Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova is relieved to have broken her four-match winless streak in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic in Madrid.
The 31-year-old Sharapova has been frequently injured since returning a year ago from an anti-doping suspension, and she withdrew from Miami with an arm problem. The Russian also recently switched coaches, going from longtime coach Sven Groeneveld to Thomas Hogstedt, who has worked with her before.
And this week, she says, she finally feels settled and healthy again.
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“Obviously being healthy is extremely important. We speak about it a lot as tennis players because it's just a big part of our job,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes we all face those injuries. It comes with the territory. I don't always like to talk about it because we all have our moments where we have to come through, go out on court not feeling 100%. It's very rare when we do. I'm not unique in that position."
"It just took time for me [to] reevaluate where I was, where my body was. I also made changes within my team, especially in that period of time, which was not easy. There's never a bad time to make a good change. You do hope that those changes lead to better things and good things.”
Sharapova reached the quarterfinals of Madrid with a win against Kristina Mladenovic, who beat her in the semifinals of Stuttgart in the first defeat of Sharapova's comeback. Since then, she had not broken back into the Top 40—until now.
But even though her return has been slow, Sharapova says she is still motivated and wants to keep improving.
“Do I want to be ranked 60, 70 in the world? No, I don't. Do I want to be losing first round? Absolutely not. That's why I'm still here, is because I'm not satisfied with those things and because I keep looking and getting better and working on things,” she said.
Sharapova next plays Kiki Bertens.