Sharapova opened the clay-court season by beating top-ranked Victoria Azarenka in the Stuttgart final.
Having struggled on clay at the beginning of her career, Sharapova cited improved fitness as the reasons for her recent success.
“I only play three or four tournaments a year on clay and you need to be physically ready,” she said. “You often have five days in a row with three-hour matches, and so I have improved on recovering effectively and this has given me confidence.”
Last year’s French Open winner Li Na of China has had a slower start to her clay season, losing in the quarterfinals in both Stuttgart and Madrid. But she’s finally adapted to her newfound superstar status in China.
“Before, even if I won the tournament after I could do whatever I wanted,” she said. “But after I won (Roland Garros), wherever I go people are like ‘Ah, this is Li Na.’ I really didn’t know what I should do.”
Li lost in the second round of Wimbledon last year, then was stunned by Romanian teenager Simona Halep in the first round of the U.S. Open. She opened this year by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open.
“The worst time for me was last year, because after the French I had to do many things (off) the tennis court,” she said. “I was losing concentration on the court. There was so many things coming into my life that I had never experienced before. (From) the beginning this year, I know _ I’m still a tennis player, tennis is my job.”