Australian Open 1st Round Interview

Maria def. Harriet Dart (GBR) 6-0 6-0

Q. It’s been a sort of tough road with injuries. How much did a win like this mean to you today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was good. I think it was a good test for my leg, for my shoulder. Yeah, obviously the shoulder hasn’t been, you know, much of a secret in the past year. That’s been something I have been struggling with and had to shut down the season after the US Open.
You know, still not where I want it to be. Still working through some painful days. But, yeah, you know, I felt like I did all the right things today in order to get through that match.

Q. You were pretty ruthless out there today. Harriet sort of left the court in tears looking very emotional. Must have been a pretty difficult experience for her out there. Did you kind of empathise with her a little bit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, there is no time for that, I’m sorry to say. But when you’re playing the first round of a Grand Slam – I have been in many positions, last year Wimbledon came out against a qualifier that played really well. You know, there is no doubt that my level wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but she was there to take the match.
So I’m not so much worried about my opponent, but I have to step up when the time is right and when I need to, so that’s my main goal.

Q. One of the big stories so far has been Andy Murray announcing that he’s going to retire.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right.

Q. Given that your body has kind of driven to an extent the last few years, how much can you relate to what he’s gone through?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, look, I think injuries are just part of the sport. And, you know, we play 10 months out of the year and the commitment that you have to give physically and mentally, you know, I understand – I can only understand it from the perspective of my shoulder, because that’s something that I have had to deal with since I was 21 years old and really at the peak of my career, kind of came unexpected.
And here I am about 10 years later kind of going through very similar struggles, not on the depth that I was then with the tear of a tendon. But you realise that you’re not immortal, you’re never going to play this forever, even though we have done it as long as we can think of.
Yeah, and life moves on. But that’s, I don’t know, I look at that as an exciting chapter and not in a very sad way.

Q. What can you remember from playing mixed doubles with him?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Did we play mixed doubles?
Oh, right. I was, like, the only mixed doubles I played with was like (max) Mirnyi and I think I was 16 or 17 maybe.
What do I remember? Clearly it wasn’t that memorable (smiling). Because let me tell you, none of my doubles is memorable. It’s like something we all should forget about. But I do have three titles. They actually mentioned it today in the introductions. I was, like, Okay, that’s something we can skip. Like, let’s not waste our time.

Q. What do you get out of today’s match, just given the question marks about physicality and match play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A match, I mean, there is nothing like going out and playing a match, especially in a Grand Slam: the feelings, the nerves, anticipation of a first round, first back out on Rod Laver. So everything you feel as a professional athlete, even though you have done it so many times, there is nothing like it.

Q. Were you surprised how easy it was? And also, what did you see in her game that gives you confidence?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I was just focused on not having a letdown. I think it’s very easy to be in a position where things are flowing, you know, you’re doing all the right things, she’s making a few errors, you’re comfortable, easy to get complacent, and, you know, complacency is not great.
So I just, I was glad that I did the right things from the beginning until the end.

Q. Through all your recent struggles with injuries and what not, what keeps you from moving on to the next exciting chapter?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That I still really have the passion for this. I enjoy, like, seeing the effort that I’m able to put in, and I think that hard work will always ultimately come to the surface, not necessarily in maybe the specific, say, it’s tennis or something else.
But I do feel that it’s really shaped the way that my career has been in and my life has been, if I put an effort into a certain category, sometimes it doesn’t come overnight, doesn’t come in a year, and sometimes it comes maybe in very unrelative things in your life, and I believe in that.
The way I handle my career today is the way I’ll handle my life in 10, 20 years, and that’s extremely important to me.

Q. Can you fix your right arm up here ever, or is it always going to hurt?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s a good question. I have asked Dr. Altchek that many times. I saw him beginning of December (2018), and he says it’s a day-by-day pain management situation.

Q. On Andy, a lot of the women have talked about him very warmly after he retired saying he’s always someone who stood up for them and notable in his support for women’s tennis amongst the men. What do you feel like the general sort of respect level is that you perceive from the men’s side of the game for women’s tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: From him or just in men’s in general?

Q. Both, I guess.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, relatively speaking, I think they have been really tough, especially when it came to equality, as a general point. I mean, sittings at a press conference in Wimbledon five, seven years ago, there was not a lot of warmth coming from that side or that perspective. That’s tough.
I mean, I think there is definitely a few exceptions in the game, and I’m sure that he’s been one of them.
But from an effort point of view and what, you know, he’s able to do for the sport and for British tennis in a sense is iconic.

Q. Do you think that will ever get better, that respect from the men?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I hope so. That’s what we aspire to get to, yeah.

Q. What are your thoughts on the road ahead and the next round? Peterson from Sweden and perhaps Wozniacki if everything falls that way. What are your thoughts on potentially meeting the champion from last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, my thoughts are I still have to play another match, and so does she. My next one is someone, I’m going to say this but maybe I’m wrong, I have never played against before.
So that’s, you know, it’s kind of tricky and a challenge, but maybe, you know – my coach is Swedish. I don’t know if that will maybe help me a little bit more (smiling).
Yeah, I’ll just get back, watch a few videos, as I always do, study it a bit, and get out there and play my game.

Q. Just following up on what was asked in terms of – obviously Andy’s announcement, how has it gone down in the locker room and how much he’s actually spoken out in terms of equality in tennis, how much he’s tried to be an advocate of it, how much does that mean to yourself and other players in the locker room?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t spend much time in the locker room (smiling). I’m sure you have heard that before.
But I think the general, just the general perception is that – I mean, from my point of view, it’s always striking when you hear a player that’s the top of his career and obviously has impacted the sport in so many ways, when you say you’re going to finish, it’s just, like, you’re cutting something, you’re letting go, cutting ties with something that’s been a part of your life for a very long time.
From that perspective, I don’t know, I just have a very different opinion about – I know that this is a huge part of our life and we start in it and continue with it and we want to do it as much as we can, and maybe the men’s side a little bit longer than the women’s side.
But at one point, life goes on and there’s a lot of things to look forward to. You have family, children, other business ventures. To me, that doesn’t make me sad; that makes me excited.