.  Does it worry you at all you haven't had a big test yet going into the semis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, going into the match, my goal is not really to be tested (laughter).  I don't know how else to put it.  If I do come into a situation where I feel like I have to pull through or I'm not playing my best tennis or she's up and I have to find a way to win, then that's what you have on that given day.
Do I want to be in that position?  Absolutely not.
You know, like I said, if I start the match well, I want to follow through with that along the whole way and keep that motivation and the way that I'm playing, doing the right things and keeping that focus.  That's the important thing.
It's not to think, Oh, well, should I just give away a few games.  It's not really a mentality of a winner, I think.

Q.  Since you coach and agent are familiar with Li Na, do you think it's your advantage this time because they would give you some very useful advice?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  We've played against each other so many times before Thomas was my coach and after.  I mean, Max has been my manager since I was 11 years old.  We know each other's game.  It has nothing to do.
Our coaches are not the ones that are going out on the court and playing against each other.  We're certainly experienced enough.  We've faced each other enough times that we know each other's game so well, and at the end of the day it's all about execution and not the other factors.

Q.  Have you ever tried to ask Max the question about, Who would you root for?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think we know the answer to that (laughter).

Q.  What's the answer?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Ask him (smiling).  Let's call him into a press conference.

Q.  He roots for more deals, huh?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think when you've worked with someone for as many years as we have, it's beyond money and deals.  And he's fine, I mean.

Q.  Especially as the CEO of Sugarpova.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, he gave himself that title.  I don't know a CEO that's ever just given himself the title of a CEO, but I guess he's a great example.

Q.  Li Na is being coached by Carlos Rodriguez who you clearly know from Justine.  Have you noticed any difference in her game, or did you in Beijing, or was it pretty much the same?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, she certainly stepped up her game.  I think at different times in a player's career you need that extra motivation, you might need a change.
She's been there; she's done that; she's a Grand Slam champion.  It wasn't like she needed someone to come in and fix her game.  I don't think that was really the plan.
But sometimes when you just have a different surrounding and a new voice, they might be saying the same things but it just gets to you a little bit differently and your motivation changes.
So that certainly was a big factor for me when I had to make that decision a few years ago, because at the end of the day we know how to play tennis, you know.

Q.  Have you seen Sloane Stephens play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  A little bit.  Not too much, no.

Q.  Madison Keys you've seen a little bit more.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah.

Q.  A couple impressions on her.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  On Madison?

Q.  Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think she has a big game.  Maybe she's not as consistent right now.  If she can keep that strength, I mean, she has a great first serve, you know, and she can definitely improve her movement, but overall I think she's heading in the right direction.

Q.  According to Forbes, Li Na is the second most paid female athlete in the world.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Since when do we pay attention to Forbes?

Q.  Do you feel like it's an interesting thing to know?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Do you?

Q.  You are the most paid.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Do you think that they have my pass code to my bank account?

Q.  I don't know.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, think about it (smiling).

Q.  The county of Miami Dade has approved the site to be revamped there.  How much have you felt in the last few years that the tournament needs a facelift, that it's lagging behind the other events?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it's such a huge event.  There's so many people from all around the world coming to watch it.  You know, after so many years, you certainly feel like there needs to be improvements, you know, adjustments, bigger and better things.
But, again, it's not an overnight process.  You know, that was a big step with that approval.  I personally love the tournament.  I mean, I've watched it since I was a very young little girl as a spectator and a fan.  I sat in those seats watching Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.  I can only see it growing in a bigger direction.
Yeah, I don't feel like it's really old because I still feel that charm in it from when I was going there.  That fountain in the front, taken so many pictures there, so hopefully they leave that.
Overall it's a really, really nice tournament.

Q.  Have you ever gave out some Sugarpova to the girls or your rivals or Li Na?
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  No.  Mostly the ATP players are taking them.  It doesn't seem like they have any diet restrictions.  I think the girls are very cautious with the sugar.  The guys, they don't care.  I heard in their meeting they're just all over it.

Q.  Maybe Li Na can bring a bag to China and do a promotion for you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think I can do that, too.

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