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MIAMI OPEN PRESENTED BY ITA├║


April 2, 2016


Victoria Azarenka


Miami, Florida

V. AZARENKA/S. Kuznetsova

6-3, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Congratulations on the sweep. How would you classify the quality of play today, Vika? Especially the first set. Seemed like you didn't really need your A game or even your B game today.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, I did; otherwise I wouldn't have won. I think we shouldn't underestimate a little bit the conditions. It was pretty rough. It was really humid and hot. And even though it didn't seem like it was a lot of wind, a lot of gusts, it created a lot of difficulty to serve, especially on the side against the sun.

But the rest of the game I felt that I played really well. I really took a lot of time away from her and her shots. I didn't see the statistics, but I think I had a pretty high number of winners today, especially (indiscernible).

Q. Second set obviously you really picked it up.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah. I think in the second set I just served better and created more opportunities with my serve, stepped in more. Especially in that game at 3-1, I really made the difference there and went for my opportunities and converted them.

Q. Congratulations.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Thank you.

Q. What was your strategy coming into the match? Seemed like you really attack her to her backhand and forehand. What was your strategy playing her today?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, the strategy was few different things, but the most important thing was really to dictate the game. She's a great player and she's very good in defense. So for me it was important for me to break that down and go for my shots. I was really more focused on how I play and my execution more than anything.

Q. Was there any point, when you dropped down a couple of years ago and were going through all the injuries, was there any point where you really doubted that you might be able to be back today, top 5, winning big tournaments again? Did you have a real low moment during that stage?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Low moment of my being able to play? Definitely. I don't think I ever doubted -- I've answered that question already so many times. I never doubted my abilities of playing the game.

The most difficult thing would hold me back was my body wasn't responding well to training, to matches, and I was unhealthy, I wasn't fit enough. So that was holding me back. And after I think the point when you reach your goals and (indiscernible) that tip of mentality where you kind of drop your motivation a little bit, if you don't put the work in it can sway you away.

I definitely had some difficulties mentally to get back with my motivation, but I never doubted my abilities.

Q. You mentioned the conditions today. Can you expand a little on which part of the conditions was the biggest challenge? I know the sun was mentioned. Was it the wind, sun, combination?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It was definitely a combination. I looked yesterday at the weather, and it was going to be the hottest day in Miami. So I definitely started to prepare from the night before. Going into the match I knew it's going to be difficult condition.

But I felt fine. The only tough part for me was definitely the sun on that opposite side and the wind, because it was really unpredictable.

Q. You have sustained your enthusiasm and your motivation incredibly well all year, despite not having played so well and not having so many wins for a long time. Have you had trouble keeping that incredibly high level of motivation?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: No, because it starts from there. I know it starts with your mind, starts for you to decide what you're going to do, and then your body follows.

But if you don't convince your mind to be open, to be willing to go out and work hard and know what you want and really be disciplined day in and day out, it's not going to work.

So for me the most important thing is to get healthy and believing that my body would allow me to go and produce tennis that I'm producing today.

Q. As a follow-up, moving from here to clay where you have been good but not as great as some and there is a lot of opportunity there, is it going to take another big effort on your part to make some changes, or do you plan on working extra hard to have a great clay court season? What's your plan?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Definitely very motivated for clay season. I always been a high favorite of proving people wrong, and that's what also motivates me a lot.

Going into clay season, people say it's not my favorite surface and whatever, I'm going to work pretty hard to make sure it's going to be my favorite surface. I'm going to put in the work that's needed and the adjustments that's needed.

I think I have played pretty well last year. With my injury I had some pretty good results despite that. So I'm looking forward to putting necessary work in and then go after it.

Q. Following up a bit on that, you must obviously feel wonderful to have once again --
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Can you please speak up? I just can't hear.

Q. You must obviously feel wonderful having your level of game up and strength. You seem to be more fit than a couple of years ago, but it seems to me you're enjoying it more and not just smiling more but even your body language. You seem to have this relaxed intensity all the time. Are you enjoying it more?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Definitely, but I wouldn't call my body relaxed, especially on the court. (Laughter.)

