US Open 3rd Round Interview

Maria def. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) (10) 6-3 6-2

Q. Can you talk through the preparation for that match, what your mindset was going out there, how you feel you executed?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I knew that I needed to have a better performance than my previous round. I did just enough to win that previous match. Finished off strong, as I had mentioned.
I think despite going into a really long first game, I thought if this is the length of time she’ll have to work for one game and win it, I mean, I just went to my service game with that perspective. I felt pretty confident throughout.
I hit quite well, served much better. I think putting all those things together gave me a good enough scoreline.

Q. What do you make of your game off the ground? What were you particularly happy with?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think I was solid. As I said yesterday, we are both very aggressive players. Thought I just did enough to get another ball back, moved really well. In the points that I lost, maybe I just didn’t take enough steps. Didn’t feel that she was hurting me as much. Felt like I had a little bit more time today. Just was a little bit more alert on my feet. So I think that helped me.

Q. You have a perfect record, 22-0 for night matches here. Talk a little bit about that.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t remember how old I was when I played my first night match, but I’m sure I was young enough to still be intimidated by the city and the lights and the atmosphere, the noise, as anyone that’s quite young would be.
But I really turned that around. I think I thrive on that. I love the atmosphere. I love that they know how to cheer hard. Some of the loudest crowds I think was when I played Clijsters. I lost that match, but I remember just coming back and feeling the support from the crowd. I didn’t play my best tennis, but that was, like, one of the matches in my career where I felt how the fans really lifted my level up.
Yeah, I thrive on playing under the lights for some reason. I love that. I love that challenge.

Q. How would you describe the internal and external pressures of playing in the majors, and the key for you to thriving in those situations?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know how everyone else goes about it, but I really think it’s important to treat every event that you play as if it’s an important event. I know, of course, the Grand Slams, you can never replicate playing in New York City at 7 or 9 p.m., to maybe in the middle of nowhere somewhere at a smaller event with a smaller crowd.
But in terms of preparation and the mindset, how you go about it, the way you compete, showing up for that match, it’s always really helped me translate into matches like this, where, of course, you can differentiate the feeling, the preparation. But if you train yourself just enough with the same mindset and attitude, I think it’s helped me.

Q. On the court, in the pressure situations, at the biggest events, what do you think the key is? What do you say to yourself to get the most out of yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sometimes you don’t know when those moments come. Sometimes they’re not as obvious to someone sitting in the stands as it’s obvious to you. It can be in the beginning of a match, it can be in the middle of it. It might not seem like an important point to someone sitting and watching.
I’ve played so many matches in my career where I know, for some reason, whether I feel the energy or the momentum swing in the last few points, maybe it’s at 3-All, maybe I’m up a break, it’s 30-All, those types of points where I really feel like those are important. They might not be the ones that everyone else feels are important.
You never know when they’re going to come. I mean, I feel like I’ve had enough experience to know how to handle them. Sometimes you don’t handle them as well as you like.

Q. When you were joking with the chair umpire afterwards, the call she missed or something like that, are you just feeling generally looser or happier in matches than before?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Hmm. I mean, that just seemed like a call that was very obvious. She had a lot of time to overrule it, but didn’t.
It’s the same faces, places for many years. It’s like, Hmm, I know we have the challenge system and all, but that one was close to a foot long. It’s a fairly big point, as well.

Q. Today Garcia lost to Suarez Navarro. At this moment six of the top 10 have lost. In Wimbledon, 10 in the first week. Is it a trend? Are you surprised?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know if I can have, like, the right answer for you. I don’t really know how to explain it. Like, I don’t really know if that’s my job, as well. I’m fortunate to be in the draw and playing. Whoever I have to play, I want to beat.
There’s definitely been surprises in the draw. But I don’t know if it’s any different than last year or the year before. I don’t know. I don’t really compare. I actually haven’t watched any TV or any tennis on TV. I haven’t turned my TV on in the room.
I know the scores, I know what’s going on, but I’m not, like, deeply enthusiastic about finding out why those results happened.

Q. When you get nervous, what do you do to get yourself to feel better?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ve had a very similar rhythm in the way that I take my time. I kind of reflect on what’s been working or what’s not been working. I look at my strings. Been doing that for year. That’s been a nice routine for me.
If there are moments that I’m anxious, want to finish off fast, making too many errors, I always feel like I have that moment to myself, even though it’s the same moment all the time. It just gives me a breath. Yeah, sometimes helps me.

Q. It seems like this tournament, you’re a little bit under the radar to what we’re used to with you. Do you like that scenario? Are you feeling that a little bit? Doesn’t really matter to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think I really sense that because I still, in terms of what I do in order to prepare, how I go about the tournament, doesn’t change. I think there are a lot of things outside of the court, whether it’s the media, whether it’s people, whether it’s opinions or fans, favorites, those have never really been in my control. They don’t intend to be, ever.
As long as I’m showing up and I’m putting myself out there and training, putting in the effort, I think that’s all that really matters from my end.
As far as everything else, you all know there’s very little that we can control.