Russian Maria Sharapova advanced to her 10th career Grand Slam final cruising past countrywoman Ekatarina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 Thursday at the Australian Open.
After a tight start, the 27-year-old Sharapova dominated Makarova, who was making her second straight Grand Slam semifinal appearance, at one point running off six straight games.
Sharapova moves into her fourth Australian Open final after winning it in 2008. But she’s luck to still be around after saving two match points last week in the second round to Alexandra Panova.
Not only will she bid for a 6th career Grand Slam title Saturday, she’ll also try to to put a 15-match losing streak to rival Serena Williams. The World No. 1 hasn’t lost to the American since the 2004 WTA Championships in L.A.
Following her semifinal win, Sharapova spoke to the press.
Q. Two Grand Slam finals in under 12 months. How does that feel for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don’t actually look at it that way. I treat each one as if I haven’t gotten to a final. That’s usually the mindset I have, the hunger I try to get when I go out on the court. But, yeah, I’m definitely proud that I’m able to get to that stage again.
Q. How special is it to be in the final again here at the Australian Open for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It is. I felt that I’ve had really good matches and a good record here in Australia, even since the junior days. Been able to carry it over as a professional. Yeah, I’ve had many great memories on Rod Laver Arena. I’ve hopefully set myself up for another good one.
Q. The way you played, especially in the last couple rounds, does that give you a lot of confidence going into the final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’m definitely happy. Like today, I thought I played solid. I did everything I had to do. I wasn’t afraid for it to become a physical match. You know, I think it was important to really stand my ground in the first few games, which I did well, even though I was behind, especially the first and second one. But, yeah, those key moments are really important. Yeah, definitely happy I was able to win really solid today.
Q. You’re going to be playing someone who is either a bit sick or a bit injured. How do you feel?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel good, thank you (smiling).
Q. Once you reach the final of a Grand Slam, do you change your preparations at all because it is a final or do you tend to stick to the same routines?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I usually stick to the same routines. The only difference is it’s only one more to go. You’re not saving yourself for anything else. You don’t have six more or seven more. You know that that’s the last one. You have to give it everything you have until the last point.
Q. Do you get that extra bit of nerves when it is a Grand Slam final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, of course. I think everyone does. It’s such a special moment. I think everyone works endless hours to get to that position. I think we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t feel extra nerves.
Q. And extra excitement?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, of course. I think nerves equals excitement in a certain way because you know something pretty big is ahead of you.
Q. How do you deal with the nerves? Sit in a room with music? Go for a walk? Have a bath? How do you deal with the nerves and try and get your mind right?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sit at a bar?
Q. A bath.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s a good option. I never tried that option (laughter). No, yeah, usually it depends how I’m feeling. But I don’t listen to music. I don’t take a bath. None of those. I usually spend some time with my team and we talk about pretty much everything, the match, how we’re feeling, things like that. But I think it’s just how you see it and how you turn it around in your mind and see it as an opportunity. It’s very easy to get discouraged by a big stage and by a big moment. But actually that’s what you work for. That’s what you want to get to, so…
Q. Do you actually dream about the match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t dream too much of tennis, thankfully.
Q. Looks like we’re going to be seeing a bit more of Madison Keys. How do you rate her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She’s had a tremendous tournament. Someone that has been a great player for many years. A very powerful player on both wings, especially the serve. You know, she’s someone that I’ve watched for a few years now kind of rising up the rankings. And, yeah, I think this is her real breakthrough. The potential she has is tremendous.
Q. You played her back in August and won in three. What did you learn from that match?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I believe that was the first time we played against each other. It was a first round. Yeah, she’s someone that likes to take the ball early. She goes for her shots. Likes to dictate the court. I think I wouldn’t want to be afraid of going into rallies with her. Obviously it’s important to get myself in the rally with a serve. If she’s serving 200k, sometimes it’s not the easiest thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever served that fast. It’s certainly a great advantage for her to have.
Q. After 12 years, can you help me to work a little less and remind me when you won a tournament saving match points during that tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know if it’s ever happened.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: In Rome, oh.
Q. During the final.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I don’t think it’s ever happened. I don’t think so.
Q. When you go to the back of the court and get back in the zone, is it the same thing you say to yourself each time? Staying positive, you can do it? Or is it specific to advice you get given about moving forward? Is it actually specific to the players, coaching information, their serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You just made it much more complicated than it is (laughter). Tennis is such an individual, point after point you can have so many different momentum changes. I think, you know, you’re always in a rush to do something else, to either keep going. I think for me it’s just a moment of just within myself whether I need to say something encouraging, whether I need to feel that I’m telling myself to keep that focus or regain the focus or change something around. It’s just a few seconds. I’ve done it for a really long time. It helps me and I like doing it.
Q. There’s a chance you could play Serena in the final. You obviously have had a tough head-to-head with her. What is it about her game that gives you so much trouble?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think her power and her aggressiveness, I think that’s always made me a little bit too aggressive, maybe going for a little bit more than I had to. You know, she’s great at making players hit that shot that you don’t necessarily have to go for. You know, maybe going for a little too much, going on the line. It’s been a really difficult matchup for me, but, you know, I am a competitor. If I do play her, I will go out and I will do everything I can to try to change that result around.
Q. Have you made a new strategy to take on her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I just finished my match 45 minutes ago, so, yeah, I’ll work on it.
Q. How is your confidence against her?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing against and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone. It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.
Q. Ekaterina is in the Top 10 now, I think at No.9. Does she have the game to stay there?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Absolutely. I think she’s a player that is capable of that and a player that has become much more consistent in the last couple of years.
Q. What, if anything, do you remember of that 2005 semifinal here with Serena? It was such a back-and-forth battle between you guys.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It was. I don’t actually remember too much of it. It was a very physical battle. It was tough to lose that one. Definitely had a lot of chances. But, yeah, it was a really tough one to lose.
Q. If Madison in the final you’d be favored. With Serena you’d be an underdog. Is the underdog tag okay with you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Whatever it is, yeah.
Q. There hasn’t been a point in your career where you’ve held two Grand Slams at one time. Is that something you think about at all?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: What does ‘at one time’ mean? In one year?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. First you have to start with one. That’s the first goal, I guess. No, I haven’t been able to achieve that. The first step is to try to win the first one, so…
Q. I meant in a calendar year. So you’re reigning French Open champion. To have a second at this point?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It would be great, yeah (smiling).
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