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January 23, 2016
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
V. AZARENKA/N. Osaka
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Do you think this is the best you have ever played at the Australian Open?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'm not sure. I don't really count the games. I just try to focus on my execution more. I mean, the score doesn't really tell -- say pretty much the whole story sometimes.
But I'm pretty happy with the way I'm playing. I just, you know, I want to still keep improving from match to match, because it's only getting harder from here.
Q. You talked a lot here about how you try to have a different approach, no expectations, all the rest of it. Do you find yourself in a match reacting to a bad call, line call or something, and say, no, no, that was the old me; I'm different now?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: The beauty about it is that it doesn't bother me, so I don't have to think about if that was old me or not me. I just -- it just comes natural. I just try to focus on what I have to do and not really think about it.
Q. You talked a lot in Brisbane about the physical aspects.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah.
Q. You've got this admirable mindset. Have you had any psychology coaching, that sort of thing?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Not really. (Smiling.) No, not really. I think for me what works the best is communicating with people. You know, listening to other people's experience, you know, athletes, watching also - documentaries is also one of my favorite things and seeing what people are going through.
So trying to take that mindset and, you know, think what they have been through and try to see if that's something that I can relate to. And really just accepting whatever is coming, whatever kind of emotion, if it's good or bad, and trying to work through that.
Q. What kind of documentaries have you been watching?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Many. I watched on Tony GonzĂˇlez. He's a friend. Cam Newton, on J.J. Watt, like football players. On Kobe. I love watching not only documentaries but interviews, because when it's one on one, I think it's really interesting for me. I love to share that experience.
Q. And J.J. is a really dominant player. What did you learn from that?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It was interesting for me to see his story, the way he approached from when he came as a kid and how he went all the way through. The part of the journey, that's what's most interesting for me. Not really what particularly they are doing right now, but what led up to all that mentality.
Q. Kobe came from high school and jumped right into the pros and you came right from Belarus.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: That's the same. (Laughter). From high school to the pros and from Belarus. Yeah, okay.
I would say Belarus was a high school, too, you know. It was a school, definitely.
Q. Kobe has spent a lot of time there. But anyway, were you impressed just the way he went from high school to the pros and that transition? Was that part of your experience in watching...
VICTORIA AZARENKA: That's really remarkable. There haven't been many more players who actually had an opportunity to do that, but his transition of moving to the pros was so dominant that that was really remarkable. As always, will have my respect for that.
Q. You said you're not going to defend your gold medal in the Olympics in mixed earlier this week. Just wondering off of that, what sort of advice would you give to all these people looking for a partner, trying to figure out how that works, not getting many chances to play mixed before the Olympics?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I have no idea. I wish I would tell you what's the recipe is. I mean, I only had one partner that I can play with, so there was no choice. That was kind of made for me, and it helped (Smiling.)
I just played -- what helped I think that we played before. We won a Grand Slam together, so that was really, you know, great confidence going into. We tried a tournament before that. Max is such, you know, an amazing doubles player, so I couldn't really complaining much.
Q. Did you ever play in the slams against like a couple who was dating? If so, what was that like?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Dating?
Q. Yeah, where the guy and girl were boyfriend/girlfriend, something like that.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Ah, I have no idea. I never thought about it.
Q. Five top 10 women's players have been knocked out of the tournament. Are you surprised by this at all?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: No. I mean, I don't know. I don't really pay attention to that. I think that just shows maybe a little bit of the depth of competition, that you have to be ready for every single match, and that's really what I'm trying to do.
Q. I think Muguruza and Halep said there is a lot of pressure at the slams; they both lost here. How do you deal with it?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I love it.
Q. I don't mean for you, but for the young players.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I love it. I embrace it. I don't know, pressure for me, I think it's part of where I came from. I always had pressure. I had one shot to get out of where I am, so that was way more pressure than I'm having pressure right now.
So I just embrace it. I think that motivates me.
Q. But even when you were young you were never nervous at all in the slams when you first started?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Everybody is always nervous. Don't tell me nobody as an athlete aren't nervous before the match. It is. It's just what you do for the nerves. Do you use them for your advantage and hype you up and use that adrenaline to your power, or use it to close in and not to do anything?
Q. Based on where you are now, what would you say to the Vika who was 15, 16 years old still trying to make sense of the big, bad world?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know if I would take anything back, but I would definitely -- because it brought me here, you know. I always would suggest for young players and, you know, for myself to be open-minded and have fun. Always try new things and be involved.
You have to be involved in whatever is happening, because once you turn around and you don't control what's happening for you, that's when I think trouble comes.
Q. I know you don't like to compare where you are right now as far as your form...
VICTORIA AZARENKA: But you're still going to ask me. (Laughter.)
