Q. It looked like you had done everything, the winners, dictated the game, and still you have lost. How frustrating is it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it’s frustrating, but it’s the game of tennis. A lot of swings in the match today. You know, certainly had the lead and the advantage. She picked up her game. You know, in the third I think a lot of it had to do with the returns. I didn’t do much on her service games. You know, she was winning them pretty easy. You know, on mine they were quite long and just making too many errors not putting any pressure on her. So that’s, I think, the most frustrating part.
Q. You want to talk about the last game? You were serving from behind the whole third set. That’s tough anyway just trying to hold. What are you feeling going out there at 4‑5?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it’s a tough position, but I got myself back from Love‑30 and from match point. Like I said, she returned much better in those situations than I did. I think I gave her too many free points, and that’s this type of match and these circumstances that, you know, you’re not putting that much pressure on your opponent it’s a difficult situation to go into, definitely.
Q. Starting out up 3‑Love, you were confident at that point. What happened at that moment after you were down 3‑1 and then you were up 4‑1?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was up a set and a break. I had game points to go up 2‑0. There’s no doubt she raised her level and she started playing better and moving better. A few little things here or there certainly could have changed things around.
Q. What’s the toughest thing in your game, in her game, when you’re facing her? What’s the toughest thing for you when you’re playing Azarenka?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, when you’re in that battle you’re not thinking about your opponent. Of course you have a strategy. You’re thinking of a few things that will help you. But a lot of it is instinct and believing your game will eventually win you the match. But like I said, I think I didn’t make her play in certain situations of that third. We can discuss the first and the second, but ultimately when it gets to that third set, I just don’t think I did enough on those games to put any thought in her mind.
Q. It’s not like she’s bombing serves like Serena, and I know she’s consistent with her first serve, but were you just not getting a good hit on the ball or tougher to read?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, especially in the third I wasn’t doing anything with it. I think I was making one or two errors and not even making her play, which is, you know, not good. I thought I was doing a much better job of that in the first and the second, and I think that put a lot of pressure on her service games. But you know, not in the third.
Q. Was there any moment you thought about your third set record this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was 4‑All, and anything can happen that point; this one didn’t go my way.
Q. How different a player is she on hard court versus on other surfaces?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think I’ve only played against her on hard and clay. She’s certainly improved her movement on the hard courts. You know, she’s in good shape right now. Yeah, I don’t think we ‑‑ I mean, we were out there for over two hours. I think both of us could still run and play for a while. I mean, I still felt I didn’t feel too tired in the end and she certainly had a lot of energy. But as far as the differences, I only played her one match on clay.
Q. You have been off court for just a little bit, but the slam season is now over for you. You had some fabulous results. Could you just talk about your year, particularly in the slams, and, well, overall, what it’s meant for you, including flag bearer?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ll take them. I’ll take the results I had this year. (Smiling.) I look back in the beginning of the season and not really ‑‑ I remember going to Australia early and not really sure I was going to play that warmup tournament. My ankle was still not feeling great. So if anyone had told me when I had that uncertainty going into the Australian Open that I would have this type of season ‑‑ and it’s still not over; we still have a few more events to play ‑‑ I would have been pretty happy. I think you mentioned this is the last one. That’s really where I would have loved to get even further, but it’s certainly a step better than the last few years I have been here.
Q. If you had to grade yourself on this, the way you have played at this tournament given what you know you can do and how you felt match after match, where would you put yourself?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In terms of what? Numbers?
Q. Did you go out there feeling like top of your game, everything was working well, or was it a struggle for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I mean, I can look at it so many different ways. You know, like I said, there were a lot of swings in the match. I was up, and, like, I mean, who knows, if it’s 2‑0 and she starts thinking. But, you know, when I had my opportunities I don’t think I took them. I think when you’re in the situation of a third set you have to put pressure on your opponent. I just don’t think I did that at all.
Q. Given that Serena, as you can tell, is dominating right now against Errani ‑‑ it’s 5‑1 ‑‑ assuming she does play Vika in the final, is there anything anybody really can do against Serena when she’s playing the dominating tennis she’s playing right now? What does Vika have to do?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not her coach. (Smiling.) It’s not in my job description. There’s a reason why everyone is in the draw. There is a reason why everyone puts the net up in the morning for us to play matches. No matter who is going in there as the favorite, no matter how confident they are, everyone has a chance. She’s No. 1 in the world, and there is no reason why she shouldn’t have a chance.
Q. You seemed to obviously want this win, no question. You were demonstrative about it. Is there anything about this title that really made it more important to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it’s New York; it’s a Grand Slam; it’s the US Open. I mean, of course it’s meaningful. You want to perform well. You’re in a battle out there. This is what you practice for, is to get in those situation and try to get out of them; today I just didn’t.
