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February 12, 2018

Monica Niculescu

Doha, Qatar

M. NICULESCU/M. Sharapova

4-6, 6-4, 6-3

Q. Monica, congratulations. What was your mindset going into tonight's match and playing an opponent like that? What do you think was the key to get the win?
MONICA NICULESCU: Yeah, I mean I thought I played really well in qualis, and I thought I have the game but when I saw the draw I wasn't too happy, actually, because I thought I'm playing good, and you know. But I thought I was better and better by match, and second and third set I was -- I could understand a little bit her game, you know, and it was better and better, yes. And I think those two matches in qualis helped me a lot. I knew a little bit how is the surface, how -- and also a little bit windy. So I don't know. I'm happy that I could get through. It was a tough match, and to beat Maria first round here in Doha Centre Court was good match, yeah, and three hours again.

Q. Yes. It was a very long match. What do you think was the key to beating her?
MONICA NICULESCU: The key, at the beginning I was stood behind of the baseline and I was just defending. And at one point I think my serve went a bit better. And also sometimes I was hitting some winners and stepping in, you know. And I was not just defending like I did the first set. And also the key was I could understand her game and what she's doing a little bit because I had no rhythm and I'm guessing she also didn't have rhythm because I'm playing strange. (Laughs).

And yeah, and I thought also with the slice I stepped in and I played a bit deeper and backhand also was a bit deeper and I don't know what was the key, but I'm happy that I could get through, and it's not easy to beat these kind of players in third set, and you know, when it was 3-3, they always play better and better, so I'm happy that I could take the moment and win.

Q. How validating is a big win like this? You said you played strange, but this is a big validation.
MONICA NICULESCU: No. I don't play strange. I love it how I play and I like to be unique, and I think my slice forehand is a weapon. And when I feel good on the court, then I play relaxed, I can be good and can be dangerous. What was the question?

Q. That was a good answer. And then how does this win rank? You've had big wins before, Konta, Kvitov√°. How does this one rank for you?
MONICA NICULESCU: Oh, good. Oh, my God. It's pretty good. First Top 10, I mean like in moments, you know. Like very good win. And also, yesterday when I beat Andrea Petkovic, if you look at our meetings, she has more wins against me. So I was so happy that I could get through also yesterday.

And since the beginning of the year I feel I'm playing better. But for me probably is to be healthy because last year wasn't too great. And this is my goal, to get better in ranking and have these matches like I had. And hopefully I will have confidence, but like I said, it's Doha, so many good players. And for sure it's tough match tomorrow also. And I have doubles. And I want to enjoy, but I know the draw is so tough and it's going to be even harder.

Q. Monica, in the second set, the match was quite tight, you guys played a very long rally where she tried to hit a slice forehand and finished it with a drop shot. I'm just curious when you see your opponents kind of start doing the same thing that you're doing on the forehand, do you think that you get into their heads a little bit?
MONICA NICULESCU: My coach said yes, that I did that. But I was thinking in the match that she's a great player and to do this shot she is very good, and it was first time against her, and I didn't know what to expect; and when I saw she can do also these kind of shots, now I understood why she was No. 1 and why she won so many Grand Slams and why she's such a good player, and because she could do these shots. I mean it was not easy. Sometimes the ball was so low and she still could do winners and that drop shot. And yeah, my coach said, yeah, that I went in her head, but I was just thinking, yeah, now I know why she's so good.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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