Madrid 1st Round Interview

Q. What do you think about your next rival, Genie Bouchard, who called you a cheater, and said that you should not play anymore?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I already commented about those comments from her last week. I’m sure the WTA would be happy to provide you a transcript of that.

Q. It seemed that Mirjana was saving a lot of set points and breakpoints the second set, but then something flipped. Can you walk us through the match.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not quite sure how to describe the match because it feels like it happened so fast. I thought she played really well. I was playing against, like, a human slingshot for a while there. Balls were coming so fast and deep. I mean, for a couple of sets, I don’t believe we had too many rallies over three balls.
You know, I wasn’t really happy with my percentage of serve in the first couple of sets. I definitely improved that in the third. I think that really helped me. I got a better read on her serve, as well.
You know, she goes for it. You have to be patient. Sometimes there’s not much you can do. Those are great shots, on the line. I mean, the breakpoints, I missed a couple of second-serve returns. That was obviously an error from my side.
But she came up with some great winners. Just got to hand it to her.

Q. Obviously as a first-round match, as someone who is looking for match play, for rhythm in the matches, how tough is it to have someone like her, who doesn’t give you any rhythm whatsoever?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, there’s going to be opponents like that. As I said, I wanted matches, I want match play. These are the types of opponents that challenge you. There’s a reason why that game works for her. She’s been quite so solid this year. She’s had a great result at the Australian Open I believe.
When she’s on, she’s on. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for your chances. If she can come out and do that for three sets, too good.

Q. Now that you get back-to-back tournaments, back-to-back matches, I guess you have a clearer picture of where your game is at, where your fitness is at. Are you happy with the level you have right now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel like it’s still a learning experience, and it’s still just getting back in the groove and understanding what I need to work on and improve.
You know, some days are different than others. Sometimes I feel like, Okay, I’m getting into it. Sometimes I’m a little bit surprised by how I feel or what I do extra on the court.
But those are all things that are normal and are part of the process, part of kind of the journey that I’ve started.

Q. I think the crowd was happy to see the fighter like you come back. How do you feel that support of the crowd? How do you expect the next match, your next opponent?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I felt like for a first round, there was a better crowd than maybe the previous years that I’ve competed here. In the first few matches, it’s a little bit quiet. There’s kind of an eerie-ness about the tournament. You know the have VIP tents are full, but then the courts don’t always get the spectators in from the beginning of the match.
Yeah, I thought the crowd was enthusiastic today. A lot of Russians in crowd, as well.

Q. I think if you win your next round, you are guaranteed for sure a place at Wimbledon in some shape or form. How much of an incentive is that, to sort of take that wild card thing out of the equation as far as qualifying?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, look, I would love to be in a position to compete in that event. It’s very meaningful to me. But it’s just too far down the line right now.
I feel like I’m like a broken record player, but these tournaments are really important. The match play that I have, getting myself in these situations, getting out of them, will ultimately help me for those big events whether I’m in there or not.
I treat this tournament and the next one, and the ones that I will play, just as importantly as the other ones.

Q. You’re used to always having a lot of attention, a lot of people watching your practices and stuff. Do you feel dealing with the kind of attention you’re getting this time around is different? Are you dealing with it in a different way?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s interesting. I feel like I’m still doing very much the same thing that I’m doing. I’m very much in my element. I think it’s always great to be the person that’s kind of in control of your actions while everything around you is moving in a different way. I don’t know how to explain it.
Not much has changed from my end. I still go through my routines. I still go through my training. I’m around my team. But then there’s a little bit more around. I definitely feel it, but it doesn’t change anything that I do.
I’m kind of the driver of that. I like being in that position. I like doing my work. I love being quiet about it and letting everyone around speak or have the noise, whatever it is.

Q. From a forehand and backhand perspective of the next match, you played Genie in the semifinals of the French a couple years ago, tough match. What do you think is going to happen on the court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think in terms of a game style, there’s a little bit of similarities to who I played today: very aggressive, inside the court, takes the ball on the rise, doesn’t give you much time. All the things that hopefully I can improve from today’s match and take it against her.

Q. Genie yesterday said no matter how much she wants to be focused on the match, there might be a little extra motivation just because of the comments she made. How are you able to just focus on the match? When you’re facing her, or anybody else, do you think of the stuff they may have said about you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s never really — it’s not the way I go about my job, and I never really have. I’ve been in the public eye since I was a very young girl. I’ve heard a lot of things.
If everything affects you on and off the court, I think that would be a really challenging position to be in.
Yeah, it’s not the way I think. My tennis speaks for itself, and that’s what I focus on.

Q. Last week you made the semifinal. Now you won a difficult match. Are you playing better than you expected in this comeback? Are you surprised with your level?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think I had many expectations. I just knew that all I could do before coming back was make sure I had a good base for my body, that I built a good base for my tennis.
You know, you can train for as much as you want, but playing the matches and being in that competitive environment is just not the same. You can never replicate it.
My goal was to make sure that my body was as healthy as it could be, that I was strong enough, that my shoulder feels good – something that I struggled with over my career. Those are the things that I focused on.
Expectations of how I play, I’ll get back into that. But, as I said, the match play is the most important thing right now.