Cincinnati Quarter-Final Interview

Q. Talk about the last two sets, how you turned things around.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I had no choice, honestly. It was a pretty poor first set from my end. A lot of unforced errors. I mean, I think it was some of the lowest first serve percentages I’ve had for a while. Nothing really was going my way.
So I definitely needed to do a few things differently to be a bit more consistent but maintain kind of that aggressiveness that works against her.
If you let her play a lot of balls, she is very good at defending, as you saw in a lot of the points. She makes you hit another ball.
Yeah, quite happy that I stepped it up at the end of that third set.

Q. Can you elaborate on some of the things that you felt you needed to do differently against her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think I had much pace on my ball and then I was going for a little bit too much maybe, forcing the errors and not really setting up the point and not willing to play a longer point. Which I’m usually fine with. It’s just not the type of mentality I had in the first set for some reason.
Once I got my unforced errors a bit under control made to a little easier for me. Then, yeah.

Q. This match between you two was definitely enjoyable to watch. You play a lot of long points and bring out the best in each other. Do you feel that at all on court? Do you feel it’s a compatible matchup that makes it entertaining?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I do. I enjoy playing these types of matches. If I look back many years ago, these are the types of opponents that would cause me a lot of trouble.
It would be nightmares. You know, you would pray you that you wake up in the morning and it’s sunny day and not cold and raining and you’re not playing on clay.
But, yeah, I’ve been able to change that around and I’m no longer thinking that way. I’m willing to go out there and no matter how long it takes to run and play defense and turn that into offense, something I think I did quite well in the third set, which was a big factor for me.

Q. Who are some the players in the past who the matchup reminds you of?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A lot of lefties are tricky for me. Clijsters and Henin. The list goes on and on. Émilie Loit. I hated playing her. (Laughter.) I don’t know why she comes to mind. I could think of a few good ones.

Q. Talking about third set, you were moving incredibly into and out of the corners. Defense was amazing. Comparing that to the first set, when you pick it up like, is that a focus issue? Adrenaline? How is that happening?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think just getting myself in the point and making her realize that I’m there, that my presence is someone there instead of giving her so many looks on second serves and giving her so many easy points, having the opportunity to move in.
Not using that ball maybe to create an angle or two, to create another ball that would be a bit easier. Just kind of like‑‑ I don’t know. It was like my hand‑eye coordination was just really off in the first set. (Laughing.)

Q. How much different was it playing against her on hard court as opposed to clay?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the conditions here are maybe not as fast as they were last week. The ball sits up a little bit more, doesn’t go throughout the court as well, and the balls are a bit heavier.
Every single situation is always different depending what surface you play. Yeah, on a slower court you’re going to have those longer type rallies.
That’s what we had today.

Q. Talk about the atmosphere out there on the Grandstand, especially the Romanians. They were vocal out there.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m very used to that. I’ve been on the tour for so many years to face against opponents that have small support groups that come out with bells and whistles and the circus act and all of that.
I’m very well‑prepared and I use that to my advantage. I use that to get energy as opposed to getting angry, and that’s worked really well for me in my career.

Q. Do you feel, like some athletes try to come up with sort of am us‑against‑the‑world mentality when they’re competing. Do you feel that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: From her end or my end?

Q. From your end. Just psychologically as a way of getting up for battle.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, for me it is like a battlefield. I’ve always kind of mentioned that in my interviews. It’s my job. It’s where I’m supposed to perform. It is an individual sport.
It’s of course always really nice to have fan support, but you’re playing against an opponent that’s going to have her support as well.
For me, the best is just to be in my own little world. That’s when I play my best.

Q. Against a quality player like that of that caliber and the way the match turned out, is this one of those matches that makes you believe you’re ready for the Open?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was definitely a great turnaround for me, a great win going into the Open. I feel like I’ve played enough matches at this point.
Yeah, the tournament is still not done. I certainly hope to raise my level and have a much better first set tomorrow. Can’t be any worse, I don’t think. Never know. I’m capable of many things. (Laughter.)
Yeah, I just am happy to be in that stage. It was a great way to turn it around for me. I have to use that to my advantage. No reason why I shouldn’t, really.

Q. You have Ivanovic tomorrow. Talk about that matchup. I think Rome was your last one.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was a tough match. Physically for me didn’t feel that I was quite there. She’s been having a great year and playing very aggressive, offensive, serving well.
So yeah, comes down always to a few points here and there. Definitely hope that I have a better, higher percentage of first serves. She’s a good returner. That’s not a secret. Yeah, look for my opportunities.

Q. Aside from the first set, what were you happy with with your game tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m happy how I turned it around and that I was able to, after a slow start, bring my energy. That’s sometimes never easy. It’s much easier to just throw in the towel and just call it a bad day.
I was willing to accept that I didn’t have a good beginning of a performance and I was willing to go out there and change some things around; I did.