Australian Open 1st Round Interview

Q. First match of the season for you. Pleased with that effort?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I guess I am. It was just nice to get on court and face the opportunity of playing a first match. No matter how much you train, it’s always different when you walk out onto the court. Definitely a relief to get that first one out of the way, yeah.

Q. Are there extra nerves after such a layoff, after the injuries, all of that stuff?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, there’s always a little bit of nerves, sometimes more, sometimes less, going into any Grand Slam, but especially when it’s your first tournament of the season. Just a different feeling. I try not to focus so much on the opponent or the atmosphere and just really focus on myself and try to bring the positives of a good training week, just try to execute that, yeah, keep it simple.

Q. What were you particularly pleased about today in your game, and to the extent there was any rust, where were you feeling it most?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I felt like I adjusted quite well to the conditions, although you don’t really notice it. There’s quite a breeze going to one side. I think just moving your feet, I definitely started moving back a little too much towards the end of the second set. I wasn’t as aggressive as I was during the whole match. That gave her a chance to get back in the points.

Overall I could have returned better. Served quite well, yeah.

Q. Today there are a lot of discussions and debates about this match fixing story that came out. Of course, people like you who are top 100 or 10 or so were never in the position to survive getting fixed matches. What do you think? Do you think it exists at the minor level, when someone has to stay from 120 to 180 for five, six years, having to pay maybe a coach, transportation?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, honestly, I really hope not. I mean, to me the sport itself has always meant a lot more than money. I know that the more successful you are and the more matches you win, the more prize money, the more money you will receive.

But ultimately that’s never been my personal driving factor in the sport. There’s just so much more on the line. There’s the competitiveness. There’s the challenge of being better. There’s playing in front of thousands of people, playing you against somebody across the net and you trying to win that match.

When you’re out there, it’s not about money.

Q. What I’m asking is, when you are not a player of your standard, playing in front of thousands of people.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think it really matters what level you are. The sport itself is meaningful. It’s our career. It’s our job. I mean, I guess I can only speak for myself, but we want to succeed at it by improving, by getting better, by beating our own best, and not by anything else.

That’s how I would hope everyone else would think, as well. Make it a better and more competitive sport.

Q. We have the situation where tennis, to its great credit, asks players at all levels not to be involved in gambling. Yet our leading organizations go out and get their own money, so to speak, but getting sponsorships from Betway and other companies. Players aren’t willing to say that’s a bad thing.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I personally don’t understand that. It’s not that I’m for or against it. As you know, I’ve had many great opportunities to work with great brands in my career. That’s just not a direction that I’ve ever followed. I don’t even know if I’ve had the chance, because I know my management would shut that down very fast. It’s so far away from any of my interests, everything I want to be a part of and the people I want to work with. It has to be true and real. That’s just not something I would ever associate myself with.

Q. My question is, with all respect, do you think in terms of the sporting public out there, do you think it’s a problem to have signage and sponsors that say betting?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not in their seat. I’m not in the organization’s seat. It’s tough for me to speak about it.

Q. There’s been quite a good amount of young Russian success today. Obviously there’s the whole generation with you, along with Sveta, Dementieva. All of you were ruling the top 10 for a while. After Pavlyuchenkova there’s maybe a little bit of a lull. There weren’t a lot of Russian players coming through. Now we have this crew coming through. Do you have an opinion as to why there might be that bit of a lull?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think we had a pretty incredible run. I mean, to have Anastasia win the French, me winning Wimbledon, and when you had the Olympic podium of three Russian girls standing up there, it was a huge moment for the country and that sport. There’s bound to be a moment where you don’t have that, or especially the youth.

But as for any country, I think it’s never an overnight development. Just because you’re successful for a certain period of time from a country, doesn’t mean there’s a younger generation coming up right behind them that’s expected and mandatory to do well. That’s just not the way things work. It takes time, takes experience, takes financial help. This sport is expensive. It takes a lot of the right directions, coaches, infrastructure, everything.

Q. Is it cool for you to see this group coming through?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was nice. One of the young girls that I believe is playing against Petkovic right now, she’s wearing my collection and just started this year. I definitely keep an eye on the younger generation. These are the girls that are going to follow us. Ultimately somebody will take your place, so…

Q. Today your opponent said you are the one reason for her to start playing tennis. You are her idol. She still has three posters of you in her room.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She’s got to take those off (laughter). It’s time to put her posters up there.

Q. Can you give her any comments or advice?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, actually I hadn’t heard much about her, hadn’t seen too much of her game before I went on court today. I just saw a couple of videos, spoke to Sven about her game, who saw her watch a couple games on video.

She actually likes the pace, takes the pace quite well. For a first Grand Slam performance, I thought she was there till the end. That’s impressive. She never let in, never gave up. I mean, experience is priceless for anyone, but especially someone that’s just starting out in a Grand Slam experience.

So I’m sure she’ll have a great future ahead of her.

Q. In terms of Sharapova and Friends, the event in December, what was the most surprising element of it and would you consider doing it again?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it was fun when it was over because I was so nervous about the whole thing. It was tough to actually have fun during it because I wanted to make sure that everyone had a really good experience, from the players to the sponsors.

Yes, we have actually — all the sponsors were very happy. Everyone seems to be in for the next run already, so that’s a good sign.

Yeah, I would like to do it at a little bit of a different date because it’s quite cold in California during that time. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through watching tennis for five hours in 50-degree weather.

I’m sure the date will change, I’m not sure when yet, but we’ll definitely continue.

Q. Was there any fun with, I don’t know, Andy or the talent?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We had some fun moments the night before it started because some of the girls came over to my place, we had a food truck come over and had a little bit of a bowling party. That was fun.

Q. Your biography will come out next year. Have you started to think about it and talked to people about helping you writing the book?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have started writing the book.

Q. By yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m working with a writer, and I’m writing myself. Yeah, I think that’s one of the reasons it will take a little bit longer because I want to write a lot of it myself. I’m working with Rich Cohen, who is a tremendous writer. He’s kind of a fly-on-the-wall guy, very discreet, incredible writing.

I was in New York working with him for a little bit after Fed Cup. He came up in my off-season to work together a little bit. So, yeah, I have started. Going to take my time. Not going to talk about it much just because I want the book to do the talking. But I’m really excited about it.

I’ve always loved to write. Something that’s been a passion of mine from a young age. I’ll also be sharing some of my journals as a young girl.

Q. Was it fun to think about things that happened 15 years ago?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that’s been really interesting and scary at the same time. It’s amazing how life goes by, and sometimes to be able to recollect those memories is very interesting. I’ve been speaking to my grandparents, my father and my mother a lot, recording the conversations. I feel like a reporter in a way. That’s been really interesting.

Sometimes I need to stop because I would be going to bed and being like blown away by some of the stories that I hear.

Q. Pete Sampras just wrote a wonderful article.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I saw it. It was during Wimbledon, right?

Q. Not sure about that. But it was a wonderful article.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Did he write it?

Q. It sounded like his voice to me.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I loved it. I loved the writing.

Q. My question is, if you could write a note to the teenage Maria Sharapova, what would you say?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Have to wait for my book. I don’t know (laughter).

That’s a loaded question. I think one of the things is when you’re young, you’re always trying to go about your career, your personal life, without making mistakes and without making errors. I feel like I’ve grown so much from making errors and from making mistakes, whether losing matches or other things.

I think when you’re able to turn those somewhat negative moments in your life, turn them into something meaningful, ultimately it becomes much more powerful.

Q. That’s like a problem-solving management also in terms of your life?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don’t know about problem solving. I guess it’s some sort of advice.