Photo: Porsche press database
(after her 6-3, 6-4 win against Anett Kontaveit)
SHARAPOVA: Thank you.
QUESTION: It seems like your second dream journey is starting very well. Are you surprised of the way it is going and how you are handling all the pressure? Everybody was watching you. You do quite well?
SHARAPOVA: I’m really enjoying myself. I think that’s the one thing that I as I come off the court I really feel that I can take away when I’m in the match in very much in the moment and focussed on the next point and what I have to. But when I come off the court I realize how much I’m enjoying being in that moment. Even when I did have a great game serving for the match I felt like there was something on the line I had to deliver and I didn’t in that game and then I came back and she was serving to stay in the match and I stepped up and I hit the right shots and went for it. I didn’t back off, I didn’t back down and those are kind of the moments that I like putting myself into. Of course, I would have loved to finish that match by serving it out. It didn’t happen but I came back and played a really strong game.
QUESTION: Did you play your best tennis you ever played today?
SHARAPOVA: Ever in this tournament or ..?
QUESTION: Yes, and did you play your best tennis you ever played?
SHARAPOVA: Ever ever? (laughs). Like ever ever ever (laughs)? Or ever? Ever ever is pretty strong (laughs). No, I think I have quite a way to go but I think it was an improvement as far as who I played against, I think she is very strong, she’s played a lot of matches in the last couple of weeks. I was very aware of that and when you are facing an opponent that has that match experience behind her back, going into a final of a tournament last week I believe, Sven mentioned that to me, and obviously coming through the qualies, she had nothing to lose in this match. She has all the match form behind her and that’s something that I’m lacking. So, I felt that definitely. I felt like she was very game-ready. She served very well and she challenged me. I had to play well in order to win this match. She wasn't just going to let me win it.
QUESTION: The ITF has announced they are doubling the resources for doping an the number of tests and also more facilities for storage of samples. Is that something that you welcome?
SHARAPOVA: Yes, it’s great.
QUESTION: Do you still feel they didn’t discharge their responsibilities towards you as they should have done? You said in The Times that they should have warned you.
SHARAPOVA: I’ve already said everything that I had to say about the ITF.
QUESTION: Maria, you heard a lot of comments in the last 15 months. Were their points during your preparation, when you read all these comments of the players, when you said to yourself, ‘okay, now is the moment that I want to come back stronger and I’m even more hungry.’ And do you think a few of these comments were made because your peers were afraid of your comeback?
SHARAPOVA: I’m not someone, that uses that as part of my comeback. As I’ve said before, I’ve done that talking by playing tennis and my results have spoken for everything that I should speak for. And that’s all that matter. The biggest part of my comeback is what’s out on the court and I will leave it at that.
QUESTION: A lot of people would have loved to see you playing against Angelique Kerber, Germany’s number one. How do you feel about her being eliminated?
SHARAPOVA: That is not in my control. There is some things I can’t control. I can't control a match maybe people look forward to. It’s the way of the draw. I can only control the way I play and my matches and what I do.
QUESTION: Looking ahead to your next match. It looks like it’s going to be Kristina Mladenovic or it might be Carla Suarez Navarro. Could you preview that maybe for both and what to expect from both of them?
SHARAPOVA: I think both love playing on the surface, love playing on clay and have had really good results on clay. Look, I haven’t played both in quite a while but I think if you’re looking from an opportunity point of view, it’s a great opportunity for either of us to get to a big even final. And no matter, who I’ll be playing I’ll be looking at that opportunity and hopefully deliver. For me, it’s about match play and no matter who is across the net – you know what I’ve said from the beginning of the week and I will keep saying because that’s my general feeling that I want to get different matches, I want to play against different types of players and hopefully deliver.
QUESTION: On the increase to the number of drug tests announced by the anti-doping programme as Simon mentioned do you feel that over the last few years the top players have been tested sufficiently? Do you think there need to be more tests carried out on a regular basis for the top players in the sport?
SHARAPOVA: I’m definitely welcome to that.
