Rome 3rd Round Interview

Q. She was playing until like 3:00 a.m. last night, roughly. So did that at all impact your strategy today knowing she might be on an emptier tank than you are?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah.
I guess in those moments, those situations, you kind of have to really focus on yourself. I also played back-to-back matches and have to focus on the recovery aspect of my body and see where I can take it in the next day. And that’s – you know, that’s also just as important.
But you also realize that she has had a long, deep match, went into the early hours of the night.
I think this is one of the challenges of this back-to-back Madrid/Rome tournament. We’ve spoke about it a lot before. There’s so many matches, so many rounds, big draws. And those are just the circumstances that you come to.

Q. With this win, you are also very likely to be seeded at the French Open. How big of that – that’s probably not the end goal – but how big of an achievement is that heading towards Paris?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you for clarifying that that is not the end goal. No, it is not (laughing).
Yeah, look, it’s a step in the right direction. You know, it’s obviously a goal is to be seeded at events. I don’t think that takes away with – doesn’t take away matches. You still have to be ready for tough first rounds and later rounds and whatever comes your way.

Q. You have been through so many matches.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Tell me about it.

Q. You must be pretty happy about your physique. Were you expecting that, or are you surprised in a good way that you’re still in good shape?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I just like the way that I’m competing. I like the way that I feel out there. I think that’s really important, you know. It just comes – It’s an inner feeling, sometimes maybe not something you can put into words.
But I just like the attitude with which I am playing with. And I think as long as I carry that — I might have, you know, physical limitations going deep in the tournament. That’s normal for all players. We have to handle it the best that we can, playing back to back.
You know, if you’re going all the way, you’re playing six days in a row. That’s expected. We know that.
But I like the intensity that I’m bringing. I like the – you know, no matter the small ups and downs that I’ve had, still being able to deliver. And being aggressive.
And, yeah, you know, I like that attitude. I think that’s the most important thing that’s come out of these matches.

Q. You have Jelena Ostapenko next, who has sort of risen up while you were not playing, for the most part. What do you think about that matchup? And how much have you seen of her and her sort of hyper-aggressive style that seems to be working?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’ve seen quite a bit. I mean, obviously she’s been going deep into tournaments and has helped set up some really great matches for herself in the past year specifically, and especially on this surface. You know, there’s something that really comes out from her on this surface, which she’s able to do really well.
But, we’ve never faced against each other before. And, yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

Q. I would have preferred to tell you this in private, but it’s very difficult to reach you. And so, I wrote a letter to Max, your manager, because there is an important multi-national company who wants to get ‘hold of you and him.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh.

Q. And so if he can answer me, if you can tell him. It’s not that I’m looking for –
MARIA SHARAPOVA: He barely answers me, so I’m not – I think your chances are pretty slim (laughing), I would think.
I’ll pass on the message.

Q. Pass him the message. It’s not –
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah.
He’s probably at soccer practice right now with the kids, so …

Q. Probably. I’m not asking for to mention the anniversary, the tenth anniversary. UBITennis.com. It’s something for you, not for me.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, gosh. Okay. Well, I’ll … Yeah, when I get time.

Q. You said that you had been paying attention to Roland Garros last year as you were kind of prepping for the grass season. Did you watch the final at all? And did you have any reaction to seeing what Ostapenko did in Paris?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn’t watch that match live. I was rehabbing in France.
And I think it was just a – it was kind of a tough moment for me, I think understandably. And I was quite badly injured at that point. It was like the third week into recovery.
I stayed in Europe being hopeful I’d recover in time for the grass season, but that didn’t happen. I was really – I was supposed to go back home and I told my team I’d rather stay in Europe and see where my recovery can take me.
So my mind, I don’t think, was really on to watching that tournament or even down the line I didn’t watch too much. It was quite a tough period.

Q. Generally for you, it’s not the most – probably not the most noble matchup where you feel the other person is so aggressive in terms of their shot-making, where every shot seems to be like it could be a winner. How do you approach that? Because you like to be aggressive, you like to go for your shots. But how different is the preparation going into that match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, obviously a little bit different than the previous opponents that I’ve played here.
I guess everybody has a little bit of a different style of play.
But, you know, I guess I can relate a little bit because I like to be aggressive and I like to be the one that is stepping in and moving forward and taking the balls out of the air and finishing it up there.
But, you know, it’s obviously very different when you’re seeing a person across the net and when you’re seeing how the ball comes off their racquet. And that hand-eye coordination is maybe very different to watching her highlights or seeing how she plays.
But, yeah, these are the types of opponents that, of course, I want to compete again.

Q. You talked about the tough time last year. What do you think it will be like when you get back to Roland Garros? Have you thought about what it would be like coming back?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m so excited. I mean, I’ve had really tough matches at that tournament. That’s not a secret.
But I’ve had an incredible amount of memories there, and I – You know, I don’t rate the amount of, like, happiness you get from winning a Slam. But I think that first Roland Garros for me was one of the highlights of my career.
And, you know, last year, it was last year. And I have to put it behind me. And I certainly have.
But I’m going to be so excited.
I mean, I came into the US Open with one arm. I mean, I had no chance over there at all. I mean, I still look back at that match in the first round and I felt like I didn’t really have any right to win it. And something got me through.
And, you know, coming to Roland Garros having a few matches behind my back, that’s helpful.
But, being in the – in that environment was like, just even the practice and getting there on the first day, practicing on center court for the first time, it was just — I love it. I mean, there’s nothing that can replicate it. As long as I can continue to feel motivated by that moment, I’ll keep loving it and playing there.

Q. You hit a smash in the first set. I think I speak for everyone in this room it seems like –
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What did I hit?

Q. You hit the smash in the first set.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, like an overhead, yeah.

Q. Yeah. And it looks like –
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Is that like a British term?

Q. Yeah, it’s a British term.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: “Smash.” I like it.

Q. I can’t believe you’ve never heard of it.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually, no, that’s how you say it in Russian, too.

Q. Okay.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: But I’ve been in America so long, it’s just like, it’s an overhead, (laughing).

Q. But to us, it’s like seeing a unicorn on the tennis court. Does it feel like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Did you just describe me as a “unicorn”?

Q. Described your overhead as a unicorn.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Slightly.
That’s interesting. Got to process that for a second.
I mean, I don’t discriminate shots. I like overheads. I mean, usually if you get an overhead, you set up a good point on an overhead. I mean, I prefer a swing volley, but …
Did I win that point?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, okay. That’s good.

Q. Tomorrow you will be back on center court. Lately, you’ve been on center court then back off and back on, which probably is unusual for you. Any thoughts on this? How do you feel about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, not so much at this event. I mean, as we said, scheduling at this tournament is quite tough because of the amount of matches that you have, of the men’s and women’s being in this field.
I was top 4 seed for many years at this tournament and I played many matches on the other courts. So, I like the courts. Obviously very different atmosphere.
But, you know, I love the courts where you play the finals. And obviously, that’s center court, so …

THE MODERATOR: Any more questions?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was loud!

THE MODERATOR: What?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was loud. Got a chip on your shoulder?