Australian Open Pre-Tournament Interview

Q. How are you feeling physically?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I feel really good. Got to Melbourne earlier than I wanted to. But it gave me a chance to practice here this week. Had great days on a lot of the courts.
Yeah, feeling really good.

Q. Based on just your experience on tour, how confident are you going into a major without any lead-up tennis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that’s always a really tough decision. When you come to a tournament like Brisbane, where you’re defending champion, you find yourself in a tricky situation of, Can I go out there, should I go out there? I have a pretty big event in 10 or 14 days.
I think experience helps in those moments. It’s always very difficult because I’m someone that always sticks to the schedule that I make, my commitments.
But I think I’ve been fortunate in my career to have won Grand Slams and to kind of have a bigger picture of my goals, sometimes not focus on so many tournaments, not focus on rankings, and focus on being healthy, which is really, really important at a high professional sport.

Q. There always seem to be a fair amount of injuries of various seriousness before a Grand Slam. It seems this year in many cases there are hold-overs from last season. Do you have any theories about what can be done about that beyond a longer off-season? Less practice? Any ideas?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s tough for me to speak on behalf of others. I felt like I had a really good off-season, even though it was short and quick. I was able to train. It was much more straightforward and productive, nothing overly complicated as it was probably only three weeks long because of Fed Cup.
Yeah, it’s tricky. Three days before the tournament, you feel healthy. Then something happens. All of a sudden you can’t really compete in the tournament. Things change very fast. That’s when you have to have the right mindset and an even better outlook.

Q. This is a long way to think back. When you first came to the States, talk about facing English in and of itself and how you learned the language? Was it on the court or were you taking classes?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I actually when we got to Florida, I went to the Bollettieri Academy fairly soon. I was surrounded by hundreds of kids my age that pretty much wouldn’t shut their mouth (laughter). I think it’s just a really great opportunity to learn a new language. That’s really how I did.
I didn’t know much going to the States. I just knew a few words that were very useless. Yeah, I’ve really learned from them and from the coaches.

Q. How do you alter your preparation in the lead-up to this event not having played a warmup tournament? Do you play more practice sets?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, practice to me, I think I always try to replicate — you can’t replicate what you do out on the court when you’re playing a match in front of thousands of people, there’s nothing like it, you can never compare it. I’ve always been someone that’s been able to treat their practice as something meaningful, there’s something on the line, you’re not just going through the motions.
That’s one of the reasons I believe in myself knowing, okay, I may not have played five matches in Brisbane, but if I commit myself, train well, get some practice sets in, I know with that mindset I’ll be able to take it that, yes, I might be rusty, make a few more unforced errors than I would like, but I’m ready to go.

Q. Do you know what to expect of yourself the first-round match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think even if I would have played a tournament, first matches at a Grand Slam, any tournament, it’s always tricky, especially going into a match against somebody I’ve never faced before. There’s a lot of new things. You have to have a little bit of a different perspective and figure things out quickly as soon as you can.

Q. Just around the players’ restaurant, there’s strollers on the side.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There are. Oh, my goodness (smiling).

Q. Is that something you’re feeling that you’ve been on the tour?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There are a lot of kids. I don’t know what’s going on. I mean, yeah, it starts at breakfast and it just continues through the day (laughter).
Yeah, I don’t know what to say.

Q. Is this now a norm around here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You get used to it. But you start thinking about it. I mean, the mothers that travel with all their children, they’re heroes. It’s really incredible to see what they have to go through, the daily challenges of having kids, being on the road. That cannot be easy. I mean, just the sounds that you hear. That’s just not easy (smiling).

Q. Are you planning to change your schedule much because of the Olympic Games?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, the schedule this year, I know we committed to a certain schedule just because that’s the policy, we have to enter into certain events.
But really my schedule after this tournament is really up in the air. I think I’ll really want to take care of my form a little bit more and give myself a little bit more rest because that’s something that reoccurred, something that I had back in Wuhan. As a tennis player, you really don’t have much time, what I believe, healing properly. That will be really important no matter how good or bad I feel after the tournament.
I don’t know what my schedule is. I know I’m committed to I think Doha, maybe Dubai. I don’t even know. I’ll go to Moscow. I’m not sure if I will play, but I’ll be part of the team. Yeah, that’s all I know.

Q. What are the challenges that the Olympics add to the schedule and what are the positives that come with it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: The positives is that it’s the Olympics. That’s special on its own. You do everything to adjust, to make yourself in the best possible shape, just be ready for that. That’s extremely important.
It’s in a tricky part of the year, just coming off of two Grand Slams, a couple of big tournaments as well. It’s somewhere in between Canada and Cincinnati. Really just about, yeah, seeing where you are, seeing where you stand after those Grand Slams.
It’s one of the things I said, like you have to commit to a certain schedule. If you go far in a few tournaments, you need to take a week off to get ready for the Olympics, that’s more important than anything else.

Q. Your draw here is quite daunting when you get into the second week. Do you look at the schedule that far ahead?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Do I look? Yeah, I look at the draw and I know who’s here. Ultimately you know all the players that are competing here. It’s no secret who you’re going to be playing. I mean, you’re bound to face somebody good from the first round on. There’s a reason why these players are in the draw.
I can’t look too far ahead of myself. I haven’t played for a few weeks. I have to keep my expectations quite low and just work my way, work my game, work my mindset through this draw.

Q. What about coming into the tournament, all the injuries that have been floating around? Does that make you think that this makes the draw more open in a sense or everyone is good to go?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s really not how I think. I think everyone does everything they can to be ready for a big tournament like the Australian Open. I can only speak for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing.

Q. Have you ever had any fiascos with tournament laundry, lost clothes, ruined clothes?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I actually just returned a pair of underwear that wasn’t mine, like 45 minutes ago. Funny you ask that. I don’t know if you were like checking out the laundry room situation, but it really happened (laughter).
It was a female pair of underwear, not male. It was leopard (laughter). I’m like, That’s not mine.

Q. Has that happened before? In general, has that happened before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it happens a lot. I’ve lost some great things in the laundry. I lost a great T-shirt in Brisbane 10 days ago. I ordered another one. Thankfully Nike provided me another one. It was one of my favorite long-sleeved shirts. Lost that. It’s okay.
I don’t get attached to things, so I guess that’s good when you lose laundry. Hopefully the individual wasn’t attached to their underwear (laughter). And I gave it back, so hopefully they’ll get it.
Any more laundry situations I need to clear before we get on with our day?