QUESTION: You were tested very very regular like all the top players. I’m just wondering if it can become a bit too intrusive?
SHARAPOVA: I mean we already have to give an hour time slot of every day every single day of the year. It already is at it is. But that’s part of the job and if they test us more that’s great.
QUESTION: Can you tell the number of times per year you have been tested?
SHARAPOVA: I think they have that information.
QUESTION: You look very close to your team, of course you work together a lot. If you can describe with a word everybody of your team, just one word Max, Yutaka, Sven, Jerome?
SHARAPOVA: They are all so different. There is not one word that can describe a single person (laughs), I’m sorry. And I’m not sure I want to use a word that’s appropriate enough for a press conference (laughs). We are all very different and from different parts of the world and they have their own unique personalities and it’s quite amazing that we all get along the way that we do. Out of all the teams that I’ve had in my career I’m proud to say that this one I respect and I want to grow with and I really want to see them succeed as much as I want to succeed myself.
QUESTION: I know you’ve said you can’t control what other players think of you. Mladenovic is a set and break up at the moment. She was critical of you. Are you saying that you won't use these comments at all as extra motivation when you face her tomorrow.
SHARAPOVA: Not at all.
QUESTION: From your first match, second match and third match, what have you been able to identify something that you have been remarkably improving on, whether it’s on the court execution-wise or mentally?
SHARAPOVA: I thought I was moving a lot better today and just more comfortable with the ground and the surface. Obviously, coming into the first match, not having a great sense of the court and the clay and the atmosphere, just having a practice in the morning beforehand. I just feel like I have footing a lot better, hand-eye coordination also no matter you practice you lose that a little bit, just the reaction of being in a match. So, I feel that was better, just visualizing a little bit more tactic-wise, focussing on a pattern, I thought I returned a little bit better today. That’s still something I can improve on tremendously.
QUESTION: I understand you are taking one match at a time, especially since you just came back. At what point do you think that you will be setting goals for yourself results-wise?
SHARAPOVA: I think I always have goals. If I said I wasn’t doing that for anything I wouldn’t have that motivation, I wouldn’t have something to look forward to. I have internal goals I don’t share with many people, actually I don’t share with anyone I think. It’s nice to have something you dream of and you work for and it’s just for yourself to know.
QUESTION: Obviously, you have your own expectations for the next couple of weeks but are you surprised by the fact that for example bookmakers have you as the favourite for the French Open after three matches?
SHARAPOVA: They do? (laughs)
QUESTION: They do. Is that something that surprises you or that it is maybe your reputation preceding you or how do you feel about that?
SHARAPOVA: Again those are just, as you said, words, expectations, they are numbers, letters, they don’t mean anything, they don't bring me victories (laughs). So, they certainly don’t help me in any way. Maybe they help themselves but these are not things I look for. I obviously want to improve from each match and the more matches I win the more confidence I’ll gain and the better I’ll feel on the court. That’s what matters to me, not who puts you as a favourite or not.
Photo: Porsche press database
QUESTION: Speaking of goals, if you would win tomorrow you are definitely going to be able to play the two Slams coming up. Will you think about that? Is that on your mindset at all?
SHARAPOVA: That wasn’t my goal coming into this week and it won’t be any different tomorrow. I think it’s a big opportunity to be in a final of an event like this. It’s a big opportunity whether you are looking ahead or not. As I said in my first press conference, every single tournament that I play now is important for me. When you've had a lay-off for 15 months and you haven’t competed every event is big and that’s how I feel.
QUESTION: Obviously, you are very close to your team. I was wondering were they kind of upset when they found out they didn’t know exactly the sort of things that you were taking for your health?
SHARAPOVA: That’s such an inappropriate question. Can you do one last one from someone else?
QUESTION: We saw two big comebacks already this year with Rafa Nadal and Federer. Do you think you can be the third one?
SHARAPOVA: I would love to. I would love to be in that category. I have a lot more to achieve to even be close. But it would be a great achievement. I think everyone has their own path and it takes some people longer, some people a shorter amount of time. If I’m able to achieve that, that would be incredible.