Madrid 3rd Round Interview

Q. That was a close one. Do you think the break point you saved at the start of the third set was maybe the key moment?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think really in the third it just came down to a few points. I mean, I think she was the much more aggressive player in the third set; she was going for a lot.
You know, at the end of the second it really worked towards her end. Of course I could have had a better higher percentage of first serves. Even on some good second serves she stepped in and hit some really good shots and there was just not much I could do.
I think the percentage from a her dropped a bit. She started making a little bit more errors. The games on her serve actually were quite short. It was either 40‑15, 40‑Love, so my goal was to try to get in those points and not go for so much on the return, to be a little bit more patient.
I think that 5‑All game, that really helped me.

Q. She was obviously disappointed at the end. You did give her a look after getting a hand slap. From the point of view of the younger players coming up, do you feel that sometimes they react badly, or do you just brush it off?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I’ve played against her a few times and she’s been young and up and coming for a few years.
At some point she’s already there. I don’t know at what point. But all the time when someone is in their young 20s or late teenage years they’re up and coming all the time.
I think she’s earned the title. She’s already done a great job of getting in a good position. She’s winning titles and beating top players.
Maybe the consistency is not exactly there in order to maintain that level. It’s not just about playing well against me like that, it’s also about playing just as well on Court No. 18.
I think that all comes down to being the most important thing, is maintaining that level and keeping that consistency. You know, I’ve seen many of her matches and she can come up with some great stuff. She’s been able to do that against really good players.

Q. When she hits, takes so many things on and is aggressive, is it easier to take than maybe when you’re the one playing badly and you’re making errors?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it’s tough to look at it that way. I can only try to do what is in my hands. If she’s coming up with some shots that are just too good off first serves, off really good second serves that are deep, you just have to hand it to them.
If they can do that over a three‑set match, you got to leave the court saying, That’s just too good.

Q. Caroline has never managed to defeat any of the top 5 players. Today she proved to be a tough opponent. Were you surprised by the fact that she was able to put that much pressure on you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I’m not surprised at all. As you said, I don’t know if she hasn’t beaten a top 5 player, but she’s certainly come close and put them in three‑set situations, and put herself in a really good position today.
With experience things will start going in her favor. Hopefully not against me. But I know that experience helps. And being in those situations, it’s really priceless for the development of someone’s career.

Q. Sorry to talk about clay, but was there a moment in the past where you put that away and stopped being self‑deprecating and started believing you could succeed on this surface? Was there a match or a certain point?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think every season after the hard court and after Miami you know you’re going to get your clay court shoes out.
Usually it’s a bittersweet moment, because I would be like, okay, the next three months are going to be very tough. Little by little my perception and idea of transitioning to the clay changed.
I’m not sure if there was a physical development on my end where I felt stronger, not just on clay, but overall, where or where I felt I could play longer matches and withstand tougher opponents for a longer period of time.
I think that’s one of the things. Even when I played Justine and lost against her in three sets, I played in some of the toughest conditions I’ve played in in Paris and felt like I could have won that match. I came off the court and I really believed that I could win the French Open one day.
At that point I was probably really sad about losing, but I had that inner belief that I could do it. I don’t know when, but…

Q. I would like to know if you enjoy playing your matches, or is it just hard and serious work that can’t be enjoyed?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I enjoy those matches much more than I enjoy waking up at 7:00 in the morning and going to practice when no one is watching. It’s just your team and you’re running side to side.
Playing these matches is the reward for the work that we put in.

Q. Feels like your mental strength and determination has become one of the, if not the, key components of your game. Would you agree with that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I think tennis is a lot physical and a lot mental. There is a lot of emotions involved as well.
Matches can be short; they can be really, really long. Sometimes you might not be at your best tennis‑wise or whatever‑wise. You’re not feeling good.
If you’re mentally strong, sometimes things click, and then on to the next match and all of a sudden your game is there and all of a sudden your movement is there.
So I think keeping that kind of positive energy and not really giving up no matter how you feel, no matter how bad things are. Or good.
To maintain that level was always really tough. I always know that things can change within a match, and it’s always really important to, in your mind, know that no matter what happens you’re there until the end.

Q. You spoke yesterday about hitting with a lot of depth. Today you said you had to take a bit off the ball and be more consistent. Is that something you learned, or have you always thought like that on the court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think the conditions also play a big role in it. You have a bit of altitude here. The ball bounces quite high. And especially against a tall opponent, she was‑‑ a lot of her strokes and a lot of her serves, especially second serves, were jumping up quite high.
Sometimes it’s tough to really hit a flat ball off that shot. Sometimes it’s much more important to get good depth and maybe a little bit more rotation.
You know, and also consistency is really important against an opponent that’s so aggressive and going for the lines so much.

Q. Caroline’s father is her coach, and he says she tends to respect you too much. Players tend to respect you Serena, and even Vika too. When you started your career were you in this position, fighting a great player and thinking, Wow?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually, some of the players I looked up to when I was young, Steffi and Monica ‑ I played Monica couple times ‑ but never faced them so much.
So I think those were‑‑ I wouldn’t say they were my idols, but those were the players I watched and was in awe of them and their aura and presence and fight and game. Everything together was really like a complete package.
But I apart from Monica I never faced any of them. Maybe that’s a good thing. (Laughter.)