ROME, Italy - Despite falling to World No.1 Simona Halep in three tough sets, Maria Sharapova told press she was proud of her performance at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia - and already had her eyes on continuing her rise at the French Open.
“I think there are a lot of good things that I can take away from a week like this,” Sharapova told press after the match. “Setting myself up with good opportunities. I think I was put in a lot of difficult situations within the matches. A lot of the matches were very physical.
“And considering it's been a third tournament in weeks, I haven't handled that very well body-wise in a long time. I think that's a very good thing personally for me.
“It'll be great to recover the next couple of days and then head to Paris and get ready. But overall, I would say it’s a step in the right direction toward the next one.”
Sharapova came into the semifinal match having spent almost four and a half times longer than Halep on court; as a result of a bye and a walkover, Halep played two hours and 13 minutes across two straight-sets matches, while three of Sharapova’s four matches in Rome have been lengthy three-set battles, adding up to nine hours and 48 minutes played.
Still, the Russian was able to push Halep to three sets in her first semifinal of 2018. It’s evidence of a turnaround that began in Madrid, which saw Sharapova snap a four-match losing streak and claim her best wins of the season - including her first Top 10 win over reigning French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko.
“After losing those matches, you still have to put yourself on the line and show up and deliver. And do it with authority,” Sharapova said. “And I think that's what I'm most proud of is I had a lot of opportunities in the last few weeks in Madrid and here to just back down, to let little things bother me. But I got through them.
“I set up real good situations for myself; a lot of court time and match play. All good things that I wanted.”
Sharapova added: “I think that's what we have to love about this sport is every day is different. I mean, you know, to see a champion to still have the desire to like go through so many incredible victories and kind of go on a little bit of a downfall and then face injuries and then still go out there and compete, I think that speaks for itself, you know. “
As a result of her success in Madrid and Rome, Sharapova will find herself back inside the WTA Top 30 for the first time since 2016 come Monday, landing at No.29.