Rome 1st Round Interview

Q. Nadal and Federer have been a great sport for tennis because of their rivalries. Everybody was clapping to them. Everybody likes them both in the courts and in the stands and also in the locker rooms. I was curious to know why a clever girl like you doesn’t seem to care about what the other players or other people think of you. At least this is what I read. I don’t know if that is true or not. Normally everyone likes to be liked. You have many, many people like you. I’d like to know if you would like to have even more and even between the players?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think my role and my job and the reason I come to a press conference and the reason I come to a tournament in Rome is to be a tennis player and is to be a better tennis player and to improve and work hard and be great at my craft. That’s ultimately what I’m here for, and that’s my sole challenge and my goal. That’s what I want to take care of.
I want to be a professional on and off the court. I want to go to my press conference, I want to do my job, I want to make sure my body is ready for the next match, and that’s it.
I have a family, and I have a great life that’s away from everything else that I also get to take care of the second that I leave the site and I leave my profession, and that’s just as important for me, as well.

Q. Coming back to the match of this morning, in the beginning was a little…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Slow.

Q. …slow to find the rhythm?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it was definitely — it felt slow and the conditions are quite different to Madrid. So it felt like the adjustment was really important. You know, I also played a different type of opponent that stood back a few feet behind the baseline, makes you play another ball quite different to the previous opponents I had faced in the last weeks.
So I think that adjustment was a little bit different. It certainly took a few more games than I would have liked to get used to. But once I did, I felt like I took care of the second set quite well.

Q. About the decision to give you a wildcard and not to Francesca Schiavone, what do you think about to organize an exhibition here in Rome between you and her to allow the Italian public to say good-bye to Francesca?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I — oh. Yeah, I would definitely be open to it. Any chance I can come back to Rome and not have to play a tournament and actually get to enjoy myself would be nice.
Yeah, I’d love to.

Q. I guess your long-term goals are the same as before, but for your comeback, are you setting short-term goals in terms of ranking, rounds to go through the tournaments? How do you process mentally week to week?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think at this point it’s week to week. I certainly have expectations of myself just because when you have accomplished things and when you have won big events and you have been No. 1 in the world, you know that feeling. So that feeling ultimately stays inside of you and you know how good it feels and you know what you work for.
I would love to experience those feelings again. Of course, that is my goal. But as I said, every week is important, and I treat every match — you know, I might have not played my best tennis, but I set up an opportunity to play another match and to hopefully improve in that match, and that’s what I need.

Q. How close of an interest will you take in the Facebook Live announcement by the FFT tomorrow about your position for Roland Garros? You may have scheduling issues here. Maybe they told you what they are doing, anyway? I don’t know.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I won’t be following it live. I will be focused on my match, as I’m playing tomorrow.

Q. Have they given you any indication?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No.

Q. I’m wondering, for your matches back, the two losses you have taken and the players who have been critical of you, just wondering if that’s something that’s at all in the back of your mind in those matches? Has it been a distraction, or wondering how easy it is to block out who’s on the other side?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the way that I look at those matches is that I — and the match in Stuttgart, I faced an opponent that’s had a really good season, that’s top 20 in the world, been performing really well, and I challenged her to the third set in my first tournament back.
Last week I felt the level of tennis was really well. I came out of the match on the losing end, and that’s not satisfying because you want to be the winner at the end of it all. But as far as playing my second event and the level with which I left that match, I thought I had a lot to build on and a lot to — you know, I could look at it and be upset about losing a tennis match, but I think there were a lot of positives in that match, and that’s the way I see it.

Q. No distractions about the comments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I have talked about this before. I have had to face a lot of, as you say, distractions or opinions or judgment since I was 17 years old, and, you know, I play tennis for a lot of things, and those are just not them anymore.

Q. I know you’ll be predominantly focused this week, but how satisfying is it to know you’ll be in Wimbledon qualifying at the very least?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Will I? I don’t know how the Wimbledon qualifying works or the rankings or — I’m not really aware of that.

Q. So today’s win takes you into the top 200. You will be in Wimbledon qualifying at the very least. Is that nice to know?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Listen, winning matches will get me places, so if that’s where it got me today, then I will take it.

Q. Yeah, but this is like your last week to qualify by rights.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, is it? See, I think maybe you guys assume that I know these things, but I genuinely want to take care of each and every single week, and every single match is a priority for me. That’s how I face it when I wake up in the morning.
When you’ve been out of the game and haven’t played competitively in 15 months, but if you actually look at before the 15 months, I also didn’t play a lot of tennis in the previous six months. I haven’t been playing a lot of tennis in two years.
The fact that I’m back and playing three weeks in a row now and three events in a row for me is a big deal. That’s my focus.

Q. If it is a qualifying wildcard you get tomorrow from the French Open, will that be a disappointment for you? How would you approach that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Nothing is a disappointment after being away from the game for 15 months.

Q. I’d like to know how you feel different now after Stuttgart. Stuttgart was the first big impact. Then you had the second. Now it’s the third. Are you getting more relaxed? Do you feel a lot of pressure? Not so much anymore? How important is for you? All these kind of different feelings that probably through the process you’re getting adjusted.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I feel like every match or every day actually I feel like, you know, I learn a little bit more and things are coming back to me about the way that I feel and the way I get ready for a match, and, you know, my habits on match days.
Those things, when you’re training, it’s like you practice at a certain time that you like and you can schedule it at any time and you can have a day off in any day of the week you want. But now you’re back in the groove of things, and I’m enjoying being back in these cities and waking up in Rome and waking up in Madrid.
I don’t know. I’m a happy person.

Q. Even without a boyfriend? You can just, like, go around.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No comment (smiling).

Q. It would be nice?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Is it? It would be nice? Okay.

Q. For you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: For you (smiling). Are you married? (Laughter.)

Q. Is there anything that you were missing of the life on WTA Tour besides, you know, being on court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think there’s much — I mean, when you say “on court,” for me it’s just the drive and the competition and being in situations that nothing else in life really brings you, the pressure moments and whether you’re ahead or you’re behind, just the will and being in front of people that are there to watch you compete and play. I love that feeling. That’s what I really miss.
But there’s a lot of other things that I didn’t miss and that I got to enjoy for a long period of time, which was really nice, and now I’m, you know, now I’m missing a little bit. But overall, I’d say I’m really glad to have everything back.