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Unbeaten Maria Sharapova has been dubbed the ‘Queen of clay’ this season.
And there is no wonder why as the 27-year-old comes to Foro Italico on the back of winning the Madrid Masters.
Although ‘Claypova’ tried to play down her unbeaten streak on the red stuff – wins against Li Na, Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska and Ana Ivanovic this season show that she is the one to beat at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2014.
“I haven’t thought about myself as the Queen of clay,” admitted Sharapova.
“I certainly feel I have improved a lot on the surface and I have trained myself to be better as I struggled on it when I was younger.
“I had no choice but to try and get stronger, prepare better, recover better and work on those things because they don’t just come automatically.
“You learn so much about points and construction and I always saw it as a learning experience.
“I grew up practising a lot on hard courts, but a lot of my junior tournaments would be on clay. I think you learn a lot more as a junior growing up on clay courts as you do on hard courts.”
Sharapova failed to reach a final on the hard courts at the start of the season, but has picked up on the clay.
“During Miami I was quite frustrated after Indian Wells and I didn’t show up the way I wanted,” she said.
“My attitude started to pick up and after Miami and I was drinking a Mojito in Mexico and I was quite happy with myself – at that point and knew it would be a long season ahead.
“But I was ready for it and I was ready to commit and had a great couple of weeks with my father and my whole team training. “We’ve only had a couple of tournaments and there is a long way to go.”
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Returning from a shoulder injury Sharapova admits that she has had some pain along the way, but now she is now feeling strong again in Italy.
And she added: “You just take it a day at a time. This is a tough back-to-back if you are doing well in a tournament. Playing six matches in eight days is physically challenging as well as mentally.
“You just have to face what is ahead of you and you just have to go out there and play.”