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March 20, 2016

Victoria Azarenka

Indian Wells, California

V. AZARENKA/S. Williams

6-4, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You worked out having to pick up that trophy. How does it feel to win and be back in the top 10?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Feels good just to be able to, you know, see the work that I have put in and it's paying off. But not just, you know, this year. Just everything that I have been through in the last years, it makes it more special.

I just want to keep going. I just want to keep going. I want to keep improving myself as a player. I was very, I would say, brave to go for things that I haven't maybe done as much before in the matches.

I was more aggressive. I started to use my serve the way I wanted to use my serve. Sometimes it doesn't work necessarily, like couple of matches this week. But having that big goal in mind and going after it, that's something that makes the momentum shift on the big stages.

Q. Is it fair to say 5-2 in the second set you got a bit tight?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: No, I don't think I got tight. I think I changed a little bit what was working. She grabbed that opportunity. I still stuck to what I believed was working for me, and in the end it paid off.

Q. Do you mind talking a little bit about your perspective from the 5-2, and then also when you were down 15-40 in your serve in the last game?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: 5-2, as I said, I felt I did a little bit too much than I should have. I didn't have to go for bigger/better, necessarily. But sometimes in those moments, you think that, Oh, I'm about to close the match, whatever, you need to do more.

That can obviously -- didn't work out for me. I missed a couple of very short balls. So on the 5-4 I just, again, went for my shots. I stuck to what I believed was working for me and got me to that point of break serves and holding well and just playing my game.

Q. What do you think made you more brave and aggressive in this match compared to previous matches? Atmosphere or what? Serena, or...
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Just me. I guess my approach to that, you know, my mentality to do things that I work on in practice and really I apply them to the match. Because sometimes you do so well in practice but you can't really transfer that or you second-doubt or self-doubt, whatever it is.

And I didn't.

Q. How important was the serve on big points? I think you saved 11 out of 12 break points, which was impressive against a person like Serena. What was your mindset being able to go for it, on those points especially?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I have to go for it. She's not a type of player that if you gonna play safe she's gonna give it to you or she's gonna miss. You really have to go out there and take away, because there is nothing coming easy.

My mentality was just to stay calm, do what I think is right, play aggressive, play my game, and figure it out from there. I just really try to stay in the moment. Whatever I can do, you know, whatever the score is, the next-best point what I can play.

Q. The consequence of the win puts you back into the top 10. It's been a while since you were there. What are your thoughts getting back in there?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's a good start. (Smiling.) It's a good start.

Q. You're obviously an incredibly courageous athlete, come from Belarus, overcome this terrible injury, and this is your biggest win in and a very happy win for you.

Q. I must do my job and ask you whether you heard the comments that Mr. Moore made.

Q. As a woman who has put all you have into this sport, could you reflect on those, please?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it's something that, again, we have to work through as women. Men don't get those comments. I don't want to address or insult anybody like we got a little bit.

But I have just spoken to Paul, [sic] and he apologized. My thing is I don't understand any man comments in general towards women, because as simple as that, every single person on earth was brought and was born by a woman, right?


Q. Absolutely.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think that's a good comment and I think people should remember that sometimes.

Q. I want to also ask you this as someone who has followed you with great joy.

Q. Throughout your career. Let's face it. You and other women were criticized harshly for the sounds they made on court, while men, from Jimmy Connors onward, basically were not. Did that ever cross your mind, that there was a gender difference and a response there?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it's still a problem in the world. It's not just in sports. It's in business. We try to talk about the equality. Sometimes it just gets unrecognized. I think what women do best is rise above those comments. You don't hear complaints or bad comments towards men.

From my perspective, if we rise above that and keep working hard in everything we do, we're better. We're better at taking opportunities and being graceful. Why do you have to make the comment? Who cares? Who cares? Simple as that. Just to make more drama or jokes?

I mean, if that makes that person feel better or bigger or whatever, it's a pretty sad person, I think. Because if you're happy you don't care what other people do. You just take care of you.

I think that's more important to focus on us. That's what women players and examples like Venus and Serena and other players have been doing for -- you know, we got it from Billie Jean King where she proved everybody, Hey, look at me. I started something, so let's go after it.

So I think it's our duty to keep just working hard through whatever comments there is. We've got to rise above that.

