Australian Open 3rd Round Interview

Maria def. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (3) 6-4 4-6 6-3

Q. How did that feel?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was a good win. I feel pretty happy about it. Even wearing a crop top. I’m really happy (laughter). I don’t pull those out often.

Q. Your navel?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it’s covered up. High-waisted tights look (smiling).

No, yeah, it was definitely, you know, a match that I looked forward to and when the draw came out obviously I had to get there first and so did she. But, yeah, I thought it was, as usual, as expected, a physical match. Didn’t have to be in some ways, but I felt like even in the longer rallies I did a great job of winning those. Put a lot of pressure on her. You know, those are the rallies that I think many years ago that she used to win. I thought I did a great job of getting a higher percentage of wins in those.

Q. You went down 4-1 in the first set. Can you take us through your mindset in that next game, especially that next game not dropping a point on serve. It seemed a pivotal moment in the match.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, in my mind it didn’t feel like 1-4. I challenged her from the very beginning. I had three break points in the first game, although I didn’t take them. I felt like I was still putting the pressure on. There was one break I had a sloppy service game.
Of course 1-4 is a challenging score to come back from but while I was there I didn’t think of it like that.

Q. She had made quite a few comments about you since your last meeting once you came back from your ban, et cetera. Did that add a level of satisfaction like you really wanted to go out and beat her today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I just really like winning. I’m just really happy and proud of the way I competed today and I’m into the fourth round. So that’s all that matters.

Q. You have been returning very, very well in this tournament, both through your first two matches and today especially towards the end. I know that’s an aspect of your game maybe last year that wasn’t as consistent. What do you chalk it up to in terms of the improvement this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Practice, lots of practice, and I have certainly had a lot of months of those.
But it’s always different, bringing that practice into match play. I think that’s the one thing that was tough for me to get back the hand/eye coordination after not playing for a long time. The return, the anticipation. Those are the types of things that I think you lose being away from the game.
Thought I started returning better middle of last year but still not where I want it to be. Yeah, despite not having a lot of matches coming into, you know, this season, that’s certainly worked for me, but I still have to improve it.

Q. Watching this match, it felt like it easily could have been a semifinal or a final. The level was very high. How did it feel to you on the court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I felt very much in the moment. I felt present. You know, sometimes, you know, as I said, I was anticipating the match and I wanted that match to happen and these are really the types of match-ups that I haven’t really had where I could really challenge myself.
Whether it was a bad result or an easy two-set loss, but to be in the grind of things and to really have to figure out a way to be on top is what I missed. I didn’t really get many of those chances.
I mean, I think maybe like Halep a year and a half ago at the US Open was where I was challenged like that. And I can think of maybe one or two other matches. I think you learn a lot, and you really, when you put yourself in those positions and you get through, those are great, great victories.

Q. You had a lot of winners with your forehand, but right away, many of the points you put her in a defensive position right away with your backhand. How important for you when you play well to have, you know, those shots, especially the backhand, to set up points, to push her off the court a little bit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, look, getting into long rallies with her is not ideal, because I think that’s where she, you know, she lives off of that type of tennis. She wants you to play long rallies. She wants to get โ€“ she will stand far behind the baseline, and then when she’s confident she will move in.
So I want to be the one that’s forcing the mistakes. And, you know, in a match like that against a player that moves well, I’m not necessarily expecting to hit winners left and right, even that would be nice, free points feel good, but that’s not what you have to expect. You have to expect to be in those long rallies. But it’s not how I’m going to win the match, because it’s not my game.

Q. You have obviously been looking for matches. What does it feel like to come up so early against a fellow top player and have to kind of bring, kind of put that aside and bring your level up to the top?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, it’s the position that I’m in. As I said before, when you’re ranked 31 or 30 or whatever I am, those are the types of matches I’m going to get in the third round of a Grand Slam. Even when I wasn’t seeded, facing Halep who was No. 2, I mean, I have had tough challenges in the beginnings of slams that I have had to get through. It’s not unexpected. It’s not just for me, but it’s for everyone that’s in that position. I have to earn my way.
But then, like, what is an easier draw? There is really no such thing. I know this room and this environment in this room is all result-oriented, but behind that are stories that are much deeper than headlines. You know, I respect storylines because that’s what sells and I understand that business part of it, but I think in the aspect of depth of the sport there is a lot more than just winning and losing.

Q. Amanda Anisimova was in earlier saying she always looked up to you while growing up. As you’re sharing agents, just wondered if you cross paths with her at all, if you’ve chatted, watched her play, and what do you think?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We haven’t crossed paths too often, apart from Max’s wedding at the end of last year, which we sat down at the same table of (smiling). But it was a short wedding, so we got out of it pretty early. Second time around, just get it done, you know, (smiling).
I even got out on the dance floor. I think she was a little shy, but…
I respect her a lot, because I think she’s young and has a great game. I mean, she’s really proving what she can do. Yeah, I think she has a really bright future ahead of her. Max has obviously been behind her for many years, ever since she was a junior.

Q. You said the other day your preferred bedtime is 10:30. If that’s your body clock, how do you get your body to perform at its peak if you’re playing matches after midnight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You don’t. I mean, there is no way to train that, I don’t think, if you ask any player that goes into this tournament how many times they have trained after midnight, unless you’re jet lagged or just crazy.
But, yeah, you don’t train for that. You just โ€“ that’s kind of like a survival thing, right? Like, you just have to get it done. It’s a Grand Slam, and that’s unfortunate. You’re speaking about the match last night?

Q. Yeah, it just feels like at some point it’s professional athletes should not, that’s not a great stage for performing well.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think obviously the reason why they โ€“ I mean, I know because I played a late one, not as late, but we had asked about a possible court change, and that was from the beginning, I know, because of the ticket sales.
So there is a business component which we have to understand, but I think from a tournament perspective, I think there needs to be flexibility, because no one is interested, you know, in seeing two top-notch athletes going out on the court after midnight.

Q. Talking about your on/off routine, your routine when you’re on the court and off the court, are you a little bit more easier with yourself, like we saw your Instagram with a croissant โ€“
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I love croissants. Who doesn’t love croissants? You sound like you love a croissant.

Q. I do, actually.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You see? I’m with you.

Q. Do you know yourself better that you can, on the off days, I wouldn’t say indulge…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually I’m not eating croissants on my off days. Instagram can be a big, fat lie sometimes.
No, that’s not partially true. No, I think I just love exploring the city, and I had a day off last week. So I went to a great little bakery and had great croissants. I highly recommend it. It’s called Lune.

Q. You have reached the pinnacle of the sport. What motivates you to win another major?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have spoken about motivation a few times, but I think at the core of it, the feeling of getting better and improving, I know I always think that your work and any specific subject, for me it’s in sport, your efforts will always rise to the surface at some point in your life, and it’s like always been true in my career and in my life in general. Even maybe it doesn’t come at the time you want it to and as soon as you want it to. When you put in the effort and you do it with great perspective, it will always come out.