Maria def. Timea Babos (HUN) 6-7 6-4 6-1
Q. Are you at a point where you’re able to play on instinct, where you think you’re back, your rhythm is where it might have been before the break?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I still think I need a little bit more time, a little bit more matches. I mean, I’m definitely a player that likes and prefers to play with instinct. I like the moments where you have to figure it out on yourself. Obviously you go into a match with a little bit of a plan on how you’re going to play and execute. But there are times in a match where you just have to, as you say, play with instinct.
So that’s definitely a preference of mine. It will take a little bit of time. But today was maybe not a match where I showcased that.
Q. Compared to the emotion of Monday night, are you now getting into the flow where it’s a little bit more business as usual?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I definitely wanted to enjoy the quality of tennis that I played with the other night, but I also wanted to put my mind onto this one. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, no matter who I was going to play today. It’s always difficult to come after a match like that. My goal was just to get it done.
Q. After those two tough matches in three sets, do you feel reassured physically, Okay, I can do this?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I actually felt — I think that’s something that gave me confidence in the second, was towards the end of the second set, I felt like I was the fresher player. Going into a third set, that’s a good position or a good feeling to have.
Q. Why was yesterday so emotional for you? What did you do during the day?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just spent the day in recovery. It was nice weather for me. I didn’t have to play (smiling). I know it wasn’t convenient for everyone.
But in terms of emotion, I think both of us were looking forward to that match once the draw came out. It’s a match, as we said, that you usually see towards the later stages of a tournament, a Grand Slam. I think both of us played really great quality tennis.
Coming down from that, you know, ending up on the winning side, knowing there are many matches ahead of you, you just have to settle down.
Q. Players usually look day by day at their matches. Do you give a look to the draw now or you don’t? Everyone now says you have a pretty draw. What do you think about that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t shy away from looking at the draws before the tournament begins. I mean, I’ve always considered the draws to be fairly similar, no matter where you end up. If you’re not ready to beat your opponent in the first round or the second round, then I’m not sure if you’re going to be ready towards the end of the tournament. That’s how I see things.
I don’t mind looking at the matchups, who is going to be playing the beginning of the event. That’s all right.
Q. Next up you have a young American, Sofia Kenin. Do you know much about her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Don’t know much. As I was just doing my cool-down on the bike, I saw my coach and my hitting partner. They were looking at the match on the screen while talking to me a little bit about my match.
I’m sure I’ll have a chat with my team about her. But I personally don’t.
Q. Do you feel healthy enough 100%?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel good, yeah. I mean, look, two tough, physical matches. But I’m coming through. Towards the end of today’s match, I felt really good.
Q. Do you start to feel like a favorite again, like this is the Maria Sharapova who used to have a very high seed in all these tournaments, or are you still not there in terms of confidence level?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, I certainly have expectations just because I know I’ve been in these stages before and I’ve been able to execute. There’s a certain level of I know I can do this, I’ve done it before. I want to have that feeling again.
But there’s also the realistic understanding of, Okay, you haven’t been in this situation for a while. It’s going to take a little time.
Of course, managing expectations is part of it, learning as you play the matches, which is something I haven’t done for a long time.
Q. Are you at peace with whatever opinions your fellow tour mates, the general public may feel about your situation, whether you should be here or not, the entire scenario? Is that something you’re just all right with?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. I think with the way that I played Monday night, I don’t think there are any more questions.
Q. Do you feel like you have the public on your side now? I’m not even sure if you care.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ve had an amazing reaction from fans since I’ve been back, and that’s been very special. I mean, I felt it while I was away. I felt it in a real presence since I’ve been back. It’s a very special feeling.
Q. Is there an element of you’re trying to feel like you have to win some people over after the drug suspension that maybe have a bad taste in their mouth or something you don’t really think about those people that might have a negative feeling?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think as an athlete, when you walk out onto the court, you’re so focused and determined to win a tennis match that all your focus is going on that one job.
Q. Roger Federer was out of the game for six months, he was injured, then you know how he came back. You’ve been 15 months, but you weren’t injured. He’s 36 now. You’re 30. Are there some sort of similarities and that gives you some confidence, or Federer is unique and Sharapova is not?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, what he’s done is incredible. I think not just myself, but a lot of people can take a lot of inspiration and motivation from what he’s done. That’s very special to see, just the passion with which he still plays and the level and the quality and the consistency. Those are all things at his age, after everything he’s accomplished, personally that’s what I always see in champions, in Roger and Rafa, Serena and Venus, that they’re still able to produce, not just produce that type of tennis but want to be there and want to compete and want to win. They’ve done it, they’ve been around the world, done it over and over again. To have that passion I think is what makes it so special.
Q. How would you assess your serve right now? Seemed pretty solid.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I thought the beginning of the first set was a little rusty. Definitely gave her too many looks on second serves. But I finished off really well on the serve. I think that was really important.
Q. Your second serve, too?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I thought it was all right. I think it’s something that I can improve.
Q. What is the inspiration on the sleeve? Is it fashion or function?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Definitely not fashion. I’m not into the sleeves at all (laughter). It’s just to keep my arms warm. But, yeah, not crazy about that look. Not at all. Not voluntarily doing it.
Q. A lot has been made about your fitness. What about mentally? Still that’s kind of a big part of your game. Did you train while you were away?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Tough to train that. That’s something that you have to — once you’re in it, once you’re in the ring, you have to see how you feel, see how you execute. I mean, it certainly comes back. I want to be in those situations. I want to see how I feel and how I come out of it.
But it’s not something you can practice, that’s for sure.
Q. You talked a little bit about the fan reaction being positive. What about fellow players? Has anything changed about how people you knew, and you still know, how they treat you, your competitors?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Treat me where?
Q. Off the courts or even on the court when you’re practicing, when you’re interacting with other players.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I definitely feel the respect from the athletes. Certainly when I play against them, in terms of the level they play with. That’s important to me. I think from a respect level, when you’re able to respect your rivals and compatriots, that’s really important, and I feel that.
Q. How many times have you been drug tested this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the ITF can give you a number.
Q. They don’t have numbers.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: At the end of the year, they usually produce those numbers.
Q. Right now, you can’t tell us how many times you think you’ve been tested? More than three or five?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: At the end of the year, you’ll be able to find out.