Sharapova: 'I'm in the semis as I didn't want another lecture from my dad'
Maria Sharapova has revealed how avoiding another ticking-off from her father was behind her impressive run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Since saving two match points against Alexandra Panova in the second round, Sharapova has lost just 10 games in reaching the last four, where she will face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova after the pair enjoyed surprisingly one-sided quarter-final victories on Tuesday.
Sharapova defeated seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard 6-3 6-2 in 78 minutes after Makarova had needed just 69 to dispatch third seed Simona Halep 6-4 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena.
"When you're down and out like I was in the second match, it's like I don't want to face that phone call with my father too many times during a tournament," joked Sharapova, whose father Yuri was her first coach and formerly a vocal presence at matches. "It's like, I better get my stuff together.
"It was important to change some things around and just to come out with a little bit of a different perspective and play a bit better. I'm happy I was able to do that."
Asked what her father had said following the game , Sharapova said with a smile: "In a nice version, 'This is unacceptable.' He's like, 'It is much easier just having a normal home life. You should try it. I don't know why you're suffering out there for nothing. Make it easier for yourself.'
"He told me that I was working much harder than I had to. If I was maybe a little bit smarter, did a few things maybe a little bit differently, maybe it could have been easier.
"I actually think he's absolutely right. Deep down inside, sometimes it's encouraging to hear that because no-one will tell you that. I like to hear that. I like coming off the court and hearing how it is. It's what I appreciate from my team.
"In my career I've gone through a few different coaches. I like real people and honesty. I appreciate that very much. I don't need people telling me, 'You're great; you'll improve in the next one'.
"If you played a terrible match, you played a terrible match. Go out there and change whatever it takes to turn things around, because you're not going to win the tournament that way."
Sharapova broke serve in the opening game against Bouchard and faced just two break points in the contest, saving both in the sixth game of the first set before breaking her 20-year-old opponent again to take it in 41 minutes.
Two more breaks gave the 27-year-old the match as Bouchard, who reached the semi-finals here last year, paid the price for making 30 unforced errors.
"I felt under pressure the whole time, a bit on my back foot. That's not how I want to play," Bouchard admitted. "I feel like I didn't start well and it kind of all went downhill from there. It's definitely easier when you have a good start to the match.
"I think she definitely played well today and she didn't give me many chances. I know I could have done better for sure, so I'm disappointed with that, with not taking the few chances I got here and there. Against great players, you have to take every little chance you can get. Although she didn't give me many, I know I had some.
"I didn't feel like I was kind of dominating the ball like I usually want to. I felt a bit under pressure and I felt like I didn't have enough time maybe to set up as I normally do."
Makarova had earlier reached her second successive grand slam semi-final, the 26-year-old having lost to eventual winner Serena Williams in the last four of the US Open last year.
Neither Makarova or Halep had lost a set in the previous four rounds but it was Makarova who always looked the most likely winner, racing into a 3-0 lead with two breaks of serve and winning seven games in a row from 5-4 as Halep committed a string of unforced errors.
"It's a great feeling, I'm so happy that I came through," 10th seed Makarova said. "She is a tough opponent and I lost to her (in their only previous meeting) two years ago. She never gives up, she is always fighting and every point is long.
"It was really tough and I am happy that I stayed solid and in my game. I was used to being in quarter-finals (in grand slams) so now I have to get used to being in semi-finals."
Halep admitted she lost belief in the second set, adding: "I practised very well in the morning, but maybe I was a little bit too stressed before I started the match. I had a bad day but she played well and everything was in for her so she deserves to win.
"I don't know why. I had experience from last year of playing quarter-finals, so it doesn't mean that I felt pressure. But sometimes you cannot manage the situation, just mentally because during the points maybe I didn't fight very well today.
"I just lost my concentration to win the points, to win the match. So I didn't believe any more in the second set, and that's maybe why I lost 6-0."