Q. Are you happy overall of how you played today with different conditions, the roof on?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think last year I didn’t play an indoor match until the final until they closed the roof, so I guess it’s good to play in a different environment.Yeah, against somebody again I haven’t faced before, which is quite rare, but, you know, felt like her game was a little bit unpredictable. I had to make some adjustments. She came up with a few good shots and a few errors, some great big first serves and some shorter ones.So I think for me it was really about adjusting today.Q. At the end of the first set you had a bit of a rough patch on your serve. When it’s like this, was it the timing? How do you fix it right away?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, my toss went off a little bit, but I thought I was able to serve quite well the rest of the match except that game, so that was good.Improved my returns a little bit today compared to the first match.
Q. Players often talk about confidence coming from wins and from matches. When you have a spell like you’ve where you haven’t played, missed the first tournament of the year, you come in a little bit cold, where do you gather that confidence from?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think from ending the season on a pretty, yeah, good run, I would say, considering I hadn’t played much since Wimbledon. The matches that I did play I thought they were of good intensity. They were physical; I got through them.
Yeah, I think that gave me — especially in Prague, I think, even in the end, as a team, we didn’t win, I thought they were very big personal victories for me. Playing Kvitova in front of 15,000 screaming Czech fans, it felt like there was a lot on the line, and I felt I had to face that myself, and someone I had lost to just a couple of weeks before.
It was a big win. So I think taking that and bringing it into the season, there is definitely — it’s not like I had so much time off and it’s not like I had a really long offseason.
Q. Do you think your lack of match practice heading into the Australian summer is a good thing for you again?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn’t really have much choice, so I don’t think if it’s a good thing or bad thing. I just work with what I have.
Q. Quite a few dropshots from you today. How would you rate your mastery of that after recently adding it to your arsenal?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Mastery and arsenal in two sentences. That’s quite a vocabulary you’ve got there.
Yeah, it’s something that I have added to my game, and that’s helped me, you know, especially playing against opponents that stay far back.
When I’m aggressive and I have depth on my shots, it’s just good to have that variety to bring them in, to move forward myself. I mean, I had a couple of good ones; I had a couple of really crappy ones. I’d say it was pretty mediocre today.
Q. How much time do you spend practicing them?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, I wouldn’t say it’s something I really focus on. It’s something that I have added. It’s actually something that I had to add, because I was getting really frustrated losing to my hitting partner all the time.
He just stood so far back behind the baseline I was like, just can’t handle him beating me so often. I have to just change things around. That’s kind of when I started getting into that a little bit.
He was a little surprised (laughter). But it started working, so that was good.
Q. Is it something that you’d be happy to use later on in the tournament, or is it more experimenting…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s not my A game, that’s for sure. It’s something that I want to add and I want to move forward, and I think it’s just a few things that you try to improve.
Also something with a new coach that even though we worked for two years, little by little things don’t just — you work on things and they don’t just show up in a week’s time. It takes time to get comfortable and confident with the things you work on.
Q. The injury you picked up in Brisbane, would you say you’re pain-free now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I feel pretty good. I felt I was more confident with my left hand today than — yeah, that’s always something that especially when it’s like in the hand/wrist area, it’s in the back of your mind even though you’re feeling it. [Sic] I felt really good and confident today about it.
Q. Since you started out, the average age of players has increased significantly. On the other hand, the high end age of players isn’t like other sports, 38, 39 year old quarterbacks. Why do you think or what do you think has contributed to the age going up, average, and do you think we will see a point where we will have 38, 39, 40 year old players in the slam?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not sure. I really don’t know much about quarterbacks (laughter). I don’t know. I mean, I just I don’t know what it takes to be 38 and be a quarterback. It’s just not something I have ever thought of.
But I guess I can only speak from my age point of view, and that’s when I was a late teenager, I probably didn’t think that I’d be playing in my late 20s. Here I am at 28, and feeling like I still have many more years ahead of me.
I think your perspective changes; the game also develops and it becomes — I don’t know, you just have a different attitude about it.
But as a woman, you’re also thinking about other things as well, so it’s difficult to compare women and men. At a certain point you want a family and you want to have kids. Some people come back from that and some people don’t. That’s also something to consider.
But, I mean, do I see myself playing at 38 as a quarter — not as a quarterback (laughter). I definitely don’t see myself — oh, my goodness. I just compared myself to a quarterback. Is that a compliment? Or not? (Laughter.)
Yeah, I definitely don’t see myself playing at 38.
Q. Looking at your next opponent, either Lauren Davis or Magdalena Rybarikova; what do you make of that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven’t faced Lauren Davis before and I played Rybarikova last year in Acapulco. It was a three-set match. Either way, I don’t think it matters. I think my focus has to be on myself and on my game. Just improving and getting better.
Q. You have spoken a lot about the importance of your Russian heritage. Had a tremendous involvement with the Olympics recently. Talk about the upcoming Olympics if you would. What would it mean for you to gain a gold there and be on the medal stand?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think going into it, of course, you always think of the highest prize and the best prize you can get at an event. But the experience of being an Olympian is so fulfilling that — I mean, I can only take it from my experience in London, but I was so overwhelmed just by the experience of being around other athletes and just really respected and getting a chance to go into the Olympic Village before the opening ceremonies and spending a few hours there and seeing all the different athletes.
Some were actually working out in the garden; some boxers were box shadowing. Just really special to see, and you felt like a unity. You felt these tremendous athletes maybe had never met or seen each other in person before, but we all really respected each other and really understood each other and what we go through as an athlete and sacrifices and the hard work and the competition.
So that was special. So just to be an Olympian is an incredible experience, and then once you get to the court and you’re facing against opponents, of course you dream and visualize a gold medal.
Q. You’re known for your mental toughness, your persistence, your willingness to come back. Is there another athlete who in those areas have really impressed you, athlete from another sport?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Um, I mean, I respect a lot of athletes just because I understand them more than any other profession, but I don’t know if there is any one particular.
I mean, I met Michael Jordan many years back and it was a very random occasion, but it was one of the times I was a bit star struck. You feel his presence there. There are some athletes where you just really — even though they are just like another human being in the room, there is a certain aura and presence around him. I just was really overwhelmed by that.
Yeah, there’s many others.