Maria def. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 6-4 4-6 6-1
Q. How do you assess your performance today, also with regard to what is going to be needed in the next round against Simona?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, again, a few ups and downs. A few breaks back. Didn’t serve well in the first set. Managed to escape from that first set.
She definitely picked it up in the second. But I felt like although she won that second set, I was really motivated to start the third. I was questioning how I would feel physically, but I felt really good going into the third set.
I started reading her patterns. She was going to the body, body serve all the time, especially after Thomas’ on-court coaching. As I started reading that, I just had a little better idea of what I had to do and how I had to execute.
Yeah, I felt fresh, which at the end of that match feels really good.
Q. You’ve spoken about the physical part of coming back. Can you talk about the mental part of it. Is there a process you have to go through to get over it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think it’s adjusting to both, physically and mentally. I think mentally when you keep playing, it just becomes like a rhythm in a sense where you don’t think so much in certain situations. At some points of the match, I definitely think, like, I’m looking for what to do instead of it coming more automatically. I think that comes with time.
I think I made the right adjustments today. I faced a match point in my previous match. It could have gone the wrong way and I wouldn’t have had a chance to come out here and do what I did today.
So I think setting up those opportunities is really important for me. Executing is another challenge, as we all know. But, yeah…
Q. Do you find the level in the women’s game to have gone up since you’ve been out and come back or…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s tough to be the judge of that. I think there’s a lot of depth, but I think there’s also a lot of opportunity. There’s a lot of depth in the game. By that I mean there’s maybe many years ago you’d find yourself working through the first rounds. You know you’re going to get through those first few rounds, it will be straight sets. You might be rusty, but you’ll get through it.
You can’t think like that any more. There’s too good of players playing the first, second, third, fourth rounds. But when I say there’s opportunity, there’s been a lot of fluctuation. There’s been a few No. 1’s. I think the opportunity for players is certainly there.
Q. Next one against Simona. Again, a bit of a US Open redo, this tournament for you. Talk through that match. Also, how different do you think it will be playing her in the third match of a tournament compared to, like the US Open, playing her in first round?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think, look, you can take a little bit away from all the matches we’ve played in the past. We know each other’s games very well. That’s no secret. They’ve always been very challenging, tough, competitive, emotional.
But every day’s a new day. I think that’s why we play these tournaments, play these events. You have to get through them. Maybe these are not the type of matchups you expect earlier in a tournament as you maybe did previously in the final of a Grand Slam a few years ago. But this is what I have now. These are the opponents I have to get through. Maybe little by little, it will open up a little bit of an easier door.
But I love the challenge of playing against someone that’s 2 in the world. I don’t know where she is right now. But she’s a great player. She’s had a great year. Any time you’re able to face an opponent that’s done something right and well, it’s great to see where you are and where your level is.
Q. There is a photo online in which you were standing beside a local who was practicing traditional Chinese calligraphy. How do you like it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sorry. I feel like I don’t understand that at all. I just heard ‘calligraphy’.
Q. You were standing beside a local.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, that’s right. That was a few days ago.
Yeah, sometimes when you visit places, I mean, I’ve never been to the Summer Palace before, so that was nice to visit for a little bit, just get a little bit of a different perspective. The great thing about being jetlagged and waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning is you get to see some different things, you get to be a tourist. That shuts down once you start the tournament.
It is always nice because sometimes you leave the city, and you get asked by your family and friends, What did you do and see? You just end up saying you played some tennis. So it’s nice to be able to actually tell them about an experience, show them some photographs that aren’t on the site.
Q. You joined the Battle of the Sexes first premier of Billie Jean King as the highest female athlete in the world and also a spokesperson for the game. How much do you value the significance of putting the real story on screen?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think, I mean, I was there to support Billie Jean King, who has been so supportive of me throughout my career. I’ve always just really appreciated everything that she’s done ever since I was a young girl, not just for myself, but for so many of us, the time that she was able to give us, the advice.
When you’re little, you really don’t understand its significance. But when I was 14 and playing in the junior tournament in Roehampton, she came up to me and my parents and said what you do today sets up an example of the generation that’s to come. As a 14-year-old, I was like, Huh? I didn’t understand what that meant.
As I got older, started understanding that everything I do on and off the court impacts the generation that’s to come, that makes you realize that she knows what she was talking about.
She leads by example. Yeah, to be able to support her and to see a film that was made in regards to a big event that was a big part of her life was really nice.
Q. There’s a lot of stuff going on back in the States, but you obviously are partnering with Monica with respect to Puerto Rico. Can you talk about the decision to do that, your memories of Puerto Rico when you went there last year.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was one of the first events that I was playing back at. It was my first singles match. I believe it was about 13,000 fans in that arena that evening, obviously celebrating the Olympic victory that Monica had. I felt like the people and the island were so welcoming of me and my return. It was such a special evening.
I know that it was insignificant in terms of it not being a tournament, but during a time where I was not competing competitively, it was a very special night for me just to be part of this huge arena celebrating tennis. For fans to see what we were doing on a tennis court was really special.
Now it’s always difficult. And as I said in my post, we see it from a distance. When you’re not there, you know how much people are suffering, but you don’t really feel it, but know it’s there.
So what she’s doing is incredible. I mean, I have so much respect for the time and effort and money that she’s contributed to the help there. Everything that I can do, all proceeds from Sugarpova.com are going to helping her fund.
I think we’re trying to work on a trip to go there together. I don’t know how our timing can align, but that’s something I’ve spoken to our teams about and something that I hope we can make happen.
Q. Today your Chinese fans supported you with special ways. How is the feeling to meet them again here in Beijing?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s been a few years since I’ve competed here. It’s always really nice to have that welcome. It’s really special to see fans that take the time and effort to make signs, to come up with wording. It just doesn’t show up. For them to put in that effort is very special. For them to cheer and welcome me back to Beijing is really nice.
From the practice to the match, it’s been a great experience so far.
Q. A lot of three-set matches recently for you. Can you put any thoughts on that? Is it physical or something else?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, it’s the way that it’s been. I’ve gotten through on the winning end of most of them, which is a really good sign. I mean, nothing comes easy when you’ve been away from the game for a long time. That’s what I’ve had.
Look, as I said, there are certain moments of the match where you have to think a little bit more, where it’s not coming as naturally as maybe it did in the past. That takes time. But to be able to get through them physically and do the right thing when it matters is what I can ask from myself.