Q. You commented about the grunting at Wimbledon last year, your reaction to it. Do you think this is something you have embraced more as you have gotten older in this sport, embracing this role as being a leader for women through your status as a top athlete?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I believe in giving back to a sport that gave me so much. I'm very passionate. I see how hard it is to make something out of yourself and stand your ground, so I believe that it's my duty for players maybe after me or during this time to really have this respect for our sport.

I think that comes with it. Through the years, yeah. The comments, the grunting. I, don't care about this. I could give less of shit about it.

Because to me, I work my butt off on the court to try to win the match. And whatever it takes, I'm going to do it.

Q. Do you think that Raymond Moore's apology is a little disingenuous given the nature of the comments he made just a few hours previously?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'm trying not to think about it. As all my other comments, I'm not gonna bring somebody down. I'm just gonna rise above that.

Today I think it was a great match. It was a great day for women's sport. Isn't it international happiest day or something like this? That's what I heard. Why can't we just be happy and enjoy and support each other, because that's what the world is missing a little bit.

It's the support towards each other. Not just bashing and, oh, who is prettier or who is this, who has more, who has less.

Let's just take care of each other.

Q. Speaking of the match...

Q. You have now beaten Serena in the final four times. Nobody else has ever done that. How does that make you feel?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Ah... Good. I mean, I don't give that too much attention. I'm very honored to play against the best player in the world. That's what I said on the court. I really mean that. She's absolutely transformed women's sport. Her and Venus brought something unique and lifted it up.

You know, the power, the intensity, you know, the records that I'm pretty sure she's gonna break at some point. But just to be able to watch that and get inspired, for me, that's more important. I mean, I'm happy that I won and I'm going to -- next time we play I'm going to try to win again, but just being able to play on big stages against the best player, that's something that I want to do every single week. (Smiling.)

Q. How much did you miss all this - I don't mean the controversies - but on the court and the victories and all that, how much did you miss it during those periods when you were away from the game and trying to get yourself physically right again?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: A lot. It's something that I love to do more than anything else in the world. Whatever time I had injured, whatever, it made me better. It made me stronger.

So in a weird way, it had to happen for me to grow. So I don't look back at it as a bad experience. I just learned from that and moved forward.

Q. You have spoken about the importance of your grandmother, your relationship. It's a big day for you. If she were here, what would you say to her?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, you know, the beauty of my family is that they don't care about Vika as a tennis player, as a champion. They care about Vika as a human. If I was acting bad or saying something bad, she will tell me something.

If I win they're obviously happy for me, but that's not going to make them more happy for me or not. This is what I love about my family.

Q. In Australia after a tough day at the office you said you gave yourself permission to be pissed off.

Q. Today on a wonderful day at the office what are you going to give yourself permission for?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'm going to eat some ice cream. I haven't had any sweets in forever. I was a little heavy last year so I was on a diet, so now I can treat myself. (Smiling.)

Q. And flavor and brand?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Brand? I don't know. We need to work on that.

And definitely chocolate ice cream.

Q. Given what you've been through, how does this rank? Where does it rank in terms of what you have achieved in the game to this point?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's a good starting point for me. Yeah, because I want to improve. Today it's a happy day, it's a win, but it still doesn't take me from keep improving and staying motivated and staying hungry. I'm still hungry. Literally. (Laughter.)

Q. Big emotion for Serena on the court.

Q. Did you feel that there was a sense of pressure for her to close the door on 15 years?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know. I think she's done such an incredible job last year that this year - I can't speak for her - but it felt a little bit different. She felt a lot more comfortable here and I felt that she felt really good here.

And especially seeing Venus come back, you know, it was so great for our sport to see them both here. I don't know. It felt different for me this year, but I can see the pressure she's facing probably everywhere she goes because everybody expect her to win all the time.

And that's not easy.

Q. Roger Federer said he learns most from mistakes, if I recall correctly. A difficult situation with Serena in Madrid. What did you learn from that?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: For me it was difficult to judge anything from last year in terms of matches just because I didn't feel that I was there 100% physically like I could be. I think the good learning experience for me was the match with Kerber and looking at it and seeing that -- and start to analyze my game, start to really think the way to win and the way to play, the way to improve.

So just opening my mind to different things. But definitely learning from mistakes helps. Watching the match in Australia was tough for me.

Q. One or two takeaways from the Melbourne match?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It was my match to win. I really had many opportunities. I didn't take them at all; my opponent took every single one, and that's what made her great and win the tournament.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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