US Open Pre-Tournament Interview

Q. How does it feel to be a candy magnate? Anything new we should know? Dennis give you a tough time about it? Anything sugar free?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sugar free? With a name Sugarpova I don’t think I will be doing anything sugar free very soon. There is your answer.

Q. You’re kind of known as one of the fashionistas on the court. How has your style sense changed off the court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Things changed a lot, because I used to wear pieces years ago that were not sold or produced. There were pieces, maybe materials that were, you know, coming from Italy that were quite expensive. So they are one offs where you could do something a bit different, edgier, pushed the boundaries a bit more. Ever since I have gotten my collection, you certainly have to tone things down a little bit, because that’s something that will be worn on a 14-year-old girl or something that’s woman’s league, while overall trying to maintain that edge and differentiate myself from everyone else.

Q. When you were last here at the US Open, Sugarpova was a new company. How has it grown since then? What’s that experience been like for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s been a really unique experience, because I had no experience coming into it. I feel everything that’s come my way I have been able to learn from. We have grown tremendously in two years. We are in over 30 different countries now with exclusive distribution deals. For a new company, that’s very, very rare. We are in different hotels. My goal is to keep it as premium as possible. I mean, from Four Seasons Hotel to unique boutiques around the world, Colette in Paris or somewhere in Asia. Yeah, it’s very interesting. You learn, because it’s candy. It’s, you know, a certain amount of dollars per bag. Obviously the more money you’re going to make is by the more bags you sell. At some stage you have to make decisions in terms of mass and where you want to go and the directions that you take. But it’s been a lot of fun.

Q. Is your game where you were expecting at this moment, or are you still searching for…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think if there is a time to bring the game that I want to, it’s definitely now (smiling) for the next few weeks. I wasn’t happy with the way I started the hard court season. As the weeks progress, I’m certainly feeling better. It was great to have this week of practice here. You know, the courts are a little bit faster again, so it was good to come here a little bit early and to get that time on the courts. But overall, yeah, I think little by little things will shape into place.

Q. Do you prefer at this point a faster hard court or a slower hard court with your game and how it’s evolved?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think a faster court can have a higher bounce or a slower court can have a lower bounce. It always depends on the place and the weather. I don’t think I have ever really had a preference on hard court. I actually like when the court is a bit faster.

Q. With all of your fashion ventures and with the business ventures you have had, how do you deal with that during a tournament? Are you taking business e-mails during a tournament, or do you say for these two weeks I can’t be reached and I will deal with it after?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t usually get my e-mails during tournaments (smiling). I sometimes want to, but I don’t. People know better.

Q. Your psychological fortitude has always been probably one of the best parts of your overall game. Do you think you were born with that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not really sure. That’s a question I have been asked before, but I think it’s also life circumstances that you go through, that you work through, and learn from. Also by the people that you’re surrounded by and what you learn, how you go through making decisions. You know, I have never really had an easy journey to this step of where I am today. From my days in Russia to even now we always go through challenges and adversity. I think we’re still not sitting here today saying I’m the strongest person or physically or mentally, because I always want to improve and be better and make myself a better person.

Q. What are your thoughts on your first-round opponent, your history with her and the path her career has taken?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she hasn’t played in a while. That’s what I know. But I also know we have had a lot of tough matches in the past. She’s a very dangerous opponent, someone that’s capable of playing really great tennis. She’s beaten me before in her career. Yeah, I’ll definitely have to be ready.

Q. What is it that makes her dangerous? What is it about the way she plays?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she makes you hit a lot of balls. She’s a great mover on the court. She uses a bit of variety, as well, in her game. But I guess we’ll see on Monday.

Q. I saw you the last time in Stuttgart. You were the face of the tournament. Had to do so many things for the sponsors. What is more stress for you, being at Stuttgart at the tournament where you have to do every day something different it seems like for a sponsor or being at a Grand Slam tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it worked out pretty well for me, so maybe I should do little more things (smiling). I’m very experienced and I have been doing this for a few years to know how to structure a schedule. The week before a Grand Slam I usually do a lot of my appearances in the beginning of the week leading up to the US Open and not towards the end of it or the weekend before. Time commitment, practice schedule, you know, sometimes it changes. You feel differently every year in every tournament. Overall, I think we have done — my team has done a really good job of facilitating the schedule and making sure once the tournament starts I have had already five days of rest and recovery.

Q. One of the things us tennis masses learn when we watch you is what you do when you’re not on the ball, when you walk off a point…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: When I’m not on the ball?

Q. When you’re not striking the ball.

Q. When there is down time on the court. You’ll walk, turn around, have a quiet moment. What goes on in those quiet moments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It depends on the situation and what is going on in the match. If you’re doing well, it’s just kind of the inner voice to keep going and keep that focus. If you feel like you have had a bit of a drop and you lost that, it’s words of encouragement or it’s a time to just yell at yourself within yourself. It just depends on the situation.

Q. With all the ventures you have had in terms of business, is there something comforting knowing whenever you decide to finish your career, years down the line, you have other opportunities and ventures that you feel passionate about and can go forward with?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess I do. That’s always scared me. As I was youngster in my career, because you live and breathe tennis from such a young age, you’re never really exposed to other things in life because you commit so much of your time and dedicate of your days a year without being able to educate yourself on another subject or have a proper school room education or work with other people in different areas. I have been able to do that and work around my career to really set myself up for things in the future. Because I certainly have the opportunity to do nothing, but that’s never really been my character. I have always loved working. I love — I’m still very young. I have passion and energy to succeed in other things. I certainly hope that I’ll have time and still that passion and drive for when I’m done.

Q. You mentioned your first opponent, Kirilenko, hasn’t played for a while. Do you see that as an advantage coming into the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you never know, because I think it’s also an opportunity for someone like that to come in and have no expectations because they haven’t really played a match and to go out and swing away and not put, you know, a lot on yourself, not expect much from yourself. Sometimes that’s a very dangerous opponent.

Q. Ten-year anniversary last time you played mixed doubles here.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh. What a stat (laughter). That’s why we have journalists, for stats.

Q. I don’t expect you to be entering this year, but if you were, who would your partner be at this point in your career?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Can we bring Johnny Mack back? Okay, I’d love that.

Q. He would do it.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not with me probably.

Q. He would.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m a little — I have too much focus on the court for him. Maybe he’d bring out my wild side. I don’t know.

Q. What would that look like?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not sure (laughter).

Q. Follow up on your business. I’m curious if the major conglomerates have come to you, the Mars, the Nestles, the Hersheys? Curious if they have approached you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, we do attend a few of the candy shows during the year where the big players are also in attendance. We’re like the mom-and-pop booth and they’re like basically take over the whole show. We have had a lot of interest from others, but I still want to carry the business in my hands because it’s my baby. It’s how I started. I’m far from ready to give it to anyone else.