US Open 3rd Round Interview

Maria def. Sofia Kenin (USA) 7-5 6-2

Q. Feel like you’ve settled into at all of a groove? This tournament getting more comfortable?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wouldn’t say that after today’s first set. But I definitely settled in after the second. Just too many errors in the beginning of that match.
Yeah, just kind of obviously coming into this match playing two three-setters, just happy I got it done in two. Give my body a little bit of a break, I guess.
Took a day off yesterday just as a prevention, for the form. Just felt like I wasn’t hitting the ball that well in the beginning, but got better as the match went on.

Q. Given her age and inexperience, were you surprised how unfazed she seemed by the whole occasion, playing you, Arthur Ashe?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s a great age to be at. You’re in that position where you’re fearless enough to not have anything – not that much experience where everything is new, every ball is new, every opportunity is new. It’s special. It’s something that I think you should cherish for as long as you can.

Q. Your opponent is someone who said that she idolized you when she was growing up. Were you aware of that? What did you think of her game?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I did hear that. She had really nice words for me in the locker room, as well, which was really nice. I mean, I wasn’t surprised with the way she came out and competed. She was down I believe a few match points in the previous match. She’s a grinder. She’ll get many balls back. Despite not having the experience, she’s a tough player. She’s played a lot of matches this year. She’s moving up the rankings. So I knew I had to be ready. I mean, you’re in the third round of a Grand Slam. I haven’t been there in a while. No matter who you face, you know they’ve already won a couple of matches.

Q. Caroline Wozniacki said she was rather unhappy you were scheduled on main courts while she was sent to Court 5, saying you’re returning from a doping ban, questionable choice by the organizers. What is your take on that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: With regards to scheduling, as you know, I don’t make the schedule. I’m a pretty big competitor. If you put me out in the parking lot of Queens in New York City, I’m happy to play there. That’s not what matters to me. All that matters to me is I’m in the fourth round. Yeah, I’m not sure where she is.

Q. With that win, you are probably back in the top 100. You’re almost certainly going to be in the main draw of Australia, which means probably the wild card question is more or less over. Is that a relief?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, the goal is to keep winning matches, obviously to keep improving. I mean, even when I was young, ranking is just not something that I’ve focused on or paid attention to. Even when I hadn’t been No. 1 in the world, it just wasn’t really that big a goal of mine.
The more matches you win, the more chances you have of getting a better ranking. That’s my goal.

Q. Talk a little bit about the rally, probably one of the best of the tournament. What was going through your mind?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I thought that rally ended, like, two, three balls before it actually did. I think I hit a shot, then I almost felt like I turned around, and next thing I knew she got it back. Feel like she did that a couple of times.
She has some wheels on her. Yeah, she made me hit another ball.

Q. How does one improve one’s ability to improvise on the court over the course of your career? Is it just a matter of experience of seeing different balls more often so you can kind of come up with something? Is it a better touch?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, just in a match or in a certain point?

Q. Like that rally with the standing ovation. Your ability to improvise from awkward positions has improved.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you (laughter).
Oh, I mean, there’s definitely things that I feel like I’ve worked on and added to my game in terms of moving forward. I’ve added the dropshot, as well, since I started working with Sven. On clay use it a little bit more.
Yeah, those are definitely elements of your game. I mean, it’s not like I practice being in a strange situation and seeing what I can come up with. But obviously in training routines, you know, I just try to have the mentality that I don’t want to let a ball get by me. So no matter if it’s a little bit out, if it’s a big out, you just get there and you make it back no matter how you do it.

Q. Kenin followed like you, moving from Russia to Florida.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She speaks quite well. Russian, not English (laughter).

Q. Do you recommend that to fathers in Russia with six-year-old daughters right now, try it, it works? Or would you caution people against it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think when I started playing tennis, tennis wasn’t a very big sport in Russia. You just didn’t have those opportunities. That’s changed a lot in recent years. You have so many more facilities and coaches. It’s a little bit easier – not a little bit, a lot.
Before it was about the winter sports, the Olympic sports, figure skating and gymnastics and hockey. Now tennis is as widely popular or even more so than those other sports. That makes it tremendously easier.
Who knows if I would have been born in the last couple of years, if we would have done the same thing.

Q. Sevastova next. I don’t know if you played her.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I might be wrong. I don’t think I played her before. She’s had a great year. A big game. I watched a little bit of the beginning of her match today, then turned it off to focus on mine. Serves well. Again, gets a lot of balls back. Uses the slice quite well.
Yeah, look, I’ll get back on the practice court tomorrow and get ready for that one.

Q. You said you exchanged words in the locker room. English or Russian?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Russian.

Q. She’s still got it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she speaks very well. I mean, not that I’m an expert (laughter). But, yeah, she spoke well.