WTA Finals Round Robin Interview

Q. Kind of like in the first match, towards the end you opened up a big gap and then she almost came back. Talk about what goes through your mind when that happens for a second time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think coming off the match that’s not something that I focused on too much because I did get the job done. That ultimately is what mattered.
Certainly once I got the new balls I think she became a little bit more aggressive. Her ball got a little bit deeper. I just think I got off my game plan a little bit and the execution wasn’t there.
Yeah, obviously it was great to come back in that at love‑15 in the last game to hit a backhand winner down the line. I think I’ll think about that this evening. That gave me that extra energy to get that game.
But ultimately, look, I think I’m quite pleased to be able to beat the No. 2 player in the world. I think it was, again, a very physical match. I found myself on the defense many times and was able to win a lot of the long points.
I think that’s something, when you don’t play for a long time, you hesitate on a little bit. I really felt like I was able to win a lot of them.

Q. Coming off your first match win ‑ your opening match against Aga; this was your first since Wimbledon ‑ how important was it for you in this match to prove to yourself and perhaps others that that victory you just had wasn’t a one‑off, it wasn’t a fluke? It must have felt very good.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’ve never actually thought about proving anything to anyone except to myself.
I think I always challenge myself internally. I find goals and challenges in order to motivate myself, otherwise you’re kind of on a steady path. That’s not really fun.
But as far as the outside world, I think I’ve done enough in my career to prove whatever I had to prove. At this point, especially not competing for a long time, it’s not about proving, it’s about going out and competing and playing and doing what I missed for those months.

Q. You’ve certainly struggled with injuries lately, and Martina Navratilova has spoken about this, saying there has been a lot of injuries on the tour and whether that may be because there are too many events, competitions, in the season. Are you feeling that? Do you think it’s a bit too much?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I play what I call a full schedule, but my full schedule is quite limited compared to other players.
I think it is a sport that requires a lot of physical effort. We travel around the world and play for ten months out of the year. We, as athletes, are able to choose a lot of the events that we play.
You know, I got injured in the middle of the season. It’s not as if I got injured towards the end, so I can’t really blame a long season for my injuries this year.
Yeah, I think ultimately you have to look at the body as an important part of a career and not chase other things. That’s always been a priority of mine: to be as healthy as I can. Sometimes doesn’t work out.

Q. How pleased were you with your defense tonight? You said you were catching yourself on the run quite a bit. She was opening up the court well for most of match.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right.

Q. So especially coming off this long one against Aga plus the long layoff, you physically recovered well?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. I think after a tough match like that your body definitely feels it. Like after the first match‑‑
Are you okay sir? I’m worried about you. I’m trying to concentrate and it’s like…
Yeah, I think the physical part of the sport has become so important over the last few years. You see so many more players that are getting so many balls back that are really making it into a physical battle.
The court is on the slower side; the bounce kind of stops. That gives a chance for a player like Halep, Radwanska, to get back in the points, which they do extremely well and take advantage of that.
So you have to find ways to work with your game. Not change it in many ways, but to work with it and find the openings, move forward, be aggressive, but be consistent while you’re at it.
Kind of like doing a lot of things in the same match and just trying to win it. Yeah, definitely pleased that I was able to do that in my second match back.

Q. Flavia Pennetta said the other day and even today that if you decide to come to play this tournament you must feel that you are 100% in shape, because you’re a true professional and you wouldn’t come if you weren’t thinking you could win it. Were you surprised in a way the way you played or in a way that you did expect it? She’s a great admirer of yours, but you played five times; always three sets. What do you expect?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Right. Yeah, of course I think if I was hesitant on some part of my body I definitely wouldn’t make the trip back to Asia. Because I flew around the world to try to recover and then to train and I felt like I was getting better, but I also felt like I was quite ready going into Wuhan.
Yes, I hadn’t played in many months and play matches, but I felt physically good. Kind of gave myself a little bit of false hope there. Just in the middle of the match started feeling my forearm, and I guess in those moments you just don’t know why, where, when, and you have to take care of them.
I did, and here I am playing healthy and playing through the opponents that I’m facing. I have a tougher one coming up. As you said, we’ve played long matches against each other. The last one at Indian Wells was very difficult. The match I felt like I had on my hands and let it slip away.
Yeah, I will try to take care of business.

Q. Were you surprised at all when Flavia won the US Open? 33 years old, had never won it before, and gets up there and all of a sudden takes off and plays very well. Got to be a little bit surprising, no?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it is, but I feel like there is always a moment for people to shine. I know there are players that are extremely consistent that are at the top of the game, and I’ve been playing for many years and been fortunate to win Grand Slams.
But I work hard and I don’t just sit there and say I’m only player that does it. There are hundreds of players that probably work harder than I do and commit more time than I do and sometimes don’t get the results. I realize how fortunate I am.
I know that Flavia has been through a lot in her career with surgeries, injuries, work and effort coming back, stopping. A lot people don’t talk about that, but I think you should. That matters.
I think that when you go through those moments, eventually it pays off. That was her time to shine, and I was really, really happy for her.

Q. How was Sven’s advice today? Was it philosophical quotes or right back down to basics to get you back on track?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah. When he came on court?

Q. Yeah.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, absolutely. I think I was rushing a little bit too much, rushing to get free points, and that’s just not something that you‑‑ not something I was looking to do before I got to 5‑1.
I rushed myself a little too much and tried to go for maybe bigger serves. Didn’t get a first serve in; didn’t make her play much.

Q. There’s about 16 different ways your group can go. Only one way in which you won’t be able to make it. Do you look at any of that or just go out the next match and play it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, look, I’ve been in very different scenarios in the many times that I’ve played in the Championships, and I just think at this time, since I’m really not focused on further down the line‑‑ as I said before, if I can get through those three matches healthy, strong, competing, that’s the best I can ask from myself.
If I do happen to get through, I get another match, that’s great. That’s been my goal from the first day here.

Q. Halep said that she feels like you always find a way to play your best tennis, particularly against her, particularly in the last three matches. You agree with that assessment or not?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think you always‑‑ as a player it’s not about playing your best tennis in order to win, it’s about finding a way to win. I don’t think that I played unbelievable tennis today. I still made errors, but cut down on my errors from the first match.
I’ve always been a player that goes into a match and I don’t seek perfection because I don’t know if that’s possible. At least I’ve never proven to myself that’s possible. You’re always going to make mistakes and errors.
Sometimes, and most of the time, I feel happier when I get through a match and I didn’t play my best tennis but found a way to win. That gives me a lot more confidence.
Of course it’s great when you feel confidence and you played a lot of matches you go and you’re swinging and hit the ball right inside the line and feels like everything is going in. Matches where you find a way to win, that personally gives me a lot more confidence.

Q. You talk about confidence. What level was it at before the first match and what level is your confidence at now after two wins?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I don’t think I could have had much confidence because I hadn’t played. Didn’t have much confidence in my body; didn’t know where to get confidence in my game because I haven’t been able to compete in a long time.
So I started pretty clean. I am not thinking about confidence. I didn’t come here to try to get confidence looking into the next season.
I came here, as I just said, to play as many matches as he I could, get best out of it, and compete, compete as I know how to compete. That’s tennis for me, and that’s why I play and have a good attitude, and yeah, just try to get it done.

Q. Wondering if you sent a message to Flavia when she won it, the US Open?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Do I need to tell you if I sent her a message?

Q. Yes.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Why?

Q. Because today she said she got many she didn’t expect.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I usually like to be the person that sends messages when you don’t have a lot of success because I think that’s more meaningful than when you do. Everyone will send a message when you win, right?