US Open 1st Round Interview

Maria defeated Simona Halep (ROU) 6-4 4-6 6-3

Q. You’ve had time in writing your book to reflect on your career and your life. Could you put tonight’s incredible opening triumph in perspective? In particular can you compare it in some ways to your early Wimbledon win and your French Open win, other big moments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I’ll say this. I think when I found out that I received the wild card, I was obviously extremely excited. I realized how long it had been since I played at the US Open. Just the thought of being back here. When me and my coach first scheduled my practice on center court, actually it got moved because they had some maintenance issues. I was upset about it because I really wanted that first practice on center court. Those little things you kind of take for granted. From the moment that I’ve been here, I’ve really understood what this means to me, to be back and to be playing.
Then when the draw came out, I knew what a difficult matchup this would be, how much excitement was behind this matchup and the hype. That all goes to the fact that we’ve just competed so well against each other in the past. Really produced some good tennis.
Despite not playing a lot of matches coming into this, it almost seemed like I had no right to win this match today. And I somehow did. I think that is what I’m most proud of.

Q. Could you take us through your emotions, any nerves you were feeling during the match? You seemed focused during the match. We saw the tears afterwards.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I was excited. I was very looking forward to it. From the second I found out I was playing Simona, I was actually getting my nails done, I got my phone out and I pulled up YouTube videos of our matches and started studying our matches.
I felt like going into this match, I knew my game plan. It’s one thing knowing what you want to do and it’s another thing executing it. I haven’t been on court much in the last few weeks, not as much as anyone that’s in the draw this week.
The fact that I was able to come out and play that way, beat the No. 2 player in the world in the first round of the US Open, it’s been a while, I think those are definitely the emotions that I was feeling.

Q. I saw close-ups of your face after the match. There were tears, but there was a joyful laugh. You were mixing both together. What were you actually feeling? Were you able to laugh at the whole situation somewhat?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I felt like my team and I have been through a lot. To be in that moment, to be competing there, to see them with me. Tennis is a very individual sport. You feel like it’s just you most of the time out there. Since I’ve come back, I feel like I’m on a team. You know, I’m not just winning for myself, but I’m winning for everyone that has stood behind me. That is a very special feeling to have.

Q. On ESPN you were saying you didn’t actually feel like you were hitting the ball particularly well leading up to tonight’s match in practices. Can you talk through where you thought it wasn’t kind of coming together for you on the practice court, and how do you explain being able to put together a performance like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think it all just comes down to the fact that I have not spent as much time on the court. I actually a couple weeks ago did not even know if I’d be able to compete here.
So getting that MRI in Cincinnati, just looking back at August 12th, it was not a fun day. It was not a fun day getting that MRI, getting the result of it, speaking to a doctor, flying to New York, getting another opinion, with the thought that I might miss the US Open.
Looking back at that and seeing where I am today, it’s just, I don’t know, pretty amazing that I was able to produce that tennis because it wasn’t there in the days leading up to this tournament.

Q. Considering how well you played and the caliber of your opponent, does this give you maybe a little bit different idea of how far you can go now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, I’ll enjoy this for a little bit of time, then I have to move on. But I definitely have to value the feeling that I have now. I think that’s important. I can’t take that for granted. I can’t take the level for granted. I can’t take my emotions for granted.
This is a big win for me, and I will enjoy it, then move on to the next one.

Q. I don’t know if you at all care what the crowd reaction is. It was incredibly positive throughout. After what you’ve been through, what does that mean to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: So much. So special. I felt the support in the States, I mean, even just the first match in Stanford. It’s a smaller event, a smaller venue, it’s a little bit more intimate. This is obviously a different scale, completely different caliber to anywhere you play in the world. It’s electric.
As much as I want to be in the zone, focus in on what I have to do, execution and all those things, I definitely felt the energy. I felt the crowd. I felt it for both of us, you know. That’s what makes this great. I love that feeling, that there’s fans cheering for both players, that it’s a great match and a great level. They’re getting their evening’s worth.

Q. You just spoke about the wild card the US Open gave you. Roland Garros didn’t give it to you. Do you think it was a fair decision?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s the past. We’re past that now.

Q. You have this incredible 18-0 record on Ashe at night. On court I think you said, Prime time, baby. What makes Maria Sharapova such a great big-stage player?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. My philosophy is you don’t train on all of those back courts, you don’t train in the early mornings, in tough conditions, just by yourself, not to want to play in the biggest matches that are in front of you.
I love the opportunities. I love the challenge. That’s what I play for. If that’s not it, where are you going to find the drive? Where are you going to find the inspiration? These are the moments that inspire me.

Q. Is there anything about her and the way that she plays that feeds into your game? You’ve won seven times in seven matches. Many other players produce a lot of errors when they play against her. For you, it seems to have worked out so far.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wouldn’t say it feeds. We’ve had really tough matches. They haven’t necessarily been blowouts. But I do think that she is the type of opponent that would have beaten me many times when I was younger. This was the type of player that I had a lot of trouble with, someone that could be out there for three hours at a time and just grind, come up with the great shots.
You saw the level she was able to produce in the end with the down-the-line running winners. I mean, she’s No. 2 in the world, close to No. 1. That speaks for itself.
But she’s been on the losing end of the matches. In terms of being in the moment, competing in the way that we do, we love that feeling.

Q. You mentioned about prime time. You wore a great dress for prime time.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you.

Q. Were you involved in the design of the beautiful dress you wore tonight?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I was. I actually worked with Riccardo Tisci alongside Nike. I got to personally meet Riccardo. It was an incredible experience because just me and him sitting at my dining room table at my house just talking inspiration, lace. He was still working at Givenchy at the time. I’m very grateful for all the collaborations I’ve been a part of with Nike. This one I think is really special.