Q. You must have felt you were in pretty good shape early on in the match. Explain what went on.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was our first meeting. I think a little bit of the beginning of the match was just understanding the ball strike, the trajectory of her ball. I did a good job of staying a little bit closer to the baseline. I think I stepped back, and she definitely has a heavy ball. She wants you to stay back. I just wasn’t doing a good job of making the smaller adjustments with my feet, getting a little closer to the ball, letting it get a little too far away from me.
Q. What makes her so difficult to play on a clay court? She’s a big girl, strong strokes. Normally you don’t see so many players play like this.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think it’s a combination of a few things. Her ball was quite heavy today. As we’ve never faced against each other on any other surface, I can only speak about the match today. But she stands very far back. She moves very well side to side. I don’t think I did well enough of getting her to go forward a little bit, wasn’t using my angles as well as I should have.
But, no, I mean, she serves really well. She has a good first serve.
Q. The past couple tournaments, people have asked you what kind of positives you can take out of the losses. You had four matches. It must feel like there are some more positives?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. I think there are definitely a few that I can take away from this. But also I look at these types of matches, I see a lot of things I should be better at, I should improve at. I think it’s a combination of, yes, taking the positives, but also being a little tough on yourself and expecting a little bit more from yourself. That’s the only way to improve. You can’t keep giving yourself a pat on the back.
Of course, it was great to get those wins against those few players. But there’s a reason I came up short today. You want to also evaluate that and go back to the drawing board and start over again.
Q. What specific things do you feel you need to improve before Roland Garros particularly?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: There’s still a few weeks in the leadup to that. Obviously Rome will most likely be my last event. Not ‘most likely’, I’m pretty sure it will be the last one. I don’t think I’m adding another tournament to my schedule, as far as I know (laughter).
But, yeah, like today, I mean, I thought I just should have made those smaller adjustments with my feet, moving back. She hits a deep, heavy ball. But seeing that shorter one, you know, a little bit faster. I was just a little slow on that. Just a little hesitant. Some of those opportunities. Keep improving the return. A much better week on that for me this week. But I think there’s a lot more work I can do on that.
Yeah, it’s a few percentages here and there. It’s little margins.
Q. We still remember you winning in Rome against Carla. You have been a champion on clay, Roland Garros is another story. Next week you can try in Rome? What do you think?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s the plan (smiling). I don’t know, some people say trying is the first step to failure. I don’t know if ‘trying’ is really the right word.
But I will certainly be there. I will be playing. I will be doing my best.
Q. In Stuttgart and also here, the level of play, stepping up from the start of the season, how much do you chalk that up to feeling fit, fitter than maybe you felt for a while there? Is it the change in surface, getting onto clay? Is it a coaching change? Where do you see the shift happening with the better level?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of just tennis or physicality?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a little bit of everything. There’s no, like, definite answer. I think a lot of things always have to come together. We all know that the difference sometimes, I’m not talking about today’s match, but a lot of times it’s just a few points here and there that make a big difference. You can never really pinpoint exactly what that is.
But I think, I mean, first of all, I think it’s kind of been, despite a lot of the things that I faced maybe post Indian Wells, which was a tough few weeks for me, I think I don’t know many people that would be like, Let’s keep going. It was really tough. I was willing to make changes, willing to get back out there, willing to put in the work. I think that attitude certainly helps, that perspective on things.
When you do it for yourself, when you try to make the right decisions for yourself in a very selfish sport, maybe somehow in the end it works out. I think we all try to make little adjustments to make ourselves better.
But, of course, it’s so nice to play when you can hold the racquet in your left hand, when you’re not worried about other things, when you can just play tennis. It’s a really nice feeling. That doesn’t happen all the time. That’s just part of the sport, as well. But it certainly helps.