US Open 1st Round Interview

Q. You were 4-2 down in the first set and then came back.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, you know, I thought there was a few times where I could have broken her in the beginning of the match. But I think she started off playing well and solid. Despite not taking those opportunities in a couple of her service games, I felt pretty good, especially towards the end of the match.

Q. You have a great record in night matches on Ashe. Is there a reason for it? Is it just a coincidence?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m not really sure because this is usually the time where I’m sleeping already, so I don’t know. You’d actually think it was the opposite. I think in the beginning of my career, it was always a bit more challenging because I didn’t really know how to adjust to what I should do during the day, how do I prepare for that. But I’ve certainly learned a lot, just know what to expect. I know the waiting game a little bit better than I did when I was a junior or a young teenager. But now I really enjoy it. I think you feel the goosebumps when you go out on a night match on Arthur Ashe.

Q. Does it still feel big to you every time you walk out there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It does. It’s just full of energy. Yeah, they’re loud and passionate. You just feel the sports lovers are there.

Q. You go back such a long way with her. I know you can’t afford to be sentimental out there, but…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We spent a lot of time in the juniors away from the courts practicing a lot together, competing against each other. We certainly have a big history together. But when you go out on the court, it’s always that fine line between, of course you want to be the winner, you have to face that person as a competitor, not someone that you’ve known for years and developed a friendship with. It’s always a tricky balance, I guess.

Q. With the slow start, was there a problem with focus early on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I actually felt like I set up some good opportunities for myself and just didn’t take advantage on her serve and ended up making a few errors on mine, and that cost me the break. But I was able to turn that around pretty quickly.

Q. Is your fitness preparation different before the US Open than the Australian Open or French Open? Do you do different things?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Because of the courts or…

Q. Because of the courts, the weather.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think, you know, every Grand Slam is different because you always get a little bit of a different court time, in terms of the arena, in different arenas you have space where you can do a little bit more fitness, or the gym is a little bit bigger or smaller, so you always have to adjust. I wouldn’t say it’s dramatically different.

Q. You’ve been good on clay the past few years. What do you find the difference for you is between clay and hard?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think maintaining the good balance between being aggressive but not overdoing it. I always play my best when I’m moving, feel like I’m hitting my shot, moving forward, taking the next one out of the air or hitting an approach shot. Sometimes when you try to create those opportunities you go for a little bit more than you want to. So it’s about finding that good range.

Q. If you were in charge of the sport and could change any rule on the court, any rule about play, do you have any pet peeves about rules or practices that you’d like to change if you had the opportunity?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’d probably start charging for medical timeouts (smiling). I think we’d all see who really uses them and who doesn’t. Yeah, I don’t know what we put on it, maybe like 2500 or something. Yeah, I think we should do that. That would be fun.

Q. When you start a match at 8:00, how far in advance do you practice? Do you spend the day onsite?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t, yeah. I usually just get here to warm up before the match.

Q. Given your history with injury, when somebody takes a medical timeout, is it hard for you to handle that mentally? Do you get concerned?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I think you have a little bit of a stop. It depends. Sometimes they’re shorter than others. Sometimes they don’t go through the whole medical timeout. Sometimes the evaluation itself is longer than the three-minute timeout. Sometimes it’s an off-court medical, which is even longer. I think from my end it’s just a matter of keeping that focus, you know, not sitting down for that whole time, moving a little bit, swinging, maybe hitting a few serves if it’s a longer one.

Q. For the medical timeouts, is it just cooling off that bothers you, or is it the distraction of wondering what the other player’s motive is?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, it’s actually never bothered me because I’ve always recovered from it very positively. I don’t remember many times where it’s affected me too much. I’ve never really felt like a victim of it.

Q. You’re pretty good at tunnel vision during matches, keeping focused. Do you notice things like Alec Baldwin sitting in the front row?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I had no idea.

Q. He caught a ball.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Congratulations (laughter).