Miami Semi-Final Interview

Q. Did you feel like you could take advantage of Jelena because she got off the court so late last night and the turnaround was tough? You jumped on her right away.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Unfortunately I’m selfishly not really thinking about that when I’m out on the court, because it is my job to try to win the match as well as I can, and I did have a late one, as well. Not a late one but a long one yesterday.
So it was important for me to physically and mentally be there because I didn’t feel like I played my best tennis yesterday. But it was really important to go out and, you know, change a few things, just have a better mentality, be a bit more positive, and I felt like I did a few things better today. That’s why the result was a shorter one.

Q. Your serve – I think 92% of your first serve points, 100% in the second set you have to be happy about your serve.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I am. And also the way I returned. I think the serve and return, you know, weren’t great yesterday. I mean, I missed a lot of first serves. I missed a lot of returns and even slow serves that she hit yesterday.
So today was very important because I was playing against a better server. She’s capable of hitting the lines quite well and a big serve occasionally. I did a much better job of that.

Q. Jelena’s ball suits your game a little bit better than Sara’s, right? Could you talk about the difference between the two and whether or not that was actually easier for you, as well.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, every player has a different game and unique style of play and a different spin. You never really know until you actually are facing them. Even if you watch them on TV or the way they play, it’s always a little bit different.
I haven’t played Jelena in almost two years. But, yes, we have played many times before that, including the juniors, so we know each other’s game very well. There’s not many secrets out there to what we do well and how we play.
So that’s also something I knew going out on the court is I knew the things that have helped me beat her in the past, and I felt like I tried to emphasize those today.

Q. Are you feeling any pressure with the Indian Wells/Miami double that people are starting to now talk about that hasn’t been done since 2005 with Kim?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, it would be nice, but, you know, winning a title on its own, whether it’s here or Indian Wells, is a great achievement on its own. To be able to come back from that and, you know, recover in just a few days and come back to the final here, I mean, it’s great.
Physically, many years ago, I wouldn’t be able to do that, so I’m very I’m proud of the way I have recovered. I am still young. I’m 25 years old. But yet, you know, I’m not 18 anymore. I have learned that recovery is just as important and even more important now in my career than anything else.
That’s certainly something that has helped me so much even on the clay courts and in a situation like this where you just have to recover and play matches and recover and just get ready again and again.

Q. I assume you know Tommy Haas pretty well.

Q. He’s going to be 35 next week.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: So fun. (Smiling.)

Q. Your impressions?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m really happy for him. I mean, I have kind of I have seen, you know, his comeback in the last couple of years. I practiced with him a lot when we were both in Florida and California. We spent like a couple of weeks training in Bradenton in December together. You know, he used to work with my coach.
So we know each other quite well. It’s incredible. I saw him a year and a half ago, as I was saying on the court, just, you know, coming back from the knee injury and then the hip. He was just, you know, sluggish. He wasn’t confident, he wasn’t moving well, he didn’t have a team at all in place.
It’s just so nice to see someone that’s at that point in his career that’s been there, that’s played great tennis in his life, I think, been No. 2 in the world or something like that, to still want it as much as he does.
It’s just really nice to see. He was a pretty good hitting partner for me, as well. Now he might be a little bit expensive. I don’t know. (Laughter.) I have to ask him about that.

Q. I guess there’s always the specter of possibly playing Serena in the final. You haven’t beaten her in quite a long time. What do you think to do to maybe change that a bit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, not just one thing. I think it’s a few things. You know, they have been pretty quick matches. You know, I played her in Doha and the Championships is the last couple of times we have played against each other. I think it was one break in each set or maybe one or two.
Yeah, I mean, she’s a tremendous athlete, has so much power, you know, and a confidence player, as well. So if you have a few easy games where, you know, you’re not stepping in, not playing the way you should be, she takes really good advantage of it.

Q. Anything in your game that you are not happy with?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In this tournament?

