Q. How do you feel about that today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was definitely a little bit nervous in the beginning. You know, last year I played first match on center and, you know, I lost. So kind of was like, I don’t want this to happen again this year.
So, you know, the first game definitely wasn’t great, and, uhm, didn’t serve good at all during the match. But, you know, otherwise she was close to being 4 1 in the second set, and I was able to win 6 1, 6 3.
So that’s the positive within my game. I started playing better as the match went on. And, uhm, yeah, I can only improve in the second one.
Q. With more matches, where will the improvement come from as the tournament progresses? Where do you expect the improvement to come from?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it comes from, you know, being in the match and being in certain situations, whether you’re up or down, you know, finding a way to win.
Whether you feel something is not working, then figuring out how to change it during the match. You know, whether it’s being a little bit smarter out there depending who you’re playing, yeah, concentrating a little bit better.
Q. You looked a little nervous in the first game. What happened?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you know, like I said, I came here last year and I was in the same sort of situation. I really didn’t want that to happen again. I certainly felt that in the first game.
Q. When did you actually forget about it? When did you start playing and getting the Kirilenko match out of your head?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Probably like, I don’t know, in the middle of the first set. Everything I was just not jumping up. I wasn’t moving well. I wasn’t really thinking for the first games.
Then I started swinging a little bit, yeah.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the approach to your second serve this year. You’re still trying to hit it fairly big, but you’re also taking a bit of a risk with doubles. Do you feel eventually that is going to come around to where you can actually hit it big enough and make it somewhat of a weapon?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think, you know, at certain points I definitely feel like I can, you know, go for bigger ones. But on different days the spin feels a little bit different to me.
That’s something that I’ve really had to adjust to; whereas, you know, maybe before when I was younger, before the surgery, I’d step up to the line and all the type of different spins, whether I hit a kick or slice, were a lot more natural. I didn’t really have to think about jumping up and putting something extra on the ball.
Now if I don’t, then, you know, my arm, I don’t really feel the spin sometimes. That’s something that I really have to concentrate on, definitely more on the second than on the first.
Q. You’re saying you don’t feel the spin? Why? You don’t have feeling in your arm or hand like before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, just sometimes it’s not as free as other days. Been serving really good in practice. Uhm, I think sometimes it’s just about, you know, bringing that out into the matches, yeah.
Q. Your return from your best, Maria, how is that progressing? Is that progressing as you would like or hope?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My return to the game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Or serve return?
Q. Return to the game.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Listen, I wish I could be No. 1 in the world today, last year, right when I came back. But I think everything is a process, you know. It really is. I’ve had many challenges in my career, you know, before today. A lot of it was trying to win Grand Slams and trying to get to No. 1. A lot of it was trying to get back from my injury.
Now it’s a challenge of trying to get back to where I want to be. And, uhm, you know, everything in life I think is a process. You have to keep working at it. I think it depends if you really want it or not.
I think I had a really long time to think about whether I wanted it or not, and I certainly did. So, uhm, yeah.
Q. Is it any element of frustration having to take it step by step rather than seeing it come very quickly?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, which part of life isn’t frustrating? I think if I wasn’t a tennis player, I’m sure if I was a college student you know, I have many friends that are in college, and they go through daily frustrations of having a test the next day and having to stay up till 3:00 in the morning and study for it and not know what they’re going to be, what their job is going to be when they’re done with school.
Every aspect of life has frustrations but I think that’s what makes it interesting, when you break through and find a way to get back or to get to a place where you want to be and achieve your goals. I think it’s really, really worth it at the end whether you’re a tennis player or anything else in life.
Q. What would you be if you weren’t a tennis player?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, probably somewhere in architecture. Yeah, somewhere in modern architecture or design.
Q. Have you studied at school those skills?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Haven’t really had time. But ever since I was young I loved architecture, different types of buildings. I love the creative aspect of many things, the sketches, seeing it build up from a sketch to a real thing. That always fascinates me.
Q. Do you want to talk about Michael not being here? Must have been a big step for both of you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, like I said in my previous press conference, we worked for six years together. You know, after a really long period of time, I think a few things become a routine. I think from both of our perspectives it was really a good move to bring in a new voice, a fresh perspective into the team.
You know, he was within that transition. We all talked about it as a team. Michael is like a brother to me. We talk all the time. Obviously it’s different not having him at a tournament after so many years. Yeah, I mean, it’s part of an athlete’s career.
Q. Is it over or is it just a break?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, you know, it’s a break for now. I mean, I haven’t really had a new coach for many, many years. I’ve worked with Thomas since the middle of November. It’s been going really well. I like the work ethic that he’s brought on the court.
I’m happy so far, but you never know where things will take you. So far everything is great. But, yeah.
Q. Is it awkward with the two of them trying to have input at the same time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, actually not. I think when Michael came in, when my dad was coaching me, I just had a hitting partner, it was quite similar because, you know, Michael came in from playing the tour. At first he was just a hitting partner.
But then as months went on, he learned a lot about my game, the things I needed to improve. They collaborated together. It was great.
But I think in my position at this time I think that was just the best thing, yeah.
Q. You called me a stalker the other day.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes.
Q. Have you had a problem with a stalker before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not until you, no. I don’t know why you’re here today. That shouldn’t have happened. You even have a sign. Oh, goodness (laughter). That’s wrong.