Q. Did you think it was really hot today compared to other days? You have been several days here training in Madrid.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have. I’ve been through a few different weather changes here in the past nine days. It started being really warm. I think it was like 30 something degrees, like 90. Then I went through a tundra weather where it was freezing. Now back to being good weather.
Yeah, it didn’t feel that warm. Nothing out of the ordinary. I thought it was great tennis weather. The shadows were a little tricky, not something I’ve seen on that court because I’ve been practicing a little earlier. But yeah.
(PA system from center court coming into the interview room.)
There’s a lot going on here (laughter). I’m, like, having a hot flash.
Q. Did it feel like it had been a couple of matches since you had got a win when you got the win today? Was that completely out of your mind when you stepped on the court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I felt like I was making progress in my previous match. It was a tough, tough opponent that I faced in the first round. And, yeah, of course I want to be winning matches. That’s a no-brainer. But I want to be winning them the right way, and I want to be making progress.
I felt like in that match I was. You know, that’s where I see – of course, I want to be present. I want to be competing, playing well and improving, but also I want to have a good outlook on things.
I thought I did a really good job of improving a few things that weren’t working well for me in the previous months. I guess that’s all that I can expect from myself right now. Just keep putting that effort in on the court.
Q. What are the things you’ve been trying to improve and work on lately?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, I think it’s a little bit of everything. I didn’t think I returned that well in the matches that I’ve been playing this year. Being a little bit more aggressive. I mean, there’s a lot of things that everyone can improve, including myself particularly. I just keep building and keep working.
I mean, I’m not going to, like, expose everything that I work on. But it’s not always, like, a secret. You can come to watch any practice that I do.
A lot of it is to keep that intensity, to keep it at practice, keep getting better, but doing it when you’re healthy, not just trying to do some things on one day and not doing them on another. Just being particularly aware of how you’re feeling, how your body is doing.
Q. You’ve got another Romanian coming up with Irina-Camelia Begu. Looking to that match a little bit, how you’re going to approach that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, a big hitter and a big server. I’ve had good success against her. But I believe it was a three-set match that I played against her in Madrid a few years ago.
I think she likes these conditions. She likes the ball high. The bounce definitely gets up a little bit more than maybe some of the other events, so I’ll have to look out for that.
Yeah, I mean, I just came off of this one. I’ll have a little bit of time to speak to Thomas about her going into the match tomorrow.
Q. This is not tennis. You have done a great job in Puerto Rico.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you.
Q. Can you tell us if it was a good experience when you were with Monica Puig there.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think that was all a result of everything that Monica did. I think I was just someone that was able to contribute. I think when things happen, like a natural disaster, when you see it from the side, a lot of the information you receive is through the news and through social media.
I had a chance to speak to her directly about it. I think when you get it from the source, when you get that information when it’s so personal, it hits you in a different way maybe than when you see it on your phone or from a television screen.
So that trip, it was very beautiful in a sense because it felt very deep and it was very real. To see people line up in the middle of the night to see us like at 3 p.m. in, like, a hot, swarming day, to receive gasoline, a food warmer, it puts a lot of things in perspective.
I think for both of us to be in that environment after playing on the tour and traveling to some of the best places in the world, to be in a place where people are suffering incredibly, to see how excited they are about the smaller things in life is very special.
Q. Before you had to stop playing, you used to play four or five matches per week in most tournaments. Now when you’re coming back, there are weeks you’re playing one match, two matches. Is it something that you had in mind? Is it tougher and slower than you expected to go back to the level?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, if you’re asking me if I want to be losing early in a tournament and then withdrawing from a tournament while being injured and not competing for three or four weeks, then no, that’s definitely not what I expect, and that’s definitely not what I want to be doing.
Do I want to be ranked 60, 70 in the world? No, I don’t. Do I want to be losing first round? Absolutely not. That’s why I’m still here, is because I’m not satisfied with those things and because I keep looking and getting better and working on things, making adjustments, not being stubborn on things that I believe will make me better.
That’s really what I can do for myself in my career, just like everybody else, no matter what their career is. Mine just happens to be in front of thousands of people. The losses are a little bit tougher, on a different level.
But we all face the same vulnerabilities, sometimes the same success, sometimes the same losses, whether it’s personal, professional.
No, those are situations I don’t want to be in. I don’t want to wait 10 days to play another match. I’m a competitor. I want to go out and I want to improve and get better.
Q. At this tournament last year you didn’t know if you were going to play the French Open or not. A year on now, knowing you have the French, somewhere you had a lot of success, how different does it feel now? Do you feel your groove on clay even though you’re not getting the results yet? Do you feel like the season has a purpose?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think you have to always find a purpose. Even though I had those questions of whether I was going to compete in those tournaments, I still have a very good perspective.
In order to wake up after doing this since you were four years old, you have to have some sort of positive perspective on your career, life and motivation. Otherwise it’s very difficult. I’m sure you’ve faced that a few times in your life, as well.
You have to find the relevance to what you do. You have to put things in perspective. But you also have to want it.
Of course, I want to be playing the French Open. That uncertainty was difficult. But knowing that I’m going to be in the draw, of course if I’m healthy and ready to compete, but I have to work for those opportunities. I realize that. I realize that I start from the very bottom. I’m okay with it.
Q. This time last year, Stuttgart felt like a fairly crazy week. Madrid felt like a fairly crazy week. In comparison, do you feel like there’s a sense of normalcy that has returned compared to last year? How does it feel to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think looking at the course of my career, I’ve had my fair share of craziness, and I’ve had my fair share of normalcy. It’s a cycle. That’s how life is. I take it.
I still have to do the same thing. Despite whatever goes on around me, my job is still very much the same. My opponents, whoever I face, most of them have been there for a long time. You have new ones coming up, but the core of what you do is very much the same.
Yes, things change. The Stuttgart press room wasn’t as packed, not as many people press people attended my first practice in Stuttgart as they did last year. Shocking!
But it’s not that I came there this year and was like, No, this is different. I went in there thinking, I have a match to play, this is the first round of Stuttgart, I want to compete.
God, I finally stopped sweating. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s like the effects of winning a match (laughter).
Q. I don’t know if you’re aware. This is the 10th anniversary of the Caja Magica, of this venue. I want to know your feelings, how the courts are, especially you won the title here once?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think personally the tournament has really grown on me. The city itself has grown on me. Especially when I was younger, I wasn’t a fan of playing on clay, so it was like my mindset wasn’t always present. I really started to enjoy not only playing on this surface, but coming back to Madrid.
In the beginning, I felt like maybe the venue, when it was new, you still had to kind of create its history, create, like, memories. I feel like coming back now, now that I’ve won it, and I’ve also faced some really tough matches, ones that I’ve lost. I think part of that, when you come back, you always are able to relive those moments even though some of them are not the best ones.
But I really enjoy it. Actually, I really enjoyed playing on those outer courts as well. I think I played a good match against Stosur on the stadium that I played at today. I love the intimacy of it. Yeah, I think tomorrow I’ll be playing on center court, so it will be nice to be back on there.