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August 29, 2011

Maria Sharapova


3-6, 7-5, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.

Q. Where would that rank as tough first-round matches in a Grand Slam?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, no doubt that it was one of the toughest that I've had. To be honest, it's quite expected. Obviously not really knowing too much about my opponent and not facing against her before, I don't know, she just came out and played really smart.
There's no doubt that I wasn't playing my best tennis. She was smart in making me hit another ball. I was making so many errors out there. She stuck to her game plan. She kept grinding.
Yeah, for me it was just a matter of trying to be consistent out there and winning not just one, two, but three points in a row.

Q. Is there a human tendency to think that reputation could be a strong intangible asset in a first-round match? Does that play into any part of this, the mental aspect?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think the opponent, that's one of the reasons I say that - I think it's such a boring answer - but taking it one match at a time. Because no matter what your opponent is ranked, if they're young or old, if you've played them or not before, it's a new match, it's a new day, and they're going to go out there and try to beat you.

Q. But psychologically, is it harder playing unranked opponents?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it depends on the day. I mean, I think the story would have been a little bit different if I played better, if I wasn't making so many unforced errors.

Q. What did you make of her performance today?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I thought she did many things well. She's a great mover on the court. She made me hit a lot of balls. She was really, really steady. She handled pace pretty well.
But on the other side, I don't think I did enough to make her feel like she had any pressure in the first set. You know, I'd hit one, two good balls, then hit an error. Whether it was a centimeter or two out, it doesn't matter, it's still an error.
For me it was just getting that consistency in the match. And she was smart because, you know, she stuck with her game plan. She was steady. She made me play. She saw that I was making those errors, and she just kept doing the same thing. She wasn't trying to do something else, yeah.

Q. What did you know about her before the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: One match I saw was at Wimbledon, I think. She was playing Date in the first round. I just saw a little bit of that from home.
Other than that, I didn't know too much about her game.

Q. What do you attribute the unforced errors to?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I'm not sure actually. I had a good practice week. I think the last couple days have been tough on players. Obviously none of us practiced yesterday. The day before was raining. Everybody was trying to get 30 minutes on an indoor court, which is always a little bit tough.
So I think it was just going out there and trying to find that consistency.

Q. Did you find something out there today as the match went on? Can you walk away from this saying, This was okay for a first-round match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I kept fighting. I knew that I wasn't playing my best tennis. I mean, I'm really realistic usually. I knew that, you know, no matter how I was playing I still have a chance to win the match.
That's kind of the mindset that I had.

Q. You've been working on your volley now for years. Some matches you'll come, take some risks. Today she's making you play a lot of balls. Sometimes she's floating them back. Is there a hesitation about going to net and closing points out, or is it based on the day?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know, I thought when she was on the defense, I mean, there were some balls I could have put away and I shouldn't even see a volley, to be honest. I mean, part of that was due to the fact that she was really quick. I think she anticipated the balls quite well.
But, yeah, I think it all has to do with being just a bit more aggressive, looking to come in, not hitting a shot, just waiting around.

Q. So what about the three-set record this year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's great. I mean, it's a good number, I guess.

Q. You were talking last month about glass half full, glass half empty. You shouldn't be going to three, but you're winning three-setters. Talk about that a little bit.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, sometimes in the past you have a match like this where you're not playing your best, you get through it, you give yourself a chance to keep going, to find your rhythm, and you find yourself in the later stage of the tournament.
So, obviously that's what I hope it is. You know, it's good I have a day to practice tomorrow. I'll hit the court then have another match. The best thing about this match is I gave myself a chance to play another one.

Q. Do you have a great amount of confidence going into third sets knowing how much success you've had?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I do. But I think it's just a matter of belief, whether I haven't won three-set matches here or whether I have a great record. I think it's just a matter of belief within myself that no matter how well or bad or good I'm playing or my opponent is playing, I know I can tough it out.
No matter what the situation is, I have the belief. I've had it. And, yeah, sometimes it doesn't happen even if you have it. Sometimes you can be playing the best tennis of your life, you go into the third set, and things don't work out.

Q. How are you feeling about your serve coming out of the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It could have been better, no doubt. You know, I started sloppy in the beginning of the first set. I think that gave her, you know, a good amount of confidence. Always nice to be up a break early in the first set, especially first round of the US Open.
At some points I felt like I came out strong, whether it was a second or first serve. I hit a few aces in the third set. Yeah, that's definitely a part I have to work on still.

Q. What's the biggest difference between playing at the US Open and the other Grand Slams?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, I think every Grand Slam is unique. They're all so different. Obviously nothing is like playing in New York City and New York fans. I think everyone is so passionate about the sport. They're loud, they're antsy, and they want to see good tennis. It's the biggest stadium that we play on.
So, yeah, it's a pretty incredible event.

Q. How tired do players get at this point of the season? How tired are you after playing all year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's not like this year is different than any other year. I mean, it's so important to find that balance of having your mind and your body fresh. Obviously, you know, I always say how important being healthy is.
It's just such an important tool if you're able to keep your body on a high level and fresh and ready to go, you know, injury-free hopefully. That's the greatest gift you can ask throughout the whole year.

Q. The men's tour is cutting down their tournaments by two weeks. I wonder if you are fine with the women's tour schedule now or if you would prefer to have more time off?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, we actually finish a few weeks before they do, so I'm not sure if we're going to finish equally now next year or... It seems like they play forever, so...

Q. What did you do during the hurricane to entertain yourself? Did you just stare out the window?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I went to the gym; I did a little workout; I played with my dog; I had room service. Everything else was just about closed. Everything that was opened was completely packed.
There's an antique store open down the street, which I thought was probably the best day of their life because of everyone walking around. They never thought they were going to sell that old giraffe that's been there for a hundred years (laughter).
Yeah, even my dog kept like going back to his little bag. It kind of freaked me out because that's a sign he wanted to go home. Maybe the hurricane was going to be bad. We were lucky, yeah, that it was just a little rain.

Q. A little fashion question. What were some of the colors? That was a nice outfit. I didn't know how to describe the colors.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It's like lavender gray and fluorescent pink accents.

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