As Sharapova said, this is a second career for her, one in which she must reestablish herself and learn to put losses (as well as victories) in a different light.
"It's the first time in my life where I couldn't practice for such a long period of time," she said. "Everything about it was just bizarre. It was some things were just taken away from your life. In a strange way, it's a little calming. Even though it's obviously stressful, because you don't know if you're ever going to get the chance to be out here again and you always have to be positive. Don't get me wrong, there are many days where I was really hesitant, and you try to do the best things, but there are so many different paths, voices and so many opinions, and at the end of the day, you have to try and choose the right one."
Sharapova chose to listen to herself, as well as to her parents, coach, doctor and a couple of close friends. The advice she received was to stay patient and not rush herself back. They told her that she'd eventually heal and be able to do what she loved the most — although some of her critics would contend her real loves are fashion shoots and commercials. In many ways, Sharpova's still the little kid who worked her way out of Siberia, spending thousands of hours honing her skills on back courts in Florida in the blazing sun.
Although she's the world's richest female athlete, she's not going to go the way of Anna Kournikova: quitting the game rather than holding up to the heat of competition.
"Tennis drives everything — drives myself, drives my business, drives everything that I do," Sharapova said. "You miss it. You want to be out there. It's from the hour you're in the locker room and putting your dress on to the 15 minutes before your match, where you're warming up and you're pumping yourself up and going to get out there in front of 20,000 people. I certainly missed it."
And this from her presser:
Q. If this is act 2 of your career, given that you've had a lot of time to think about things, is there anything you feel like you'll approach differently?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think my losses, you know, because I was ‑‑ I am still and I was a big competitor. The losses are very tough to take and no matter what brave face you put on, it's always difficult, especially the next day or so, but I think after going through this long process with the shoulder,you know, stuff, I think ‑‑ I don't think I'll treat those losses that emotionally bad.
Q. You're known as a fighter. It's practically attached to your name. How difficult was it to encounter a situation where really fighting did not help?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: To be honest, it really did. I think if I was ‑‑ if I was a mentallyweak person or individual, I think I wouldn't be here today. I'd be on some island. I mean, sounds good to me, probably sounds good to everyone in this room. You know,with a nice cold Pina Colada and a nice cold towel they hand around at the pools.
But I love being here,and there's no better feeling than waving to the crowd after you've won. There's no better feeling than going on courtwhen they call your name, and, you know, there's a job in front of you and, youknow, especially in these days, to know that you have an opportunity to go outand play and have a job.
I'm interested in seeing how this new "perspective" affects her. Is she going to lose her edge? I mean, she'll still be a tremendous competitor. That's just how she's hardwired. But something tells me we're not going to get this anymore:
Here's hoping the edge is still there. How many matches have we seen her win simply because she wanted it more?