Indian Wells 3rd Round Interview

Q. Must feel like a pretty big relief to clear a big hurdle in the tournament early.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s not the first thing I thought of as a relief. I don’t know if that’s a correct observation. I actually didn’t feel that I played my best tennis. I didn’t feel like it was a very high‑quality match.
I feel like I did everything I did in order to win it, which is sometimes the most important thing.
But, yeah, when my serve kind of let me down not having any first serves in the set, that was something that helped me in the second set. I think she was shocked I was able to get a first serve in. I think that helped me a little bit.
But, yeah, I mean, I was competitive. I was there. I was aggressive, even though I was missing some shots, missing quite long and wide at times, I just kept going for it. Kept being aggressive and staying in there.

Q. Looking ahead to your round with Flavia, it’s been a while since you played. Is there something about her game that is tricky for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it’s been a while since we played. I have always had tough matches against her, tough losses in my career. It’s a match I actually look forward to very much since we haven’t played in a while. I will try to erase the memory of having that loss and just try to create a good new one.

Q. You haven’t played against Vika in quite a long time before this match. Anything you found different?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I think it’s just great to see her back healthy and playing at a good level. You know, it’s been a while since ‑‑she’s had a few comebacks last year, but it seems like she’s back on track now and has had some good wins already this year, good results.
You know, I think when you don’t play for a while against someone you get reacquainted to her game. I think that’s what happened in the beginning. We held our serves pretty well, but I had to save a few break points in the first three service games.
But I don’t think there are too many surprises.

Q. To use American terminology about this match being a popcorn match…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Did you enjoy your popcorn? You didn’t have any?

Q. Cheesecake instead.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s a better option, actually. I quite like cheesecake.

Q. The question is: Do you take much note of those sort of hype issues, or is it just business?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, I mean, I think I know that everyone always looks forward to matches where past Grand Slam champions face against each other, or former No. 1s. That’s certainly no secret. It’s matches that I look forward to, as well.
She’s been out and hasn’t won too many matches last year, and that’s the reason she’s only seeded 32 and ranked whatever it is. But that’s not what we focus on.
I look forward to the matches. If it’s second round or third round, quarters, quite honestly, what is the difference really?

Q. People say I lost my focus here, I lost my focus there. It seems like you’re focused from first point to last. Is this something you work on and just the way you are?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think I can agree I keep my focus throughout the match. I think that’s something I always try to work on and try to improve. You know, I think you have to be pretty realistic about just knowing within the time you’re out there that maybe you’re going to have a few moments or have a few games where your concentration kind of lets go or you make a few errors or you just don’t stick to the plan that day that you had that was working for you.
I always really work on that. I think that’s really important, and I work on it. There is no better place to work on it than when you’re out playing these matches.

Q. How does the start of 2015 feel for you performance, results and ball striking‑wise?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think fairly well. I think after a disappointing Championships, it was nice to have a break, to have a solid offseason. That’s always been important to me, to have the correct breaks and kind of regain‑‑ you know, get the block where you work and you train and you kind of have this rhythm.
You know, we travel so much and we go from tournament to tournament that sometimes you’re just overwhelmed and you never really give yourself to kind of create a good block of training.
I think we did a good job with that. We spent some time in Florida; ended in California. Went to Australia, and besides losing the final of a Grand Slam, I think that was pretty successful. I have only played three matches since then.
Fed Cup was an incredible experience this year. I had a great time. Two good wins. Not in the easiest conditions, as well. I’m actually really proud of that effort, because it could have been very easy to play one and not just the second.
I was so ready and motivated and just had a great time. Yeah, it’s been good so far.

Q. Some good dropshots. How many years has it taken you overall where you can say, yeah, I can do it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: 24. (Laughter). Yeah, I’m serious. (Laughter).

Q. It takes a long time to do so. It wasn’t like you were doing it at 17, 18…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don’t think ‑‑I don’t think Robert Lansdorp really knew what a dropshot was.

Q. Consistently.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I think it’s something you incorporate little by little, but you have to gain the confidence. When you spend so much of your growing up days and younger days where you form your game and your technique and the way that you play. I was hitting tons of balls out of the baskets and just drilling and always finding a groove and rhythm and kind of having the feeling of closing my eyes and hitting the ball.
I never worked a lot on dropshots. I never worked too much on slices. These are little things that I think I have incorporated much more in my game. Also since I have started working with Sven, you know, Sven really pushed me to incorporate those things because you never know when you’ll need it.

Q. Volleys, too?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A little bit, yeah. I think volleys, backhand volley was always a little bit tough for me after the shoulder operation, because that was one of the toughest shots for me to hit after surgery.
That’s taken a while, but with the few years that I have had, I feel much stronger on that shot. Confidence‑wise, mentally I know I can come to the net and I’m not afraid. Before I was afraid to go out for that one‑handed backhand because I was afraid I would reinjury something again, but now I have the confidence in moving forward and not thinking twice.

Q. In terms of the things that you worked on specifically, have you seen them pay off in the first two matches or is it pretty much business as usual carrying through what you did in Australia?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was interesting, because after Fed Cup I, you know, just tried to do everything I could just to be ready for Acapulco. It wasn’t really a training block. I thought that the training block would be after Acapulco, but getting sick there put me behind a little bit longer than I had participated. I thought maybe it would be a one‑, two‑day type of thing, but it actually lasted longer.
I started my really training where I did fitness and tennis every day maybe a week after that, which I would usually start earlier. But that’s the way it goes. Yeah.

Q. Talking about Fed Cup just now, seems to have been a change of heart for you with Fed Cup, because invariably in the past you’d miss it. You seemed to have been embracing and enjoying the whole concept of it.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think it’s a change of heart. I think it’s ‑‑I have never actually negatively talked about my experiences of playing and being part of the team. I have always had a really great experience.
But the scheduling and where Fed Cup is put on the calendar is just ‑‑whoever has put that in the schedule in the past doesn’t think of Grand Slam semifinalist or finalists that are going deep in second weeks of slams that obviously need time to recover after and take care of their body and their mind.
To go out and go from 100 degree weather ‑ you never know where you will be if you be ‑ I was in Krakow, Poland…
Silence… It was minus 15. I was just being funny. (Laughter.)
Actually, it turned out great. I think I lowered my expectations. The trip was amazing. But there’s no one that is thinking about the schedule. If this was something that happened every two years, you know, some sort of time slot where they actually had everyone in the same week playing against each other or just a different format, it would be such a better event.
My decision to play in Sochi kind of ‑‑I wasn’t expecting to play the second tie. I really just wanted to stay home and get ready for the clay. But this year there is only two weeks in between, you know, then Stuttgart and Miami. I was like, What’s the difference? I’m playing in Sochi. There is not going to be many more chances for me to play there.
It was really quite unique and I really wanted to be part of it.