Q. Welcome back, Maria.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you.
Q. The last Australian Open didn’t finish spectacularly for you, but you had a good year returning to a Grand Slam winner’s circle at the French. How are you feeling now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m feeling quite well. You know, I had a really nice off‑season and just time to reflect on the year that passed. Every year is such a cycle. You go from tournament to tournament, and even when you achieve something like winning a Grand Slam, all of a sudden back to back you’re back in London and ready to play Wimbledon. You’re not really given a chance to reflect on what you achieved.
So it was really nice to come home and have a little bit of a break. This was probably the busiest year for me in terms of match play and traveling, so having that chance to really reflect on the year and what you achieved and coming back from shoulder surgery and winning the French Open as my first Grand Slam was really nice.
Certainly reflecting on this gives me a lot of motivation going into this year and preparing for it.
Yeah, so everything has been going well.
Q. Was it more special winning the French after all your shoulder trouble.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. Yeah, I think just a lot of things came together. But most of all, it was because it was the Grand Slam that was going to take a little bit longer than the others for me because I knew that physically I needed a few extra years to get stronger to move more efficiently on that surface, get my body ready to recover match after match, which was something I struggled with maybe years before that.
Of course it being the Grand Slam that I hadn’t won and it being the first one I won after the surgery, it was just many, many things came together for me that week.
Q. 2013 Maria will be your tenth season since you won Wimbledon in 2004. In reflection, would that be one of your better seasons last year? Must be fantastic to win a Grand Slam and carry the flag.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, gosh, absolutely. Besides winning the French Open, obviously the Olympic experience was one that I’ll never forget because it was my first time being an Olympian. I was the first Russian female athlete to carry the flag for my country, so it was very emotional.
It was so fast from the day of the ceremony to the final. Six matches in seven days and the ceremony was the day before. It was a lot to take in in those eight days.
It was such an incredible experience.
Q. Begs the question of how you get your mind up ready for the new season? You pack it up and put it in a cupboard?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You do a little bit. You have to have a bit of a short‑term memory, whether it’s good memory or bad, because a new year is always ahead of you.
I don’t like to say that you have to start from nothing, but you go back to the drawing board and you think of the few things‑‑ obviously, you know, continue what you’re doing because you’ve achieved that success, but also work on a few things that you believe will help you get to the next level.
Q. What’s motivating you this year: more Grand Slams or No. 1 ranking?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think at this point in my career it’s the Grand Slams, definitely.
Q. When Serena was in here yesterday, she thought it may be possible for her to win all four slams this year. She said you and Victoria are probably thinking the same thing. What’s your take on it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, she has the last two, so she’s a couple steps closer than we are, that’s for sure.
But, yeah, she had an incredible season. You know, the reason we still go out and play these matches is because we have to start from scratch and from the first round and from the first point. We have to do it again.
Has she achieved this before? I don’t know.
Q. Serena has four in a row, but not in one year.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I see. Anything is possible, but that’s certainly tough. (Laughter.)
Q. How tough to win four?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: How tough? Well, I’ve never done it so I can’t tell you. (Laughter.)
Q. Victoria said this morning that this era of women’s tennis is possibly the strongest it’s been. How do you feel about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it is a little bit different. It’s much more physical I think than it has been. I think the biggest change that I see is maybe five years ago you go into a tournament and you would treat the first couple rounds as, you know, not as a warmup, but you don’t have to go into the first round thinking, Okay, this is where I really have to play my best tennis.
Now it’s certainly much different because you can be facing an opponent that’s had good results, beaten top players, but hasn’t been consistent enough but is really tough, tough player. The inconsistency obviously shows that their ranking is not high enough, therefore you’re facing them in the first few rounds.
It’s a much stronger sport. And also with technology and racquets and improvements of all the things we have, I mean, there are so many things in tennis that in other sports you don’t consider: the balls, the racquets, the strings. That changes yearly, you know.
Q. What’s the secret to longevity? Obviously preparation is becoming much bigger. What’s the secret to keep going at this level?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s having the right balance with motivation and staying healthy. Everybody is different and everyone’s mindset. I’ve never been one to play a lot tournaments because I don’t think I physically can perform well at all of them if I do have a schedule with a lot of tournaments.
So my philosophy has always been building around the ones that are most important me and trying to peak at those. Maybe not going into a tournament with as many matches as others would prefer, but knowing that I’m healthy, that I’m ready.
I might be a little bit rusty in the beginning, but ultimately if your mind is fresh and your body is healthy, that’s the most important.
So it’s not easy. It’s not easy to have that balance really.
Q. I think the Australian Open final scoreline 12 months ago was not anything that anyone predicted. How do you reflect on that now, or do you just not? That was just not a good night.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m certainly not sitting here thinking about that final. It’s always great to be in that stage of a tournament. It’s obviously tough to lose in the final stage because you worked so hard to get there.
But I took that disappointment and I worked hard and I went into the next Grand Slam and I won it, so…
Q. Do you have a favorite place you like to play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, each one of them is a very special moment and a very different time in my career. I think the French this year was very, very memorable after all that I went through.
But I think that Wimbledon is really up there for me.
Q. Those four trophies on one little table at home?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, to be honest, if you come to my house you wouldn’t even know that I was a tennis player, so…
Q. Would we think you’re a cook or…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I think like an interior designer or something. Yeah.