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January 24, 2015

Victoria Azarenka


V. AZARENKA/B. Zahlavova Strycova
6-4, 6-4
An interview with:

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. With every round as you play these matches, are you getting more confident with each one?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I take it as a progress. You know, it's just another match, another opportunity to improve. You know, I have a different opponent, so it's kind of difficult to compare the level or the quality because it's different styles. But I just happy that I managed to go through my matches. There are things that obviously I want to improve. But, you know, it's a progress. It's one step closer. So I'm happy I have another opportunity to play Monday.

Q. How far away would you say you are from your level when you won here?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I would never want to compare that because I think the game itself progressed a lot and I do feel I played better than I was playing two years ago. I think the women's tennis level went up, so I don't like to compare the past. I just want to look forward to the future. I think my game evolved. I'm just heading towards better than looking how I used to play.

Q. What are you working towards?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Being more consistent, being more aggressive, really taking more my chances. The movement, as well, I feel I'm moving a lot better and more free. So this always can get better. I mean, all aspects of the game I feel I need to get sharper still; match play, endurance, match play.

Q. Have you exceeded your expectations so far given the past six to 12 months?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: My expectation for myself is to be able to give my 100% every day. That's what I expect from myself. The rest, I leave it up to whatever happens. But I really try to be demanding on my effort.

Q. When you were out going through recovery and struggles, did you ever have any moments where you thought you might not get to the top? Have you had a moment where you know you're back, ready to roll?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it's very normal and very human to be able to have doubts, to question whether you're going to be able to do it or not. But I think the approach to those thoughts is what counts and what brings you to be a champion. That's what brought me to all my success that I had in the past, to what I'm doing right now. Being able to control those doubts, really fight through them. They're going to come up. You just have to be able to accept that challenge and really grind. I think compete, grind, those things what make you work through all those doubts.

Q. How did you mentally fight the doubts?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I just want to be able to focus on my effort. I think that's one thing you really can control. That's what I'm going to do.

Q. Do you feel you've changed during this fight back, as a person?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't think I've changed as a person. I think I grew as a person. I think I'm able to speak my thoughts more freely, which before I think I was holding back and really was trying to fit into some kind of image that a lot of people, a lot of players do. I think it's very important to stay original, to stay yourself, true to yourself, to who you are. So I think I had to learn that and just be able to live with that and accept who I am as a person. I think it's a matter of maturity. But I still have a lot of room to improve, but I love the way where I'm heading.

Q. The match point, is that the never-give-up attitude that you had?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: When I missed the overhead, I really had some bad words in my head that I thought about. It was really passionate, with a lot of probably anger in it. I'm not going to say them because you're going to have to bleep all of them out. Okay, I missed it, but the ball is still there, so I got to go. I didn't really think about it for too long. I think my version of bad words were pretty short, so I was able to get the other ball.

Q. Do you prefer this feeling of being a little bit under the radar without the spotlight on you this year? Do you feel that's helping you play a little more freely?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't think I really pay attention to this much anymore. It doesn't really matter to me. I'm here to do my job and I want to do it the way I want to do it. I'm going to stick to the things I have to do, and that's pretty much it. I think it makes it much easier if you just going for what you got to do, heading towards your goal. I think it makes it easier.

Q. Thoughts on playing Dominika next?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Very tough opponent, as I've had all of my rounds. She obviously had a lot of great success here. I'm just going to have to try to do my best, give it 100%, be aggressive. She's going to make a lot of shots and she's going to be very motivated. I've just got to step it up.

Q. Has being out for so long made you appreciate being back on court even more?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'm having a lot more fun, yes.

Q. You talked about staying true to your originality. How are you an original?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: How am I an original? Well, first of all, look at my leggings. There's not many players who can pull that off (smiling). What do you think about them?

Q. Not bad.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know how to describe that. I'm just being me. I say what I want to say. I laugh when I want to laugh. I play how I want to play. I grunt when I want to grunt.

Q. You swear how you want to swear?

Q. Do you believe in the notion of a player having a certain relationship with a tournament or a place? You have had great success here.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, you always have those memories. You can get inspired and motivated by them. But in the end of the day, every year is a different story, every day is a different story. You still got to put in the work and put in focus and everything. But this is something you can have in the back of your mind definitely.

Q. You were talking about speaking freely, the sort of change that's come over since the time away, but trying not to stay in that certain image that you said others are in. What is that image?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Maybe I didn't put it the right way. How do I describe that? Like media training, you don't know sometimes what to say. You get trained by the media and you can hold back your thoughts. In this kind of thing, whatever I think, I'm just going to speak, and that's it. I don't really want to say that somebody is doing or trying to be like somebody else. Maybe that's not the right way to put it. I just want to be free to speak what I think. And I didn't do that before.

Q. In other words, not cover up, and just speak your mind?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah. I think you're trying to be likable. It's not a question about being popular, but you want people to like you. Obviously, everybody does. You don't want to be a person nobody likes. But just to be honest and to be respected to other players. I think what people don't talk about is the way the women's game changed, as well. We don't have that much tension between others when you're off the court. I love that. You speak with other players. It's more fun. We have to be respectful. I mean, I know we compete against each other. But to have that bond, I think it's very important because we see each other so much. Just to be respectful and nice to each other. I think it's very important.

Q. Has the locker room changed or it's your relationship to it that's changed?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It comes from yourself. And my approach changed a lot. Not that I wasn't friendly, but it's nice to get to know girls. I was in the locker room today and I heard all the girls speaking Italian. I was trying to understand what they were talking about. I did a little bit. Then we joined the conversation. Just talking about this kind of relationship between players. I just think we all have to forget that tension off the court and really enjoy it. If we look at other sports, there's so much incredible bond and just relations that I think on the tour we can do much better. It starts from players. I miss so much Kim Clijsters because she was the one everybody loved, everybody wanted to talk to. I think we can do much better than that.

Q. You feel like the other players warm to you a lot more these days?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Definitely. It's a two-way street. You got to make an effort. Other players will or not. I want to be the one who is making an effort and trying to have those relationships, get to know some more players. Not that I want to be in their lives, Can we be best friends? But just to have that communication, I think it's healthy.

Q. Do you think it might make it harder to compete against them or do you think that's irrelevant?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think we're still there to do their job. You just want to respect the other fellow player for the hard work they put in. But on the court there is no friends, unless there's umpires you try to be nicer to.

Q. Who are you hitting with when you spend time in L.A.?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Actually, I haven't hit with any girls yet. But I'm looking forward to kind of discover. I don't even really know. I know Maria lives there. But we haven't had a hit yet. Hopefully maybe one day it will happen. But it would be fun to explore that.

Q. Would you have to make the approach to her or do you think she'd make the approach to you?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'm going to try. We'll see what happens. Maybe one day, I don't know.

Q. Sloane grew up around there.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know what, I never seen her in L.A. I would love to hit with her. She's a great partner to hit with. We'll see.
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