Q. I'm actually going to ask you where you feel like you are as far as satisfaction with your current form, not comparing it to the past. But do you walk off the court happy or do you walk off the court with Wim and talk about all these Xs and Os? Where do you feel like Vika is right now with your tennis?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think there is always -- it's a healthy approach to look for what are the things that you can improve. I actually went back on the tennis court after my match today. I wanted to work on couple of things.
So looking for progression, it's definitely part of my mindset after any match.
Q. How long were you out there after your match?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: 20, 25 minutes. Not that long.
Q. Back to today's match, what was your mindset or approach towards the match which you are going to play the player you have never played before? And what kind of impression did you get of her?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Actually it was my third match here and third time against opponent who I never played against, so I think that was already -- already I have experienced that here.
She definitely surprised me with her play. I think in the first game you could see that I was a little bit off my timing because I was expecting some bombs coming my way and the ball came pretty slow.
So it took me a second to really adjust, but I think she has an interesting game. I think she has a lot of potential, has a lot of power. I'm sure we will see a lot more of her.
Q. Two or three times I think you have basically said, I have come to realize that it's important just to be me, to experience my own self, express myself that way. Was there a time when you sort of came to that decision? Was there a process instead of maybe meeting other people's expectations? Could you just talk about that?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I can't name you the date when it happened, but probably after US Open 2014 is something where I really realized that there is something inside me. Like I didn't feel good about myself. I have said that many times that I had a person tell me, Are you depressed? I said, No.
Because you don't allow -- as an athlete, you don't really weaknesses to show. And then I realized, Yes, I am. So that was the 2014, September, October, whatever. It started a process for me to just, you know, adjust and adjust. It's not easy.
Obviously it took me over a year to be able to control all that. You know, I had a lot of changes and emotions from last year that I still didn't know how to handle. I was trying to put them in places, but I wasn't able to control most of that.
Q. But it's been a really good process?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's been amazing. It changed my life. Really, it did. Starting to be happy and organized and disciplined off the court, it changed my life on the court, definitely.
Q. Were there any people outside of yourself who encouraged you in that or coached you?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: My friends, my family. I have very close group of friends who are absolutely amazing, and they really pushed me. You know, one of my best friends in Belarus, he pushed me. I called him one time, I said, I don't want to do this anymore. He said, You have to. You're this close. You've got to push through.
I'm very lucky that I have such amazing friends and family around me.
Q. You said something interesting earlier about the pressure you felt when you were younger in Belarus was more than, you know, playing a Grand Slam and stuff like that. Can you give a little bit more insight into that? Like what did that pressure feel like, look like? A specific example?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, first pressure is that if you don't win some tournaments you have absolutely no opportunity to go to any other. If you're not the best, you don't get, you know, sponsored at all.
So that was pretty rough. I was an ITF -- I remember this day. It still affects me every time. I was traveling for nine weeks, and, you know, in the juniors you play one or two matches a day. You can be -- you can play a certain time. If you skip lunch, you don't get to eat. I had no money. I didn't get to eat.
So that was pressure, you know, to survive. That was survival, really. So, you know, pressure right now is go out there and, you know, face a big opponent? Okay. But when you're like hungry and you've got to go play and you have absolutely nothing, that's big pressure.
Q. Do you think it's an advantage in some ways for players from places that maybe aren't that wealthy to have that kind of fierce pressure versus maybe more developed countries where it would be nice if they became a tennis pro but their life is not on the line?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I wouldn't call it as an advantage. I think that's just -- that's just what makes you tough. I wouldn't call it as an advantage, because it never feels like it, for sure.
Q. Next opponent, Barbora Strycova, you have beaten her the past two Australian Opens. You obviously must be confident. What concerns you most about her game at the time?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: She's a very tricky opponent, and obviously beating a top player like Muguruza shows she is capable of handling herself on the big stages.
I have played her and it's never easy. You never know what's going to come. I would like to approach that match the same way as I did my other matches: focus on myself and try to give the best on every point, because I think that's what creates a good approach for me mentally, physically, and I enjoy it more.
Q. Last year you had a couple very tough draws.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Sorry. Can you please repeat?
Q. Last year you had a couple of very tough draws in the Grand Slams, but now you are in a relatively most straightforward draw. Which do you prefer? Do you like the challenge of facing higher ranked opponents in a draw or do you prefer this kind of draw?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't really prefer anything because it doesn't matter. Not it doesn't matter. It doesn't depend on me. I can't control the draw, who's going to win or lose. I don't put myself in a situation to choose.
Whatever comes comes to me, and, you know, it's pretty normal. I wasn't really seeded last year or very low seeded, so it's normal that I do face tougher opponents in the first rounds. So for me it doesn't really matter.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports