Maria Sharapova has revealed that she feels a lot more comfortable playing on clay now than she did previously in her career.
The 27-year-old eased through to the second round of the French Open this afternoon and is bidding to reach her third consecutive final at Roland Garros having won the tournament in 2012 and been beaten by Serena Williams last year.
It represents a major turnaround for the Russian, who has won five of her last six titles on clay despite once describing herself as a "cow on ice" when playing on the surface.
"The clay was very difficult for me, because I had never had mental confidence that I was able to play a three-hour match and have the opportunity to play in the semi-finals or finals," Sharapova is quoted as saying by PA.
"I wouldn't say I was physically weak, but I didn't recover that well and I wasn't strong enough. It took me years to build that confidence in my body and my legs getting stronger and recovering on the court to make it a surface that I actually loved playing on, even if the conditions are like this.
"I think it was one of the biggest individual goals I had, because I realised that I needed to do something about it and I think I just took it upon myself. It's almost like getting away from that fear, 'Okay, you can slide and you can get back in the court'. You don't need to just hang around by the post on the side, it's okay to get back on the court and play your game again."
Sharapova will face Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.