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May 16, 2017

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Rome, Italy

M. LUCIC-BARONI/M. Sharapova

6-4, 3-6, 1-2 [ret.]

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you just talk through the match a little bit? Obviously it ended in an awkward way, but the match up until that last moment, what did you and she both do well?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I mean, I thought it was pretty good match up until the end, which was obviously weird. You never want to finish a match like that. I mean, it's unfortunate. I wish her a speedy recovery. I hope it's nothing bad.

I thought we played well. I thought I played really well first set. Just kind of that one game where I made two double faults in a row in the second set to lose my serve. I kind of let it slip away a little bit the match from there.

Yeah, that was my bad, but she's a great player. She keeps that pressure on you and sometimes things like that happen.

But I feel like I was really focused to start the third set. And even though I lost the first game, I still felt really positive and I was really ready to fight. I felt like it was going to be a much longer set than it was in Madrid.

So I was ready to fight. Unfortunately for her, you know...

Q. Obviously second straight week that you have played her. What adjustments did you make? What did you learn maybe from the match last week in Madrid that you felt you were able to apply this week?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Well, I mean, I played her only once before, and that was when I was ranked around 100 and she was top 5, I believe, or something like that. So it's difficult. It was quite different.

She's a great player, and sometimes you have to, you know, you have to get used to it a little bit kind of playing those matches, like when you play Serena and you play players, they stay longer, focused longer. Their intensity is different. I think that's what she does amazingly.

That was my goal for this match, to really not let myself get down too much when things are not working and just continue fighting really well.

I feel like I was doing that. But again, it ended in a weird way, unfortunately.

Q. You could play Kerber next. It's been sort of a weird year. Actually Murray is losing now. World No. 1s haven't been winning very much. Serena was No. 1 but she didn't play at all when she was No. 1. How has that changed the complexion of the tour when you have a No. 1 who is not dominant, to say the least, or who is struggling?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Well, I mean, look, she dominated last year like nobody thought that she could or would. And then it's not easy to sustain that, and she had an amazing year last year. The moment she didn't win every match she played, it was, like, Oh, my God, she's not playing well.

Sometimes your level is very high but you may not be winning that many matches.

Look, the tour is strong. There are a lot of great players. I mean, obviously not with Serena, but there is always, every ten years or so, there is always a change happening. Some players leave, and whether you're a legend -- like, there was tennis after Steffi Graf. There will be tennis after Serena and after other big players. There are a lot of new ones, a lot of new potential.

At the moment, not one is dominating, but I don't see that as a bad thing. There are a lot of girls who are going to be fighting for the top spot and for their chances to win Grand Slams and so on.

Q. I don't know if somebody has already asked you, but when did you have the impression that Sharapova was injured and at which moment?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: It was I think when she made a double fault, that second game of the third set.

Q. Second game?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Yeah, the -- yeah.

Q. Because at the 1-Love she left the court.
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Yes. Yeah, yeah. She was serving. She served not kind of a full motion. Then she went off the court, but she came back. It was deuce. She hit an ace and another big serve. It was obvious that something was wrong. She was really hitting kind of going all out on the first ball, and it was -- it's difficult to play in those moments.

It was difficult, because I could see she was injured but she was still playing and she was ripping winners.

So it's a very strange -- you have to be focused. You have to do what you have to do, but your opponent is still playing. Even though she looks injured, she's still playing.

It's an awkward moment for both players, for sure.

Q. Speaking of awkward, the timing of her wildcard decision of the French Open was announced about 20 minutes before your match started.

Q. I don't know if you had heard what it was before the match. We don't know if she did or not, because she didn't come in. She went to go see a doctor. We haven't heard from her. Did you sense any distraction on her part, or did she seem focused and normal?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I think she seemed normal to me. I mean, I didn't feel we had -- she was fighting really hard like she always does, so I didn't feel or see any problem.

I mean, later when she hurt her leg, obviously she couldn't -- she stopped moving. She couldn't move.

But before that, I think she played normal. She was focused. She played well. She was fighting.

Q. Back to Kerber, compared to when you played Serena at the Australian Open, when you know a top player has struggled recently, does it give you more confidence going in? Do you sense vulnerability and a chance maybe for a big win against the world No. 1?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I'm way too old to be thinking like that. No, no, no (smiling).

Look, everybody that's top 10, top 20, top 5, people that have won Grand Slams and are on top of the game, they can be having an awful season. Like Serena is the greatest example. She can show up out of shape, not playing six months, and come and win a Grand Slam, you know.

