Australian Open Quarter-Final Interview

Q. Impressive from you today. How did you feel out there playing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I felt pretty good from the start. I thought I had a really good start. I kept my focus throughout the whole match. I didn’t feel that I had too many letdowns, which is important. When I did have a few slips I was able to come out with great first serves or really powerful returns. But overall really happy with the way the match went.

Q. A little bit similar from Nadal. Mentally a scare in the second round, but the last two matches went easily. Do you feel the same sort of thing, after that early scare it relaxes you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Nadal. We’ve been kind of playing before or after each other on the schedule, so I don’t know if that’s something to do with it. But, of course, when you’re down and out like I was in the second match, it’s like, you know, I don’t want to face that phone call with my father too many times during a tournament. It’s like, I better get my stuff together. So, yeah, it was important to change some things around and just to come out with a little bit of a different perspective and, yeah, play a bit better. I’m happy I was able to do that.

Q. What did he say to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In a nice version, it was like, This is unacceptable (smiling). He’s like, It is much easier just having a normal home life. You should try it. I don’t know why you’re suffering out there for nothing. Make it easier for yourself.

Q. He feels like you’re suffering for nothing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, he told me that I was working much harder than I had to. If I was maybe a little bit smarter, did a few things maybe a little bit differently, maybe it could have been easier.

Q. Do you ever want to tell him, You’re not a tennis player; you don’t understand?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I actually think he’s absolutely right. Deep down inside, you know, sometimes it’s encouraging to hear that because no one will tell you that. I like to hear that. I like coming off the court and hearing how it is. It’s what I appreciate from my team. And Sven especially, he’s critical, but in a great way. In my career, I’ve gone through a few different coaches. I like real people and honesty. I appreciate that very much. I don’t need to go around the corners and people telling me, You’re great; you’ll improve in the next one. If you played a terrible match, you played a terrible match. Go out there and change whatever it takes to turn things around, because you’re not going to win the tournament that way.

Q. Would you have chosen an easy life?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I love my life. I’ve very fortunately made it, in my eyes, easy.

Q. What did you mean by the message you wrote on the camera?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m writing. You’re given a pen. I feel bored by writing my signature for so many years, so sometimes I change it up.

Q. Did you just bring that up spontaneously?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes.

Q. Would you like a group of fans to follow your matches and sing all the way through them?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I actually prefer writing my own songs and singing them. I think I did a pretty good job of that today.

Q. Have you ever written any songs?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I haven’t written songs, like actually written songs. I sang songs, yeah. So that’s not like 100%, it’s like 50%. That’s why I’m not a musician.

Q. You have Makarova next. You mention on court it’s always tough playing another Russian. Why is that tricky for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, besides playing another Russian, I’m also facing an opponent that wasn’t necessarily a favorite coming into that stage. That’s always a tricky situation because she’s going to come into that match free and almost happy to be in that situation, and that’s dangerous. You know, I haven’t faced a lefty in this tournament yet. She’s been using her lefty serve extremely well from what I’ve seen. But, yeah, I’ll be looking out for that, work on a few things tomorrow, and be ready for that match.

Q. How well do you know her? Have you ever hit together, trained together, hung out together?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not too much. We’ve practiced a little bit I think during Fed Cup, but that was a few years ago. We played already a few times. There’s no secrets in each other’s games, that’s for sure.

Q. Do you feel like every time you play a fellow Russian player the mental part is different compared to players from other countries, like they’re really trying to beat you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I try not to focus on that. I know it’s always tougher. That’s why I always try to focus more on what I have to do to win the match more than where we’re from. At the end of the day, both of us are both trying to win that last point.

Q. There’s an all Russian semi in this bracket; could be an All-American semi on the other side. What your feelings and passions for both countries?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Obviously they’re both big parts of my life. I spent my childhood in Russia; I live in the United States where I am very comfortable and very happy. I know both cultures extremely well. At the end of the day, I’m very happy to be representing Russia. It’s more of a feeling than anything else. I have a lot of family back home, you know, that I see and speak to quite often during the year. Despite not living there, I have a very strong connection to the country, but yet I’m very happy when I’m able to go to the United States and spend my time in Florida, be around my friends. Yeah, it’s great to have a little bit of both, I guess.

Q. Does it feel at all like a throwback to five, ten years ago when we were talking about the rise of Russian tennis, and American tennis was a little bit stronger, as well?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Maybe today it’s this way. Give it a few months and something else will change. I don’t think maybe Russian tennis is as strong as it was when you had three girls on the Olympic podium standing there. But as far as being in a great position today, it’s certainly nice to know that one of us and a Russian will be in a final representing the country here.

Q. Simona said she woke up and felt stressed before her match. Eugenie was tensed. You never look nervous or stressed when you enter the court. Is it because you’re hiding it better than others or because you’re never feeling this stressful mentality?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that. I mean, if I wake up and I didn’t have a good night or I’m thinking about something, I try to snap out of it as fast as I can. If I keep telling myself that I’m stressed, that I’m tense, it’s usually not a good sign. I try to think of other things, what I’m going to do, focus, maybe speak to my team a little bit more. Yeah.

Q. You had some kind words for Genie on court. What do you think she needs to do to take the next step in her career?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think she needs any advice from me. I think she’s been doing an incredible job so far. As I said on court, two years ago I believe she was qualifier here; two years later she’s No. 7 and getting really far in majors and pushing, breaking through to maybe win one. I don’t think I’m the one to be giving her any advice.

Q. Last time we were here, we talked about your main motivation was trying to be a better tennis player. What is left to work on? Things like the serve or a volley or what?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think at this level of the game, the top of the game, it’s sometimes things that are not exactly visible. It’s in-the-moment things, it’s certain situations, momentum changes, 1% here, 2% there. It’s not that I can sit here and tell you something about a particular stroke. It’s really about those little nuances that are not really visible.

Q. Today was arguably your best performance of the tournament so far. Do you feel you’re peaking at the right stage of the tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel that I want to improve as the tournament goes on. Yes, am I happy that I was able to lift my game after having a couple matches where I wasn’t satisfied? Yeah, absolutely. But the toughest is what’s to come. I hope that I’ll be able to take that and play even better.

Q. Venus is on the other side of the draw, but she’s been a rival and colleague of yours for a long time. What are your thoughts on her surge at her age and the role she’s played in the game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I admire her and her love for the game and her strength, to be able to, despite injuries, despite setbacks, maybe having losses, which she wouldn’t exactly be comfortable with or expect of herself, to just keep pushing through at her age and everything she’s been through, that’s very inspiring, not just for me, but for many.

Q. Are you inside yourself really proud considering you came back from that serious injury that so few others have?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yes, but I also think that I’m not the only one. I think that’s part of an athlete’s career. If you go through a career where you’re absolutely healthy for the most part of it, I think you’ve been pretty lucky. Unfortunately I had to go through a serious injury at 21 years old, probably a peak of a tennis player’s career. I think that was one of the toughest things. It wasn’t at a later stage or early stage. It was somewhere smack in the middle after I had just won my third major.