Australian Open 2nd Round Interview

Q. Just tell us a little bit about the conditions out there. Obviously it was hot. What was it like to play out there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was warm. I think it got warmer as the match went on. You know, I like getting out there early. I feel like it’s the time I have been practicing on, even though the conditions didn’t get as warm as it was today. Despite an early wakeup, I was ready to go. Had a really good start to the match. So that was good.

Q. Was the sun a problem? Looked like the sun was in your eyes when you were going up to serve. Was that an issue?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sometimes when you toss the ball up to the sun, it can – yeah, occasionally.

Q. What about her game that makes her such a complicated match between the two of you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She never really lets up. Although I think she — she gets a lot of balls back. That’s not – that’s something that I had trouble with in the previous matches that I played against her.
You know, I was really happy with how aggressive I was. I was consistent but I was looking to come forward. I played really well at the net, finished the balls off with a swing volley or good volley. Something I’ve been working on, and definitely improved in the match today.
Little dicey in the second set, to say the least, but I got through it. I did the job in two, and that’s not something I did, you know, towards the end of last year.
I think that’s an improvement.

Q. What about the slice backhand? That seems to pose some interesting questions.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Interesting questions or…

Q. Yeah, it does.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What kind of questions?

Q. Trickier shots. Different than the ones you see on the tour, makes it trickier to hit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A lot of players I have played coming back have had that tricky backhand slice, so I feel that I have worked – I have worked a lot on that in practice, made a lot of errors against that shot, against her at the US Open, a lot of swinging volley errors, also. I thought those were two key factors I wanted to focus on today.

Q. You seemed happier than normal after winning a second-round slam match. Was there a particular reason?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I had really tough matches against her. Despite winning our last match, I faced two match points and barely got through that one, 7-6 in the third.
You know, it’s a warm day. I did my job in two sets against someone that’s been troubling in the past for me. So third round of the Australian Open, I don’t know, I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory.

Q. You talked the other day about welcoming a tough draw here. The next round may well bring Angie Kerber. What are your thoughts on that prospect? Early to face someone of Angie’s abilities.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not really. I mean, I’m coming in with – I came in with no ranking. I’m around 50 in the world at this point, so I know I’m going to be facing seeded players, first, second, third round. She just — you know, she happens to be the next one that’s in the draw that I have to play.
As I said before, I look forward to these matches. I want to be playing against opponents that have former Grand Slam champions. She’s had success here. She’s had success playing out here in these conditions on these courts. I want to see where I am on that level.

Q. I didn’t have the time to read the story Jelena Dokic wrote about you today. I want to know in the future if you see yourself to become a columnist or someone who would write some stories in the newspaper, or if it’s something you would never do?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I like to write, so I wouldn’t – I think I’d do that before I’d commentate. That’s for sure. Yeah, I have always –

Q. Why that? Why before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I prefer writing, and I think you give yourself time to put your thoughts there. There are many drafts. Yeah.

Q. Congratulations on your book.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you.

Q. It said in there that you said something along the lines that you’re a person who liked having a mystique and you didn’t want to be understood or even loved by everyone. Could you just talk about that for a moment, please.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I’m just very well aware that I think in this world everyone has an opinion and that no matter what you do or no matter how you play tennis or what you say or how you go about your life, not everyone will like the way that you do it. I think I have learned that from a very young age, and I have come to understand it and appreciate it. I take it as it is.
I respect that. Yeah.

Q. I wonder if you had a chance to see the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ film and if you have, what you thought of it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did. Billie Jean invited me to the opening in LA. I went to see it. I was in town during that time. I enjoyed it. I think it was actually the last movie that I saw in the theatres. Probably the only movie I have seen in theatres in the past year.

Q. Was there anything that you learned from it that you maybe didn’t know about it, the whole story of the formation of the WTA, for example?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually, I know quite a bit about Billie Jean’s story, just because she was really influential in my career since I was a junior, so I always — I like to study, I like to learn, so I did go back and I wanted to understand more of where she came from and was able to create a voice that she has of so much power despite not being on tour for so many years but still being so incredibly influential.
Because of her we are not only able to make what we make but have the presence that we do as women around the world and we are able to build.
She taught me that my example ultimately is an example for the generation to come. And when you’re young, you don’t necessarily think of things that way, you don’t think what you say or what you do or how you are as a professional will influence the other generation. But it really, really does.
I really appreciate all she’s done for me and that she continues to do for so many people.

Q. In that movie, there was a wonderful cameo portrayal of the fashion designer, Ted Tinling, who years ago was really important for women’s tennis. Do you have much awareness of him or his designs?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Very little, actually. Very little. Just based on the film.

Q. Do you think the current generation has a Billie Jean-type leader?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, I think that it’s still learning and it’s growing. When I was a youngster and I was a teenager I didn’t really, honestly I didn’t have that mentality. I didn’t really understand that your influence is so impactful, especially towards the generation that’s to come. I think I realized that. It didn’t come to me so fast.
Tennis is – it’s a very selfish sport. You have a team around you that do everything just for you in order for you to win, to be the last player at the end of the tournament, to be holding the trophy. Everything is surrounded and around you.
And although that’s what it takes to be a champion, there’s also a lot more to it and a lot more growth and a lot of things that we have to think about that are not just about ourselves.

Q. What’s different about your game now versus two years ago or so? You have always been mentally strong as a competitor out on the tennis court. Physically, what’s different about your game right now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not someone that’s ever compared my game from years. I really think that I have added things in my game. I’m moving forward a lot more. I’m more comfortable at the net than I was. I have added a little bit more variety to my game. I still feel like the basics of my game can improve from when I have come back. I think I can be more consistent.
There’s a lot of improvement to do on the return games. Yeah, you know, I can compare all day long but that’s not really going to help me move forward. I think I just really want to focus on things that I still want to improve.

Q. The WTA announced today Shenzhen will be hosting the WTA Finals from 2018. From the point of view of the players, I’m just wondering, how do you feel about possibly living a completely culturally different environment, playing for one full month in that particular country?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Playing what? Different format?

Q. Playing for one full month.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, one full month. Okay.
I’m looking forward to it. I mean, The Championships is being taken to a place that’s willing to grow the sport and investing in the sport as much as it is. If you look at the numbers, and I think all of you in here would agree if you were a man or woman, you want to go to a place that’s willing to invest in women’s tennis. That’s where we’re headed to.
They were the ones that put the money on the line. They are willing to grow our sport. They’re willing to build a stadium, willing to accept the game and its level and the players. It’s going to be a new experience and it will be different to my experience that I had last week, obviously, which was in a much smaller venue and a little bit outside of Shenzhen. But we want to go where the growth will be. I’m looking forward to seeing how it shapes up.

Q. You weren’t here last year. What did you miss last year and what are you happy to see coming back, tournament or the city?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A lot. I love being in the city. I love Australia. I love the summertime. I was watching this tournament with a box of Kleenex next to me sick. So, you know, I feel like I transported myself into the TV this year and I’m finding myself on Rod Laver Arena competing. A lot of things to smile about.
I wanted to be here. I got myself here. Yeah, it’s great to be back.