These people are special, you know. You work your way, earn your way to No. 1. You know, having a bad season -- not winning every tournament you play is sometimes considered a bad season.

But I go into every match fully prepared, ready to play, prepare the same way against everybody. I don't really focus on whether they are doing amazing or not.

I know I have a tough match ahead of me, and that's really all I focus on is doing my job, my part, playing the best that I can. What happens with them, I really don't pay much attention.

Q. Just going off of that last question, you said that you don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that there isn't a dominant figure on tour. I was wondering if you could just elaborate on that, because that is, you know, oftentimes a criticism of things sometimes when the field is in flux, and people like dominance. What's your take on it?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: People will complain about the sunny skies, you know. If there is one that dominates, well, then it's boring because she wins everything. If there is one that isn't dominating, well, women's tennis sucks at the moment. I don't see it as that.

There are a lot of great players. Like I said, there is tennis before Serena; there is tennis after Serena. There was tennis before Steffi Graf; there was tennis after Steffi Graf. There will always be another star, another -- many stars. I think one of the biggest problems with our tour is we focus too much on just one player. We just want the one superstar, you know.

I feel like it should be a little more focused on great players, making it about a couple people instead of just one. And then you kind of put all your eggs in one basket and when one isn't winning, oh, my God, what's happening?

Yeah, I don't see it as a bad thing. I think you just kind of have to appreciate what you have right now and let the game evolve and let the players play. Let the players get their first Grand Slam.

Why would it always have to be one player that wins 73 Grand Slams? Sometimes, you guys, we can't make you happy if there is one that wins all the time or if there is three different ones that win.

Q. I agree with you the tour is sort of in transition possibly after Serena, like you're saying. Do you see anyone who is coming up to possibly take advantage of this moment? Do you see anyone who is the future? You're 35.
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: You're saying I'm not the future? (Laughter.)

Q. I think you're the future.

No, look, I'm having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying myself a lot. I celebrate all my wins right now a lot.

There are a lot of great girls. I mean, I'm not gonna name one because I don't feel like naming one person, but there are a lot of girls that have great potential that are going to be winning Grand Slams the next couple of years. It's going to be really interesting, because everybody has a chance.

But it's always been like that. I mean, Serena is one -- she's rare. Steffi Graf was rare that you could win that many. It's going to be a long time till somebody else comes and can dominate like that.

I don't want to say it's never gonna happen again, but that someone is going to come and 23 -- how many does Serena have, 23? I mean, that's going to be a tough task.

So rather than focusing on numbers and breaking records all the time, I think we have to let younger girls kind of develop and just kind of enjoy a little bit that it's somebody else. It's not boring. Not that Serena is boring or anybody that wins a lot, you know, but I think it's good for the sport. I think it's just -- and it's your guys' job to make it exciting instead of just, you know, frowny faces all the time because it's not Serena.

Q. Getting back to the French decision not to give a wildcard to Maria, is that something you agree with? Do you think she needs to earn her way back more on the court?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I am very much against doping of any kind. Very much. I feel like if you're going to invest -- like I think they are doing a million and a half or something, and if you want to give a wildcard to a person -- nothing against Maria personally, nothing -- but if you're going to invest million and a half or 7 million into more doping tests and then you're going to give a wildcard, it's just -- I think they would probably like to have her there, but they just can't.

And what is the point? What is the point of all this? What is the point of doing more tests if you award that?

I think she's a great player. I think she will come back. There is no doubt. She's a great competitor.

But you want to talk about proper and proper rules, and we are a tour that's been a tour for a long time, the fact that there isn't a rule on people who failed doping tests, and whether or not they can get a wildcard, whether or not they should, it's a very strange thing because we are professional, and that should be in place.

So I feel that it is the right decision. It is the correct decision. I feel it is, let's say, brave of them, because everybody is pressured. People want to see Maria. That's fine.

But, you know, you have to do -- if you want to do the right thing, you have to do the right thing. If you want to invest more money in doping tests, then you can't award a person who failed a doping test no matter how you guys want to wrap it up and make it sound pretty, and it's a mistake.

You can do whatever you want to say. You fail a doping, you fail a doping. That's it. I think there is -- it's really black and white. You guys make it, you know... It doesn't go into my bank account or from it, so I can say honestly what I think.

For some other people that write about it, maybe it affects their bank account. Maybe they have to write whatever they have to write. But this is black and white. There is no -- there is no gray area. It's simple. That's the way I see it.

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