Q. Are you going to stick around for fashion week or do you head home or what do you do?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. I have been in the city for three weeks. It’s been a while. But I’m looking forward to checking out the ice cream truck that’s around the corner from my hotel. It’s been haunting me. (Laughter.) I’m telling the driver, like, Get out of here. I can’t look at you anymore. So I’ll have time for that. But other than that, I think I miss home and I just want to be in a home atmosphere for a little bit.
Q. What flavor?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.
Q. So do you say to yourself, I’m happy I played Victoria much closer than I did at Australia and Indian Wells and I came close to beating her, or do you say, big missed opportunity; I should have won that match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I can look at it so many different ways. Yeah, it’s always a little bit tougher when you feel like you have those chances. The scoreline was a lot tougher this time, obviously, but the result wasn’t what I wanted, so… In both of them.
Q. With everything you have gone through, how gratifying is it for you to be now consistently in the hunt for big titles and to feel you’re in that battle and in that game all the way to the end?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, it’s incredible. I mean, I try to get a sense of that perspective as much as possible because you can lose it so fast. The grinding, the days, and the work that you put in and then the tournaments, everything kind of just happens. It’s a groove. It’s easy to forget where you came from and what you had to go through to get to that point. But when I do think about it, I’m so lucky that I get to play this sport, that I love playing it still, and that I feel like I have a lot in me. Yeah, I’m No. 3 in the world right now and was back at No. 1 winning Grand Slams again, so it’s certainty a great feeling.
Q. Jimmy Connors was saying last week that no matter what you do after you’re done playing, nothing is going to be like being out there in front of 25,000 people showcasing your talent.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I agree. There is nothing in life that gives you that ‑‑ it’s like that moment that you experience. You know, the losing is always not fun, but the victories and everything just happens in moments; whereas in other careers I think it’s such a different process. I always, you know, try to compare it to maybe other careers where, you know, you can be such a great actress or a model, but if nobody puts you on a cover of a magazine, you can be so good, extremely talented, but your career is always in the hands of other people. It’s just so difficult to think about. Or sometimes you can be kind of so‑so, and then you’re made into a star. So it’s such a unique situation. I was in a position where I was out of the sport and I got to do many things, but there’s nothing like being in that moment. I mean, as tough as these days are, it’s always so gratifying when you’re sitting in a press conference at the end of winning a Grand Slam, you know, and talking about how you got to that point. You can talk all day. It’s such a great feeling.
Q. Is it also controlling your own destiny, where you say instead of somebody else choosing you for that magazine cover, you’re making it happen on the tennis court?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A little bit, definitely. You’re controlling a lot more of your life than maybe ‑‑ and not that ‑‑ I’m not trying to put down anybody else. It’s just how it works in those situations. You know, I know many people in different industries, but I always relate so much to athletes in terms of just the feelings that they experience. You know, it’s almost like when someone does a movie for so many months, and then they go to the Oscars. And in that moment that their movie is good is that they win the Oscar. It’s such a different thinking process for me. I’m so happy I’m not in any other career. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
Q. Our sport is built around these great slams with their center courts. You talked about the thrill of being out there. Of the four center courts in the slams, what has the most meaning? What gives you the biggest charge? What do you love the most?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, each one is so different. I mean, the energy that you experience here in New York is so unique. I mean, when you’re in the changeover and the music is just blasting, you don’t even ‑‑ even in Australia it’s not like that. And in Wimbledon, there is so much tradition. I love the fact that you walk out on the court and there’s no introductions. It’s a matter of two athletes going out there, and it’s all about them and their tennis. This is, of course, much more of a show and production. It’s great to have all of these different atmospheres, I guess.
Q. Tennis thrives on rivalries. How would you describe the state of your rivalry with Vika and where it might go?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: We both have many years ahead of us. I’m sure we will be facing against each other many more times in Grand Slams and other tournaments. You know, she has the better record right now against me. Hopefully when I’m done I can change that around.
Q. How do you get over this kind of loss? Do you have a special routine?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I think just putting things in perspective. Certainly in the last few years, especially after my injury, I have been a lot better about accepting wins and accepting losses. I try to think that if you’re level‑headed about difficult defeats and then if you get something in your career that’s incredible, but if you take it as ‑‑ in a calm way, then the defeats don’t seem as difficult. So I try to ‑‑ I mean, after I won the French Open of course I was so happy, but I had this really calm feeling that, you know, like a settlement in my career. Like it wasn’t like I wanted to go out and party and tell the whole world that I had won. It was just this feeling within in me that I had achieved something that I had worked for. And losses, of course, they’re difficult and the world knows you lose. That’s sport. At the end of the day, that’s what makes me better. It motivates me to go back on the court and to practice.