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March 21, 2018

Victoria Azarenka

Miami, Florida


6-3, 6-0

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It looked like a pretty convincing win. You look maybe more comfortable on that court than in Indian Wells. How do you assess overall your performance?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I mean, it's hard to compare those two wins -- I mean, two tournaments, because Indian Wells was my first tournament after a long break and kind of unexpected tournament, so I had a little bit more time to just prepare and actually get in the rhythm of everyday training and kind of being back in the zone.

So I feel like I have done some improvement in that little period of time, which I feel like I usually do pretty well. You know, first tournaments can be really rusty for me and to get and find the emotions that I put in.

But today I felt that -- I was just nervous before the match, because I haven't played in a while and I want to do so well. So I put a lot of kind of pressure on myself to do well. I think you could see that in the first couple games.

But then I just relaxed and I found my game and I stepped on the pedal and didn't take it off.

Q. Is this something big, something important?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I mean, I'm happy that I'm playing. I don't want to be over-the-moon happy because I'm still in the tournament and I want to continue to reach any heights and new goals, so I'm trying to be happy, grateful, but also humble and focused for the next match, because I'm still in the tournament and I want to do better. I'm never satisfied, so that's why (smiling).

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Leo and having his name on your shoe?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah. I mean, I just put it there and I have it on my shirt, and I'm clearly the best No. 1 fan of my son, so it's just something, you know, to remind you -- not really remind me but to keep close to my heart when I play. I thought it's fun.

Q. He's not here?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: He is here, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Q. Still baby questions. Some of the men players have said in the past that things -- you know, they never want to lose, never like to lose, it's still tough, but it's a little bit more, you know, relaxing if there is a baby around and the losses don't necessarily hurt as much or the wins are not as euphoric. It's a little bit more of an even feel, let's say. Would you feel the same way?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think the harmony and the balance within is definitely different, because your perspective definitely changes on what's important, because tennis, in the end of the day, is a job. And you do this job for a certain period of time. And when you're a parent, this is for the rest of your life and that's your responsibility.

So in that way, I think the dynamic of the thoughts really change, but I do think it's a little different for when men and women, when they have children, because I feel that still -- not being gender-biased or whatever, because I know it's a sensitive subject, but mothers are, you know, have different emotions than dads do.

You know, I feel for myself sometimes I'm worried more about how to make sure that my son is okay than myself.

Q. Serena was saying last week, which I'm sure you probably heard, on the fact she almost was in tears the first time she went out to play that night match, because the baby wasn't around and all that. Did you go through that, as well, in the early stages? Do you still feel that way, you know, when you're going out for a match and he's not necessarily close by?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, it's super-weird feeling. I can't stand to be away from him at any moment. When he's with me sometimes I feel like, you know, I want to take a little second for myself, but then that second is over and then I just keep missing my son.

I'm trying to find that balance. It's definitely a challenging thing to kind of focus on yourself, because I forgot about how to focus on myself since the day he was born.

It's a sensitive thing, but, you know, trying to work through it and give myself, not to judge myself, that two hours away that I'm from my son, it's not that bad, because, you know, there is a lot of parents who work 10 hours a day, and it's really challenging. So I still feel really grateful that I have opportunity to make my work around and around my son and spend as much as time as I can with him.

Q. You were talking about being nervous before start of the match. You unfortunately had to come back from injury many times in your career. Was it the same nerves each time you came back from another injury? You felt the same nerves before going again out there or this time it's different?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's very different right now in terms of emotional state that I'm in because, you know, coming from where I came from in the last seven months, it's a tough place to recover, and it will take me time to heal, because it's been and still going on very difficult process. But I will need the time to heal and make sure that I'm okay personally, and it will reflect in my tennis overall.

But as of right now I need time to be okay, you know, to give myself a little room to breathe, which is very difficult for me to do and not to be hard on myself.

But it will take a little time, but I think, you know, I have no doubt that what I want to achieve I will achieve.

Q. (Off microphone) when you come back from maternity leave, you shouldn't lose your seeding, you shouldn't lose your ranking, they should have protected Serena or even you and Clijsters? Do you think they need to change the rule and you need to get back with the same seed you had before the baby?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know, it's a sensitive area in the way that I look at it from two perspectives, because the conversation started because of Serena, you know, and all respect to her, if we look at her achievements and where she's come from, where I come from, it might be a fair choice that we do have a seeding in the tournaments after coming back.

On the other perspective that I have to look at, as well, is the other players who worked really hard throughout the years and will be losing that seeding. It's a difficult question, because if we do make that rule, it will have to be for everybody. In terms of the people who we are talking about, you know, it's an exception, and there can be rules to exceptions, but they need to be -- rules need to be for everybody.

So we have started this conversation a little bit in the player council. I'm a part of the player council. So we need to make sure that everybody is on the same level, and the best way to handle this situation is going to take a little bit of time, but it's good to start this conversation.

I don't really have an answer for you right now, but those are two perspectives that I have to look at, and I have to be objective.

Q. Just on that very point, when did any sort of discussions actually start? I didn't quite hear what Carol was asking, but could it be a situation of you've got eight tournaments with a protected ranking, I think it is, for a year, so that maybe either half or just those eight would provide you with a protected seeding?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, my opinion, my honest opinion, and, you know, it's going to be the conversation, I don't think there should be a limit on the maternity leave as the same as is on the injury. That's my point.

I don't think that going, you know -- and starting a family you have the same pressure of two years to be able to come back and use your protected ranking. I think that's the part of the conversation that needs to be extended, and that was my point of view.

Because, you know, two years, it takes ten months for pregnancy and you have a year to come back. It's a lot of pressure for somebody. Somebody's eager to go out there and start playing right away. Somebody's not.

So I feel that this choice also has to be put in the priority. There shouldn't be such a short limit taking the amount of time it takes, you know, to have a family, so that's one of the part of conversation that we started.

The second part is seeding, but as I said, we all need to be objective and look from every part of the view, because I do understand what people are saying that Serena needs to be seeded, that I would like to be seeded, as well, but I need to be objective on that question for everybody.

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