WTA Finals Pre-Tournament Interview

Q. Physically I’m assuming you’re feeling almost 100% now. You’ve got to be happy back on court. Tough since Wimbledon, I would imagine.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Yeah, it was definitely quite disappointing to give myself a bit of false hope in Wuhan because I felt like I was feeling quite healthy coming into the tournament. Not many matches obviously. But I felt like I had great practice for a few weeks.
Came into my first round and, yeah, I guess you just never know when things come up in your body. It’s tough to realize it when you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
So, yeah, I went to Europe. I got treatment there. I had a case of inflammation. Yeah, then I got back to work, started feeling better. I’m feeling good.
I mean, it’s the best I can do going into this event, is taking care of that injury and working through it and practicing as much as I’ve been able to, so…

Q. How hard is it having been off the court basically since Wimbledon to come into such an important tournament without match play?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right, it is. It’s frustrating because you train, you want to see some sort of reward. By ‘reward’ I don’t mean wins, just going out there and seeing how you translate your work onto the field. So when you’re not able to do that, that’s frustrating.
I’ve done quite a few start and stops in the last four months. That’s kind of been the toughest part. But ultimately, look, I know that a lot of the girls have been fighting for the last few positions in the last few weeks. I felt I’ve had the luxury by being somewhat consistent in the first half of the year to give myself the opportunity just to heal, knowing I was already in, doing everything I could not having to rush around, seeing if I could play through a tough injury or not. So, yeah, that’s been helpful, but obviously frustrating not competing.

Q. Can you talk about your group a little bit. We look to Simona, but you’ve beaten her all five times you played.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think because I haven’t played everyone I would face no matter who was in my group would be a challenge for me. Look, it’s a big step for me to be here and feel that I am healthy. It will be a bigger step that I’ll be able to compete in those three matches and finish them off healthy. That’s my goal. Everything else I just have to take the positives out of because I feel I’ve committed myself to being here and done everything possible.
If I can stay healthy and work my way through the matches no matter who I’m playing, in this particular situation I have to worry about myself a little bit more than who I’m playing against.

Q. The fact that this is round‑robin gives you the opportunity to play yourself in as opposed to thinking I lose first match and I’m home.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Yes, but in many ways you know you do have much tougher competition than you would at a normal first round maybe. In many ways, yes, you do have an opportunity if it doesn’t work out so much for you in the first round or two, but it’s still quite important to get off to a good start.

Q. Can you talk a bit about the difference in mentality coming into the end of the season as opposed to the start of the season when you’re hopefully not injured, there’s freshness to you? How different is the mentality? A bit more of a grind now.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Compared to other years it feels a little bit different just because I haven’t been competing since Wimbledon. I actually don’t feel like it’s the last tournament for me because I missed many tournaments. That’s one of the reasons I’m participating in Fed Cup final this year.
So usually I’m already thinking of the Monday where I’ll be traveling on holiday, and I’m already ready to start the off‑season. It’s just a different way of thinking for me now than it’s been in the last few years where I’ve had the full season.

Q. What motivates you to train and play at this age? How do you juggle your business commitments and your on‑court play? What are your thoughts about more rest for players and less tournaments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, look, I really love playing tennis. There’s nothing else that really gives me that feeling and that competitiveness and the thrill, the emotion that I get on the court. As long as I will experience that, I will always believe that I have the motivation to become better. I think personally that’s inspiring for me because I’m still quite young, even though in this sport there’s a much younger generation coming up. I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle.
I feel if my body allows me to that I’ll still be playing for many years. As long as I have that passion and drive, nothing is as important as waking up and becoming a better player.
As far as the season, I think, of course, we have certain commitment tournaments that we have to participate in. But I’ve kept my schedule pretty minimal in my career from the very beginning of my career. When you’re young, you don’t always make the scheduling decisions. But my team and father really made a conscious effort to understand that, you know, you can’t look at rankings, you can’t look at points. You have to look at the bigger picture. That’s how I kept my career. I feel that I’ve done really well.
So even though it is a long season, I’ve kept it pretty minimal in terms of the amount of tournaments I play.

Q. What about more rest and less tournaments?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: If I look at my schedule, I feel that I do have the amount of rest. I think for me it’s more important to have good rest and more quality time on the court than traveling around the world and playing seven weeks in a row. I don’t know if my body’s capable of doing that.

Q. You talked about how it was so important to preserve your body and not chase ranking points. Many other players over the years have talked about feeling they have the need to commit to tournaments, chasing points, feel the pressure to play those events. Why is that a pressure for some of them but for you you’ve said that your body and longevity is more important?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it’s just a different mentality, more of a self‑belief. I think maybe some players need more tournaments to be ready for a tournament, whereas I feel if I commit myself and I’m healthy, I commit myself to the right amount of weeks of training, yes, I might have to go through rust, get over some moments where I make a few errors. I just have to let that go. But I believe I will get through that and I will have chances to go far in the tournament.
I don’t know. It’s a different way of thinking. It’s not something that I’ve ever chased. I think if I did, I would show a different example of that.
I mean, maybe you can ask the other girls, but I don’t really know.

Q. You were saying you could continue to play another four years, five years?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I never said four or five.

Q. You said ‘a number of’.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I said ‘a few.’

Q. A couple?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A couple is two. A few is more than two. I don’t know. Somewhere there.

Q. Maybe two years, three years, four years, depending on how your body feels? Is that what it mostly is?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. I think if I set a certain time for myself, I don’t know how I would handle that. I don’t really want to. There’s nothing in my life, it’s not as if I’m married and want to have children tomorrow. Of course, I’m a woman and at a certain point in my life, that’s very important to me as well. I would love to have that.
But right now, you know, I’m happy to be in the stage of my career where I am. I believe that I still have a lot in me to produce. That’s why I’m doing it. If I didn’t, I’d have other things to do.

Q. Could I ask what is your mindset coming into this tournament knowing that Serena is not here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Personally, especially in this case, in this tournament, considering I haven’t played much, it doesn’t change much for me. I think, as I said before, it’s not so much who I’m playing against or what my record is than it is about me being out there and staying healthy and working my way through the matches.

Q. Do you sense a changing of the guard at all?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: A change of what?

Q. Of the guard. Major names coming in.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel there’s definitely been a big mix of a few players that have done extremely well at certain times of the year and not so in other parts of the year. Besides Serena, the consistency has been lacking, that’s for sure.
Yeah, of course, there are definitely names that have been around, a younger generation that we always believed would come through, is proving to show that. There are also players that have had great potential around my age that have come through and done extremely well, and even older. There’s been a mix of everything this year.

Q. Have you been able to sit down with your team or maybe identify throughout this year whether or not, because of the injuries and illnesses, do you chalk that up to bad luck or are there certain training blocks or things that maybe needed to be changed?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think with how different the things that I’ve had, none of them really make a lot of sense. I mean, unlike my shoulder where I kind of knew I was always loose‑jointed, that was always something I had to take care of, this was more bad timing than anything else.

Q. Are you the player to beat in Singapore?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To beat? That’s not the way that I think. I don’t think it would be fair to myself if I thought that way. I’m one of the eight players. I did something to be in the field. I want to take my opportunity. That’s how I see it from my side.
Thank you.