Cincinnati 1st Round Interview

Maria def. Alison Riske (USA) 6-3 7-5

Q. You seemed pretty positive after your match in Canada. How good does it feel to get a win now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What made me sound positive?

Q. You just seemed relatively upbeat compared to other losses I have heard you after. If you disagree, that’s fine.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, yeah, I don’t know if I was positive because I lost the match, but I felt like, you know, I went there to compete and play a match and, you know, it was a matter of a few points. So certainly could have gone either way but didn’t go my way.
Yeah, I mean, I think I, as I said on the court, I think I persevered through the second set. I think that was really important. Could have been in a very similar situation in the third. I think she’s a really tough opponent deep in the third sets.
And I think she’s had some of her best results this summer and she’s dangerous, especially in early rounds when you haven’t played a lot of matches and she has.
Yeah, I was excited about it, and I took on the challenge and I found a way.

Q. What do you think that you did differently if you were to contrast the match in Toronto to here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Slightly different opponents, slightly different game plan, but thought I served – I hit a few doubles today, but I thought I had a little bit of a better rhythm on my serve.
I think the repetition that I’m putting in and feeling it, feeling a little bit better in terms of, like, just speed and the strength in my arm, I think that’s a big part of – you know, in general, the recovery from all that I have done with the shoulder is just to get that repetition and then really believe in my shoulder, you know, deep, an hour, two, an hour, three, if that’s what it takes.

Q. You have had to be very patient this year with all the injuries. Do you feel that’s a quality that’s improved for you over the years just in general?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Let me tell you something: You’re never going to find three tennis balls in a Pringles can (smiling). So, no, I’m not patient.
Yeah, patience is not one of my best qualities, but I keep working on it. Tennis makes you keep working on it (smiling).

Q. What sort of wise philosopher told you that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Life. I have a lot of funny people around me.

Q. Have you ever found tennis balls in a Pringles can?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I have not. Have you?

Q. Afraid not.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We’re on the same page.

Q. Were there any specific steps you took to prepare yourself to get yourself pumped for your first match today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just spent hours on the court. I got here a few days early. That’s what you do when you lose on a Monday night. Have a few more days to practice.
Yeah, I mean, there is not much else to do in Mason, Ohio. It’s a good opportunity. Use your time wisely. I had a couple double sessions, and, yeah, recovery and…

Q. Anything different that you have added to your practice or eliminated since the last time you played when coming back?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Last time I what?

Q. Anything you changed in your practice regimen with respect to coming back this time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, I think as opposed to the off-season to now, putting a lot more quantity and certain amount of serves that I hit in practice, that’s for sure. We are all very cautious, you know, always counting. I mean, we still count, but just relatively a little bit easier, different. It’s not so structured. I feel a little bit more free with that.

Q. Barty next. What do you think of playing her, now that she’s won a slam since the last time you saw her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not an easy match and really not an easy matchup for me. I think she does a lot of things well. She’s a tricky opponent.
If I had played against her best game like when I was just coming up, like a Henin or someone that sliced and diced and had a lot of variety, it was very tough for me.
But I feel like I have improved, and we had a really tough one in Australia. And ever since then she’s been on a roll. She’s been dominating. She’s one of the few players that have really dominated and has been impressive to see.
Yeah, I mean, I’m the one coming in with not a lot of match play, but I’ll have to figure it out. If not, it’s going to be too late.

Q. With this being only your second win since St. Petersburg, Alison broke you while you were serving for the match in that second set, do you still experience the butterflies, the nerves, when you’re trying to serve out a match like this, particularly because you have such little match experience this season?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, of course, definitely. It’s not as regimented as it sounds. Just because you have done it for so many years and you have experienced the highs and the lows, that’s the exciting part is, like, everyone is going to experience that. Everyone’s going to feel it at different times.
Sometimes people don’t know when you experience that. But it’s really how you come out of it, especially when you just haven’t – realistically, as you said, I haven’t played many matches. Even though I have certain expectations of the type of level that I want to play at, I also have to be realistic. So that’s always challenging. But it’s, like, what can you bring to the table when you have those feelings?

Q. On Ash, I mean, you’re two-time French Open champion, were you surprised at all she was able to win in Paris?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don’t think so. I haven’t really given it a good thought, but I think it seems like in Paris there is always a few surprises and maybe expectations are a little bit lower. Some players go in there — I think for a lot of players it happens to be one of the least-favorite slams or least-favorite surfaces at least and always the most challenging one. And sometimes you go in there, being free and loose, and that ends up being your favorite. You win a few matches, you get a little bit more confident, and you find yourself French Open champion.
But of course it takes a lot more than that, you know. A lot of things have to come together to win a slam. But am I surprised? No. You saw the type of level that she performed with.

Q. Was that your experience in Paris, just one year it flipped for you? Low expectations, had a good result, and then maybe it became more of a target?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I really – I felt like I really had to work for that one. I think I really set my mind to win that one.
You know, I have heard a lot of players, like, almost think of the clay season as just like a practice for the grass, and I don’t think I ever agreed with that perspective. I actually was very much against it. It’s just not in my DNA.
I made a challenge to improve, because it wasn’t like I was decent. I was not at all, even though I grew up with it. But physically I just never felt like I was – I didn’t recover well. I didn’t move well.
But I think there was a match I played against Henin where I challenged her. I didn’t have a chance to win, but I felt like I was there till the last point, and I think that changed my mentality a little bit. I don’t remember that year was.

Q. As you said, there’s not much here. Curious what it was like for you when you saw a place like this?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It feels like – doesn’t feel real, like, some of it. It’s like the Simpsons (smiling). I don’t know.
No, actually we’re quite fortunate, because we have – we rent a house and I’m with my team. I feel like when I stay with Alex and the guys, it’s like I’m so much more knowledgeable about sport after our trips. Like from morning to night it’s like Sports Center and golf. I have never watched so much sport in my life when I’m around them.
So at least I’m keeping up with like preseason for football, and there was a golf event last weekend. Yeah. Pretty major. I’m, like, Okay. I really don’t know much, so when I’m around them, I really get to know everything that goes on. It’s good.

Q. How much did you miss not competing? Practice is part of that, but just being on the shelf, not being able to come and play a tournament week in and week out like usual?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I missed it for many reasons. I think just rehab on the shoulder was really tough, and I took that time to work on my strength on my legs. Actually spent a lot more time in the gym than I have throughout my career.
But off the court, I think I was really involved in a lot of the things I do off the court, and I think within those four or five months, I, with my own hands, took the candy brand to another level, which was personally very gratifying for me. I think when you’re involved with something and it’s your company, it’s very different when you’re involved every single day, like calls and meetings, and I was there in the design process Monday through Friday, like with the team and at the office. That was really fun.

Q. You bought a pillow the other day.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did.

Q. Wondering what makes a good pillow.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Consistency. That makes a really good pillow. When you go from hotel to hotel or house to hotel, they’re all very different and I just end up leaving them. I think Mason, Ohio – I keep Bed Bath & Beyond in business with the amount of pillows that I buy here.

Q. Do you save the coupons?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think my mother does. But I don’t, no. I see them around the house occasionally, and I think she tries to tell me something, but I ask her to go. Unless I’m in Mason.