Beijing Semi-Final Interview

Q. First of all, congratulations for your victory. This is first time for you to enter final of China Open. Can you share with us, how did you make adjustment in second set? Because first set you did not take lead but after which you start to take the lead and eventually win.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I came into this tournament not playing extremely well in Tokyo, and I had a couple of days of practice here. I really wanted to do well and get to the final stage of this tournament because I haven’t been, like you said, to the finals here. I have played a few times, and I skipped last year.
So I was hoping that from the first round on I’d really step it up and get better. I feel with the tournament I have been playing and moving better.
Yeah, as far as today, it was a really high‑quality first set and a few ups and downs, and obviously she had the lead in the first set.
You know, I came back and then I broke her in that last game of the second [sic] set. You know, there are a few key moments to that set, and it was important for me to take that momentum going into the second.

Q. First of all, congratulations for entering the final. So who do you expect to be your final opponent?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. That’s why they’re playing the match out there to see who my opponent will be.

Q. My question is not related to the tournament. We all believe that you are a pretty girl no matter on the court or off the court. You are representative of fashion. You carry this bag to the court and to this press conference. Can you tell me what might be the secret inside your bag?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Inside my bag?
My credential, my two phones, and a water. That’s it. I don’t even know why I’m carrying it with me. That’s it. (Laughter.)

Q. Can you tell me what kind of strategy does your coach give to you? When Thomas started to coach you, I think your performance is very much good. What kind of help does Thomas bring to you? Did Thomas give you specific guidance about playing against Li Na because he knows her game really well?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thomas is a very experienced coach before he started working with Li Na. I have played Li Na many times before, so I think it’s just about kind of knowing what has worked against her in the past and trying to use that.
I have beaten her the last couple of times. Before that I had a few losses. It’s not so much important to focus on what your opponent is doing; more so trying to be confident in your game and enforcing that during the match.
Li Na has so much experience. She’s a Grand Slam champion. You know going into the match that this is going to be a difficult match. She can come back. She certainly is capable of playing high‑level tennis.
So it’s important to try to keep that level as long as you can during the match.

Q. Two years ago you have very much suffered from injury. Did you recover to what you were pre‑injury?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don’t like to compare from where I was to where I am now. It’s always different stages in your life and in your career. You grow as a person, as a tennis player.
I actually have never looked back and said I wonder how I am compared to those moments, because you’re always playing new tournaments, you’re playing different opponents, and it’s a new day.
You know, I’m not the one to compare things, not just in tennis but in other aspects of my life, so I try not to worry about that. I just try to keep improving. As long as I have that attitude, you know, it’s better than trying to look back.
THE MODERATOR: English questions, please.

Q. Did you make any subtle changes to your serve following those runs of double faults early on in the first set?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I think, you know, in those first few games I thought my percentage of first serve was low. Against someone like Li Na who likes to step in and take the ball early, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have to hit too many second serves.
I think, you know, my goal after that was just to get my first‑serve percentage much higher than it was in the first three or four games.

Q. Four of your eleven previous meetings were on hard courts, and your won all four of them and never lost one set. You did it again today. So do you think you have a thing to work it out every time facing Li Na on hard court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, every match is different. When I go into a match against anyone, not just Li Na, I don’t look at the ‑‑I mean, you take things from the matches. Maybe if you have a good record against them, you obviously are smart enough to know what has helped you win those matches.
But to go into a match feeling so confident that you have a good record or good statistic against a player is, I mean, I think it wouldn’t be too smart, because every situation is new, every match is different, it’s a new day, and there is a reason why we have to go out and play again.
You know, I just try to maybe focus on the things that have helped me in the past and that’s pretty much it.

Q. You have drawn a lot of big crowds to your matches all throughout the tournament, and they’ve mainly been cheering for you. Today the crowd was decidedly against you and for Li Na. Do you think you felt that in the first set? Do you think you were feeling jitters early and that’s why you weren’t performing quite as well as you were later in the match where you got more used to it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have been part of many matches where I have played against someone that’s playing in a home crowd. Of course you feel the energy change a little bit, but as far as it affecting me and letting it bother me, not so much.
I think maybe my first time in that type of atmosphere, let’s say, I needed to take it in and really learn from it. But I have been part of so many of those situations that it’s so understandable going into a match that you know she’s playing in her home country. She’s going to have the support.
But I really thought that they were more for her than against me, which is ‑‑ I thought all in all, they were pretty respectful of both of us.

Q. It seems you can always turn tough matches around. We all remember what happened in Rome and same today. My question is where does a player get that mental toughness? You are you born with it or it’s trainable or you get it from your growing‑up experience?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it’s a combination. I think a lot of it is when you’re young. I think your upbringing and maybe the people that are around you help you. I have been in the sport for so many years, since I was young, and I moved to a new country when I was seven years old. So there are a lot of things I had to kind of battle through and be on my own and kind of mature by myself.
In that time, I mean, I learned a lot about being competitive and not just in the sport but in life, as well. But I feel like I have been like that in other aspects of things, whether it’s, you know, trying to eat faster than others or if there is a competition, win a board game. I have always had a really competitive spirit.
As far as tennis, it’s just where I really‑‑ I feel like the court is where I belong and where I really want to, you know, compete and fight no matter what the score is or situation is. Whether I’m down, and it can be match point, I still always believe I can turn it around.