Q. How disappointed are you? How can we and yourself consolate for this defeat that probably you didn’t expect?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t want to take anything away from her and the way she played. I think she played extremely well. She was the more aggressive player. She took a lot more risk than I did.
In the first set, I didn’t return well. I gave her the confidence by making a lot of errors on the return games. I think with that, she played extremely well.
She’s a confident player at the moment. A lot of things were going her way throughout the match. The one little opportunity I had in the second set, I didn’t take, I made an error. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Q. You said the other day you wanted these matches to see where you are. Now that you’ve been there, how far off do you think you are from where you’d like to be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think there are a lot of things that I need to get better at and improve on. But looking at the overall picture, the overall beginning of this year, finishing the tournament, first thing is that I’m healthy. That, to me, is a big thing because I’ll be back on the practice court, I’m not starting from zero. There’s a lot to build from. I know maybe that isn’t what you want to hear, but personally that’s important for me.
There’s a lot of things I need to improve on. As I said, this is a process. It’s a lot of things that take time. To be able to get these matches, players that are playing this well, I’m going to face a lot of them this year. I’ll have to bring it.
Today was not enough.
Q. Obviously you had a couple injuries immediately after your comeback. Did you have to level set a lot since coming back in April, or did you expect it was going to be this up and down?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think I really set many expectations. I knew there’s nothing that can replicate playing tournaments and playing matches, no matter what you do, no matter how you train, no matter how you practice.
I think it was nice for me to mentally and physically take a little bit of time off from the game and not play for a couple months. I think that was healthy in a sense because I’ve been doing it since I was very young. It just gave me a chance to rest completely.
But, you know, the good thing was I stayed in shape. I still did a lot of things. I got back at it fairly quickly. I think some of the back-to-backs that I had in the beginning I maybe could have avoided. You know, the hip injury was very long. It was very extensive. It kept me out from playing one of the Grand Slams, yeah.
Q. If you could look back and say how the game has changed in one or two ways.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think, look, there’s no secret there’s a lot of opportunity for a lot of players to do well, do well in the rankings, to do well in the Grand Slams. I think you’ve seen a lot of jumps in the last couple of years.
But it’s tough for me to be the judge of that, especially by not playing for such a long time. I can only see it from my eyes.
I thought the level she played with today was really great.
Q. You were talking about the injuries of last year. Have you changed anything in your training or conditioning for this season?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I worked extensively in the last couple of months. I don’t sit here and say I’m the only one working. Everyone’s working. I think maybe 5, 10 years ago you could get by with coming to a tournament and working your way into the first couple rounds. That’s no longer the case.
I think everyone is fit. If you’re not, I mean, it’s tough, yeah.
Q. Did you expect Angie Kerber to be that strong?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think she plays extremely well when she has a lot of matches behind her back. I’ve always thought she’s a confidence player, as well. I thought she played very aggressive. As I said, she took risks, and it worked today. Did a lot of things well.
Q. Novak is trying to change his serve around, some technical changes with it. You did something similar at one point in your career. How hard was that to do? Are you fully where you want to be with it now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was hard after having shoulder surgery. At the time I didn’t really have many choices because the serve that I had before my shoulder surgery was hurting me after the surgery itself.
That’s why I worked through a few different abbreviated motions. Every Grand Slam that I’ve won, I’ve had a different service motion. I probably had, like, four or five since the surgery.
There’s no easy solution. I think the toughest thing about it is the older you get, you become comfortable with routines and what you’ve done for so long. Changes are tough. We like to keep, you know, what we know. We want to keep it, especially if it’s helped us and if it’s won us Grand Slams. But at certain points in your career, if you’re faced with a challenge, you’re faced with an injury, you have to make those adjustments, if you’re able to break through and become successful with it, win another major, win a few more, it speaks a lot more for who you are as a person, as a competitor.
Q. What is your schedule from here? What tournaments are you planning to play? Fed Cup?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not planning on Fed Cup this year. I think I have the Middle East coming up, yeah.
vQ. Is the impulse right now to get back on the practice court? Is it to rest? Is it to get back to match play as quickly as possible?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I usually look forward to resting in the first week of November, so I’ve got a long way to go until then (laughter).
If I’m looking for rest at this point in the season, there’s something wrong.
Yeah, I don’t shy away from the work. It’s never easy to be on the losing end of things, be sitting in a press conference talking about a loss. But I’m here because I’m motivated to get better at my craft. I really do believe that I can; otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I have to, yeah.
I mean, there’s no doubt there are days where you just don’t want to. But you push through them. I think those are the days that ultimately make you a winner.
Q. All in all, you’re happy you returned to the game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind.
Q. Do you have a ranking target for this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t. I’ve never been someone that’s followed the rankings too closely. I’ve never followed a schedule. I think if you look at all the years that I’ve done well and I’ve had a pretty good ranking, it’s never been about the ranking. It’s about how I prepared for the Grand Slams and the tournaments I’ve chosen to warm up with.
So, yeah, I don’t chase ranking points. If I did, you’d probably see a lot more tournaments in my schedule. That’s never been the case.
Q. Along your career, comeback is not a new thing. You’ve had a lot of injuries, and you came back strong all the time. As you’re getting older, the comeback might be a little bit more difficult. As you see other players playing as they get experience, does it give you motivation? Do you feel it’s more easy to see that players are playing longer than before, and you can come back as strong as before also?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think everyone has their own path. I definitely take great examples of a Federer or a Nadal or a Serena and Venus that have continued to have the motivation that they do at this age, the commitment and the work they’re able to put in. It’s not just walking through a Grand Slam tunnel and getting on court.
There’s so much more to it. I have a lot of admiration for that because I know what goes into creating those moments and getting to that stage.
Yeah, that definitely inspires me, absolutely.