Q. Relaxed intensity.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I think that being fit and being prepared definitely helps a lot with that, and I definitely have a different approach and perspective from a couple of years ago. I worked a lot on myself outside the court to just understand how to be present, how to pick the importance, make better -- what's the word I'm looking for? I forgot the word.

It will come back to me. What?

Q. More effective?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: No, no. Priority. There you go. Better priorities. That just helps me to be in a relaxed way.

I know I'm prepared, and I focus more on the work to put in.

Q. Svetlana was obviously a formidable opponent coming into today.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: She was what?

Q. Formidable, or a difficult opponent.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, yeah.

Q. But at a point in the match where you were having double-faults and struggling with your serve, did you feel you were playing yourself mentally in being able to reset and move past those errors to stay in the match?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I always try to approach the match, and I think my biggest opponent always is myself, because I think when you go on the court is it's a lot more -- it does depend on your opponent, but the way you're going to hit your shots is always up to you.

So I try to focus on what I should do better, not really watch what she's gonna do, because I have my game plan and I focus on my execution.

So for me, it was really trying to find how I'm going to turn that around and just be, you know, be also brave to accept those mistakes, accept the double-faults. You know, it can be frustrating, but if you don't accept them, they're gonna keep coming.

I think in the beginning of the match, I didn't really accept enough that it wasn't going in and there was a lot of missed serves.

Once I started to accept and really focus what I need to do to get it better, it started to be better.

Q. You spoke many times about your battle to get fully fit again after all the injuries, but I noticed you have a familiar figure back in your box, that JP is back in the team who was with you when you were at the top winning the Australian Open.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah.

Q. How important is it he's back looking after your body now?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Very important, not only him looking out for my body but also pushing me to understand my body and understand the purpose of whatever it is I'm doing in the court. I got to learn a lot, to be educated in movement patterns and the way the body works, the way you move.

That really helped me a lot to be more efficient in my training and also helped a lot with the recovery. So I'm very happy he's back and keeps kicking my butt (smiling).

Q. (off microphone.)
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I mean, it wasn't easy. I read about it and saw the videos. When I started in November I really started from zero. I really had to relearn everything, all my movements, and it's still a process for me.

I still need to keep improving and keep getting better. I feel this stretch after the Australian Open gave me a lot of improvements. So I'm going to keep that going.

Q. The other thing you wrote about in your column I think over the winter was how you woke up wondering how your body was going to be rather than your performance was going to be like. Is that gone now? You just had 12 wins in a month. A demanding schedule. How is that going?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It feels good. I feel good. You don't wake up as an athlete without any aches and pains, you know, especially after a match like that. But once I understand my body better, how it reacts, I think sometimes the emotional pain gets into a physical pain.

Me being able to control my emotions and the way I feel really helped with my physical body.

Q. You were obviously No. 1 when Serena was in her prime. You beat her in Indian Wells recently. But Svetlana actually said the women's game still depends on Serena's mood and Serena's feet. What's your comment on that and do you feel you could be No. 1 by the end of the season?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: We'll see what happens. When I say that I believe in myself and I believe I'm good, there is no other way to go on the court. If you're not going on the court feeling you're the best player, just don't go.

Serena is, I have said it many times, one of the players who makes me push myself and with the stats and records she owns pretty much all the records there. She's the toughest competitor there is. And for me there is a great challenge to have her, because it always will push me to improve.

Q. Amazing month, winning Indian Wells, winning Miami. I wonder what went through your head before, now winning both, did it ever pass through your head you'd be able to have such an achievement? Equaling Steffi and Clijsters, what's going through your head, and what will be your celebration?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I have been reminded of this since the quarterfinal, social media, she's going for the double, but it's very easy to get ahead of yourself. I think it's a lot of work to be able to stay in the present and be focused on what's important in that day. I have done that really well not to get distracted by the future and working hard in the present.

I'm going to eat some pizza. I can't wait to eat pizza.

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