Five-time Slam champion Maria Sharapova says she is cherishing every moment since returning to the WTA tour following a 15-month suspension.
“There's a different perspective and understanding of fans, of what they mean to me. I think when you do something for many years, you start following a routine, and everything just becomes Groundhog Day,” Sharapova said at Beijing. “Of course, winning is very special. When you lose, it's tough, and you have to move on. You have to build on and work on things that didn't work out for you. Sometimes, it's natural because we've done it for so long. You do take it for granted because it's a cycle of 10 months out of [the] year. We compete and play tournaments.
"When you're not part of that, you get it back, it's the little things that really get me excited. When I was at the US Open, I talked about being happy to have my first practice on center court. Because of injuries and not playing the last 15 months, not having the chance to practice on that court, just getting out there, I was just really, really happy. Noticing that excitement, it's a really good sign for me mentally. A lot of this game is mental. To have the drive to continue to do it after you've achieved things in your career, they're nice to recognize personally.”
Since Sharapova returned in April, she has gotten hurt here and there, pulling out of a few tournaments.
The Russian is playing the China Open in Beijing this week, outlasting Anastasija Sevastova in just over three hours on Sunday. At the US Open, the Latvian Sevastova beat Sharapova in a third-set tiebreak in the fourth round. The 104th-ranked player admits that she was a little shaky, but says she is still getting used to being back on tour.
“I understand that it's a process. It's part of coming back and facing these types of matches,” she said. “Physically, the last match against [Sevastova] at the US Open was challenging for me. I played a lot of three-set matches. From an emotional perspective, a physical side, there's just a lot that I was facing. I just didn't have it in the end of that match. I made a lot of errors, lots of swinging unforced errors. Last week, my dad had me hit swinging volleys till I was blue in my face.”