Australian Open Pre-tournament Interview

Q. How do you rate your chances this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I’m happy to be back playing a Grand Slam. I missed the last one at the end of last year. I’m happy to get myself back in form and really start well here.

Q. Do expectations change a little bit given you’re coming off a pretty serious injury?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think when you’re training, you train really hard. You always expect really good things from the beginning.
You obviously have to lower your expectations a little bit and be a bit realistic about maybe the first few matches. You have to grind, work through them, hope to get better as the tournament goes on.

Q. How do you feel following Brisbane?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Good. It was great to get those matches, some tough matches, a lot of good games, come here and prepare a week, be ready for Tuesday.

Q. Which will be 41 degrees.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Sounds nice (smiling).

Q. Playing Bethanie first…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There’s no easy opponent in this tournament, no matter what round you’re playing. She had a great week last week. She played some really good tennis. Last year as well. I’ve had tough matches against her in the past. I have against many players.
I think it’s just about being ready, not really worrying about so much what’s on the other side, but taking care of your own business out there.

Q. Where do you stand on the speed‑of‑the‑court discussion?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I found Brisbane to be much faster than here. It’s one of the fastest courts we’ve played on in a really long time. Here it’s a bit slower. I heard the outside courts are a bit faster than some of the main show courts. I’m not sure why there’s not more consistency in terms of all the events having the same speed.
I guess it is what it is. It’s good to have that week of preparation here to get used to what you’re going to be playing on in a Grand Slam.

Q. Do you prefer Brisbane or this speed?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is the adjustments that you make. Maybe the first two balls in Brisbane were a bit more important than maybe here, where the rallies are going to be slightly longer.

Q. (Question regarding Hall of Fame sponsorship.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, first of all, I think it’s a great initiative that they have. They bring in a lot of kids that don’t have the opportunity to pay for a ticket to get into the Tennis Hall of Fame, to visit the museum, to see the history of the sport.
I was very lucky to learn about the sport by traveling all around the world, being coached by international coaches. I think this is a great insight for them to have that chance and experience to get to know tennis.
It was really a no‑brainer for me.

Q. WTA is still looking for a title sponsor. Do you ever think of putting up the money?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m still a start‑up company (laughter). I’m not sure I have the money they need. If they’re willing to give me a discount, no problem.

Q. How much did you miss tennis while you were out last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn’t think about it too much because I spent quite a bit of time trying to find solutions to healing faster. I traveled quite a bit trying to find different specialists to help me.
I actually didn’t sit around too much. I visited great places, but meanwhile worked out. Had my trainer with me every day because it’s quite easy to lose shape when you’re not doing anything.
It’s kind of gone through stages where I got myself better. I started getting back on the court getting myself in tennis shape, playing matches, testing out the shoulder in that kind of environment. Was just really great to be in that tournament atmosphere in Brisbane last week.

Q. How much of an expert are you on the shoulder joint now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I know about everything (laughter). I know a lot more than I ever thought that I would about a shoulder.
But that’s part of the game. Everyone has injuries. Everyone’s body is different. They use their joints and muscles in very different ways because of the way they play. Everyone gets used up in different ways, I guess.

Q. From a mental point of view, how hard is it coming back from an injury like the one you suffered last year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not as hard as the one I had a few years back. That was pretty tough, considering I had surgery. This is far from being that serious. This was a matter of time, which in tennis it’s not great when you come to a doctor’s office and they say, Time, time, just wait, wait.
We don’t have much patience because we always have a schedule set, tournaments to play. That’s tough to accept because you don’t quite know when the inflammation is going to go down, when you’re going to be able to play overhead shots, things like that.

Q. Did you get to do much of your Yoga in that space off?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did Bikram Yoga a couple of times, but not really religiously.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not a sporty type of person. I don’t know how to put it. I like doing things outdoors. I’m not a fan of a gym. I try to live in warmer climates so I can go out and do that, whether it’s riding a bike, walking or running along a beach. So much of our time is spent in the gym trying to get stronger, all those things.
But I don’t know what I did. I did a lot of rehab, so I worked around that.

Q. Do you have to take antiinflammatories for the shoulder on an ongoing basis?MARIA SHARAPOVA: Precautionary sometimes, yeah.

Q. Because you weren’t able to use your shoulder like you normally would during the off‑season, do you think that’s going to come in handy when it’s 41 degrees, dealing more with fitness?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think anyone can prepare themselves for that type of heat. I think it’s tough to train on a very high level in that type of heat.
Actually, you know, I grew up in Florida practicing so many hours a day. It was quite difficult in the summer. Sometimes you found that you’d get a lot more if you started a little bit earlier or later in the day. When you try to put in that effort, that maximum effort to give as an athlete, it’s pretty difficult for a longer period of time.
But I think, I mean, it’s the things like hydration, eating well that can really help you get to feeling better in that type of situation.

Q. Speaking of the heat, do you remember the hot first‑round match you had here a couple years ago?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: How could I forget (smiling)?

Q. What do you remember about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn’t feel too good after, no.
Yeah, it’s tough. You’re not really thinking so much about tennis as trying to really keep your mind, you know, focused on maybe keeping the points a little bit shorter. Obviously the longer they go, the worse it is for both of you out there, so…

Q. You said you’re making a conscious effort to get around and see a bit of the city. Where have you been?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Nowhere really exciting, to be honest (smiling). It’s been a pretty simple week. The weeks before the Grand Slams are usually a time where you can go about the city and maybe do a few more things, maybe eat outside of your hotel, not stick to room service.
Once the tournament starts, you’re pretty much training, going home, resting, recovering, doing everything for the next round. There’s not much time to get around.
I haven’t done anything crazy. Just driven 15 minutes to go to restaurants instead of going down to the lobby or something like that.

Q. Did you wind of taking that selfie for the waiter?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I actually took a picture of the guy next to me (laughter). True story.

Q. Do you like to look at the draw? Do you have any feeling for where you are?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ve seen the draw, yeah.

Q. What’s your analysis?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ve seen the draw. I haven’t analyzed it.
I’m not one to really analyze things and see where certain players will go. That’s why we play the matches. That’s why we go out there. No matter what you’re seeded or ranked, we’re all here. There’s a reason everyone is in that draw, so…

Q. Is it useful to know when you’re playing in one round in the second or third you could play so‑and‑so, just to have a long‑range view?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. It’s about what is next. No reason to think so far ahead.