(July 16, 2017) OMNI LA COSTA RESORT & SPA, CARLSBAD, California – Before the fans arrived as part of the World Team Tennis defending champion Aviators’ home opener, Maria Sharapova held a news conference with the media prior to the match. Sharapova is playing for the Orange County breakers this season.
“I think no road is easy,” Sharapova said about her return. “It’s nice to have a schedule again and something that I really miss, having a tournament on the schedule and a calendar and knowing what I have to prepare for.”
She was supposed to play during the grass court season, but did not due to injury.
“I hadn’t actually planned on playing World Team Tennis but I just thought I could use the bonus matches as I like to call them.”
Sharapova was pressed about whether or not she received preferential treatment, as some players felt that she should have been banned. The five-time major champion said: “I served the suspension period and I think there’s not much more that I could add to that.”
Sharapova plans to to play two events before the U.S Open – Stanford and Toronto.
Full Maria Sharapova news conference:
The Russian, making her first United States appearance since her doping ban, competed in two events – women’s singles and women’s doubles with her Breakers’ partner Andreja Klepač, who is currently the twenty-eighth ranked doubles player on the WTA tour. Klepač served first for the Breakers and held her serve, before the Russian-Slovene duo earned a break of serve followed by Sharapova consolidating the break and holding her serve as well, to give the Breakers a 3-0 lead in women’s doubles. The Breakers were once again able to earn a break of serve to end the match, as Sharapova connected on a big forehand return down the line while on the ad side to force an error from Jurak at the net, giving the Orange County squad a dominant 5-1 win in women’s doubles which at that point gave the team an overall 10-2 lead over the Aviators.
Following the men’s doubles set, Sharapova then began her campaign in women’s singles against American Shelby Rogers. The pair have met once on the WTA tour, with Sharapova earning a win in straight sets two years ago in the first round in Acapulco as the top seed. Rogers broke Sharapova’s serve to start the set, before holding her own serve to take a quick 2-0 lead. Facing deciding point on her own serve, Sharapova came up with a big serve to force an error from Rogers which got her on the board in the set, and she followed that up with a break of her own to even up the score at 2-2 at the changeover (changeovers occur every 4 games in WTT). Sharapova then consolidated the break and held serve, but the rest of the match it was all Rogers, as the Charleston native won three straight games to earn a big 5-3 win over the Russian which cut into the deficit the Breakers had and thus ended Sharapova’s night.
Going back to the start of the match, the Breakers’ duo of Andreja Klepač and Ken Skupski earned a nice 5-1 win over the strong doubles team of Jurak/Klaasen to kick off the evening. The Breakers also won the women’s doubles set as mentioned previously, to give themselves a 10-2 lead over the Aviators through the first two sets. In the turning point of the match, the Aviators’ duo of Ryan Harrison and Raven Klaasen won 12 of their 13 service points en route to defeating Teymuraz Gabashvili and Skupski 5-1, helping to bring the Aviators back in the match by halftime. Aviators coach Marc Lucero, who was filling in for John Lloyd (attending Wimbledon final overseas), made a strong rookie debut as the two timeouts he called in the men’s doubles set helped Harrison and Klaasen seal the victory. Rogers’s win over Sharapova helped bring the defending champions even closer to the Breakers, as Harrison and Gabashvili headed into the final set with the Breakers leading 14-12. Gabashvili ended up winning even less games than the sole game he won in men’s doubles, as Ryan Harrison displayed an agressive style of tennis in front of the home crowd and earned the clinching 5-0 win to give the Aviators a 17-14 comeback victory.
This was the first sellout in Aviators franchise history.
SAN DIEGO AVIATORS def. Orange County Breakers 17-14
Mixed Doubles – Ken Skupski\Andrej Klepač (Breakers) def. Raven Klaasen/Darija Jurak (Aviators) 5-1
Women’s Doubles – Maria Sharapova/AndrejKlepač (Breakers) def. Shelby Rogers/Darija Jurak (Avaitors) 5-1
Men’s Doubles – Ryan Harrison/Raven Klaasen (Aviators) def. Teymuraz Gabashvili/Ken Skupski (Breakers) 5-1
Women’s Singles – Shelby Rogers (Aviators) def. Maria Sharapova (Breakers) 5-3
Men’s Singles – Ryan Harrison (Aviators) def. Teymuraz Gabashvili (Breakers) 5-0
Up next for the Orange County Breakers (0-1):
Home match vs the Springfield Lasers on Monday, July 17th
Up next for the San Diego Aviators (1-0):
Home match vs the Springfield Lasers on Tuesday, July 18th
On-court interview between Parsa Nemati and Ryan Harrison:
Q: First off, congrats on a career-high. How does it feel, #40 in singles and #21 in doubles?
A: Yeah it’s been incredible, it’s been a fun run. This year has kinda started from last year, the summer, and I started playing better and then this year has just been an awesome year. I’m looking forward to keeping it going.
Q: Roland Garros doubles champion, then Wimbledon quarterfinals. Playing with your new partner Michael (Venus), does the doubles carry over to your singles, does the confidence go up?
A: Yeah yeah, definitely. When you’re winning, you’re winning. So the confidence goes up. I think that I’m playing better overall. I think that whether it’s World Team Tennis, or singles or doubles, or practice, I’m playing better overall so that should be leading to better results.
Q: As you mentioned before the match, Christian (his younger brother) is at a career-high too. He’s top-300. Do you guys talk to each other a lot, do you keep up with his results, follow his matches?
A: Yeah of course. I’m following him every day. He’s doing a good job, he’s won back-to-back titles and he’s starting to get going. He’s really feeling some confidence and so hopefully leading into the summer circuit he’ll have a good series leading up to the Open. Hopefully we both do.
Q: Perfect. Good luck with the rest of the season.
A: Thanks man, appreciate it.
On-court interview between Parsa Nemati and Raven Klaasen:
Q: How do you feel returning back to San Diego, the defending champs?
A: San Diego is like my second home, there are so many familiar faces here, I love coming back, and it’s a great time of the year for me. And to start the season off with a win is spectacular.
Q: Coming off the grass season, what are you looking forward to do in doubles with Raj, do you guys have any specific goals?
A: Oh yeah, we’re back on the surface that we like the most. I can really move very well on this surface and we’re looking to make a big push heading into the summer and ending in New York with a big result.
Q: Do you feel any emptiness with no Raj here, you guys are separated for once!
A: It’s so funny, how much time we spend together. It is probably good for us to get a little break from each other, but he will be here next week and we’ll have some fun.
Q: How does coach (Billy) Heiser help you on the road, as well as your own coach (Stephan de Kock), how are they able to help you and Raj to have success?
A: Yeah, Billy has been doing a great job getting us as a cohesive unit. I always like when you have more sets of eyes looking at you and especially getting important information that can help you under pressure. It’s been a good season so far, it shows in our results, we’ve got two titles. Now we’ve just got to build on that and finish the year out strong.
Q: Perfect. Have a great rest of the season.
A: Thank you very much.