Q. Yes, of course.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, there are always a few things that I look forward to improving as the tournament goes on. I didn’t think I played a great match yesterday. I was happy to get through that one.
But the great thing was that I came back today and I stepped it up because I had to. You know, sometimes it’s moments like this where you have to learn from your mistakes and things that you were sluggish about or weren’t executing well enough, and you change that around, so that was my biggest plus today.

Q. What do you feel about your chances in the final, taking into consideration that you have your ups and downs during this tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: During this tournament?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it’s another final. It’s great to be putting myself in a position of this tournament to get into finals. I don’t know who has been in five finals of this event in the women’s draw, so it’s certainly, you know, a big consistent at this tournament but yet I haven’t won it, so it would mean a lot for me to be the champion here.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the fans here? They’re very vocal. Especially during the final they really scream and yell. Do you like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I do. I like enthusiastic crowds. I think when people are energetic and supporting, you know, both players and you hear their support and energy, it always brings out the best in athletes no matter if it’s tennis or any other sport.
I think, you know, Miami always has nice crowds. It’s a bit of a Latin flavor, I would say. But, yeah, it’s fun.

Q. Also, you talked about Serena. Can you talk a little bit about Radwanska, what her game is like for you and, you know, what challenges you have meeting her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I lost to her last year in the final. She had a really great week and she seems to play really good tennis at this event.
But, I mean, the challenge against her is she’s someone who just makes you hit so many balls. She reads the play very well. She has great eyes, you know, good hand/eye coordination.
Yeah, she moves incredibly well, you know, has good hands when she has time. So, yeah, those are…

Q. I know they’re not great memories, but what do you remember about that final that could maybe help you this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, since then I have played against her and I have beaten her, so hopefully I won’t look back to that loss but I’ll look back to the moments when I beat her and recognized the things that I did well in those particular matches and which helped me get through and helped me win them.

Q. They talk about the big four on the men’s side separated from the pack. Do you feel like you, Serena, and Victoria are also maybe the big three and are starting to open up a gap between you and the rest of the field?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I guess, in a way. But I feel like maybe we’d have to play each other a few more times to create those types of rivalries that maybe the top four or top three in the men have created a couple of years back.
You know, it will take what the men had I think was a very unique situation, some of the most tremendous tennis athletes you’ll see in generations to come.
So to recreate that or be compared to that is difficult. You know, it’s certainly it’s tough, but we’re getting there, yeah.

Q. You said something about Tommy Haas that just a couple months ago didn’t even have a team together. Over the years you have done such a job sort of like a lot of the guys did, Novak, Nadal, and Federer, developing these people around you. People think of tennis as a solitary sport, and Novak always talks about, even if he loses, I want to congratulate him and his team. Now you’ve got Nicolas Kiefer, a former top 5 guy.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: He must be bored, incredibly bored in that little town in Germany.

Q. That’s not where I’m going at all. I’m just so impressed by how professionally you go about this. I just wonder how often you think to make those kind of adjustments.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, it’s so important. There are little pieces of the puzzle that makes or breaks somebody’s career, absolutely.
I mean, it’s easier to say that when you’ve been there and you’ve won Grand Slams and been No. 1. I think it’s more so important when you’re in that stage of, you know, you’re talented, you have a lot of things, but you’re waiting, you know, you’re trying to break through to that next level because those are the voices that are around you. You know, the guidance that you have is so important. The people that, you know, take care of your body, that have a plan in place, that do the fitness, that also have to get along as a group, it’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle.
I’ve, you know, been fortunate. I have had, you know, a fairly consistent team in my career. I have changed coaches a couple of times, you know, a couple of physios but have been on the tour for many years. You know, some have families, you know, and they come and go. But I have been very lucky with the people I have had on my team.

Q. I think it says something that some more players are more coachable than others. Obviously you get these strong people around you, and then you listen to them and you’re willing to…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, I don’t think that’s what they would say. (Laughter.)
We should get them up here. I think that they would have a different opinion about that.

Q. I remember when you won the French last year and you said you were going against…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I know. Yeah, I talked to him yesterday.

Q. It’s interesting to watch. It is.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, thank you.