Madrid 3rd Round Interview

Q. I have seen you on court with tough mental strength. How do you feel now a days?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I think that’s been an important aspect throughout my career. But yeah, there’s definitely times where it’s not a strength, and I always have to get it back. But I thought I was pretty strong out there.

Q. From our side it felt like perhaps your best match of the year. I don’t know if you think that’s a fair assessment or not.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s difficult to say. I mean, I’ve played very different types of opponents with I would say different games.
But yeah, I just felt like I did the right things. Despite a slow start, I was still very positive. I still felt like I was doing the right things out there, and continued to do so. I felt like I returned much better than I have been, which makes your life a little bit easier.

Q. Kristina was pretty frustrated. She said she couldn’t play tennis because you were hitting the ball so strong. How was it tactically to go for broke basically in every rally? The intensity was impressive from outside.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, from my end, it didn’t feel like I was going for broke. I don’t think there’s a big reason to go for broke in a match against her. I’m not necessarily afraid of getting in any rallies with her because you kind of know what to expect from each wing.
Of course, I don’t want to get myself in that position, which I didn’t do many times. But when I did, I actually thought I won a majority of those points. That’s something that I’ll be doing tomorrow, as well. Someone that will make me hit a lot of balls, yeah.

Q. It’s no secret that you and Kiki haven’t always seen eye-to-eye in the past. What is your relationship like now, whether it’s improved? If not, did that give it an extra bit of satisfaction today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think any of that really matters, to be honest. I don’t know if anything she said in the past or I’ve said in the past ultimately matters.
What matters is what happens on the stage that we play on. That’s the most important aspect to me, is getting to the next round, getting to the quarterfinals of this tournament. It’s an important tournament, of course.
I’m not entirely sure when all things are said and done and we’re walking around with canes you’re going to remember a Wimbledon first round a few years ago that I played against her, or Stuttgart in 2017 semifinal, or Madrid.
These are matches that ultimately get you to a stage where you want to get to, for the big ones. These results are not the ones for the record books. They’re a guidance. They’re your kind of roadmap toward where you want to go. So that’s what I’m happy about, is I gave myself another chance to get to that.

Q. In your mind are you checking what you need to do to be seeded in Paris? Are you not aware at all of the possibilities?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not afraid to be aware of it. I don’t really mind. I’m not someone that doesn’t look at the draw or doesn’t want to see who they’re playing. That’s never really bothered me. You’re going to have to face someone in the next round, whoever it is.
Of course, that would be great. I want to put myself in that position. Winning matches will ultimately get me there. But this is just the quarterfinals of this event. I hope that I continue to raise my level and continue to perform and set myself in a better position.
Yeah, of course I want to be seeded in a Grand Slam.

Q. Do you know most of the last winners on clay are big hitters like you? Do you know what is the reason why nowadays it’s more a game of counter-punchers, big hitters, good servers?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: On clay or in general?

Q. On clay.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s such a difficult question because I remember watching the semis already getting ready for the grass season because I was so out of Roland Garros the beginning of the first week, prepping myself and watching the later stages of Roland Garros, listening to commentators saying how you need to have a lot of variety, you need to have a lot of physicality, depth, spin.
I just like sit there, Okay, great news for me – if they know what they’re talking about. Then you end up having winners and champions of that event that aren’t big hitters, big servers, that don’t get in long rallies to win that tournament.
But winning that tournament is not defined upon just your game. It’s about adjusting. It’s knowing that you have seven matches, could be in seven completely different conditions on different courts against different opponents. It’s not just about your game, it’s how you adjust, how you get ready, how do you get to the second week, then mentally adjust to that, the pressures, the atmosphere, the people, the crowds. There’s a lot going on. It’s not just about being a big hitter or not.

Q. Today the level we saw in your second serves was really amazing. Kiki has very good returns. Have you been practicing that second serve? Amazing the risk you took.
I feel like I always go for my serves, my first serve and my second serve. I don’t want to hope for them to give me the point. I want to be the one that’s attempting to win the point. I mean, that’s always been my attitude.
Of course, you sometimes need to be smart, and there’s no reason to go for a big serve when you don’t need it. At least that’s what I keep telling myself if I was a coach. Doesn’t always work out (smiling). Just want to sound smarter than I really am.
I mean, yeah, of course it’s something I work on, as well as the return. I thought a combination of those things today really gave me the advantage.

Q. Is there a sense of relief for you this week to see the hard work and changes you made are already paying off? Were you expecting you would be playing so good this early?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Let’s not get carried away. Let’s brace ourselves here.
I’m very realistic. I know that changes, to adapt to changes, it takes a long time, from a team dynamic, from what you’re working on.
I do really like what I’m doing on the practice court. That comes with the territory of having someone familiar by your side that’s known you, as well as played against you, coached against you.
I really enjoyed it. I think if there’s something, especially as you get older, have been around for a long time, if there’s someone that can get you up in the morning to where you look forward to training, I think that’s a really amazing quality.
I’ve never really shied away from work, but I think the repetition sometimes, I’m a little bit impatient. I like newness, fresh perspectives. I think that’s something that Thomas has been really, really good at. But also just having someone that’s very familiar at this stage in my career is also really nice.

Q. You play Kiki Bertens in the next round. What are your thoughts about the matchup?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know much about her. I’ve seen a few of her matches. I spoke a little bit to Thomas as I was doing my cool down just now, a little bit about the match. It’s always interesting how you finish one, then it’s less than 24 hours you’re on to the next one.
But I’ll go home, I’ll be doing some treatment. I’ll watch a few videos of a few of her matches here, maybe in the past. But she’s a confidence player as well. I think that’s one of the reasons she’s been playing so well. Clearly loves the clay. I look forward to that challenge. It’s great to be at this stage.