Douglas Robson, USA TODAY Sports cites Maria Sharapova: “All respect to Simona. I thought she played an unbelievable match today”.

Simple past expresses an event that happened in the past and ended there without any consequence in present or later. According to this I would understand the above sentence as if Sharapova “thought she played…”, but now in the present, in the very moment of her speech she thinks no more, or at least we don’t know for sure whether she still thinks or doesn’t think anymore.

I don’t want to question the grammar here which is fine, but the semantic.

Shouldn’t she say?

I think she played an unbelievable match.

As I said here, I don’t know much about clause’s tense agreement, but according to this link the construction:

I think she played an unbelievable match.

is grammtically correct too.


1 Answer 1


Remember that Sharapova is a second-language English speaker (quite a good one, actually), and is not necessarily 'correct' all the time. (Native English speakers aren't 'correct' all the time!) Certainly, "I think she played ..." is the usual/natural thing to say here - she 'thinks' (now) at the same time as she 'speaks' (now). It's hard to know why she said this here without knowing how she usually speaks English.

I can think of four possible explanations: the first is that it's simply a mistake made in the emotion of the moment.

The second is that there is some grammatical construction in Russian which she is mistakenly using in English (I don't know anything about Russian grammar).

The third is that this quotation is from a post-match interview, so the match is now 'past' (which is why she said 'she played'), even though the thought is still 'now', so she expresses her thoughts about the match in past tense.

The fourth is that it's a form of 'distancing' or 'politeness' - she's talking to an interviewer and audience. English doesn't have any systematic way of indicating formal levels, so people often use past tenses where they might otherwise use present tenses.


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