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March 8, 2019

Victoria Azarenka

Indian Wells, California

S. WILLIAMS/V. Azarenka

7-5, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Have you changed from how you felt at the end of the Australian Open? You seemed very happy at the net. Just some thoughts on how you fought today.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, happy? That's a little too far out, out there. But, you know, the quality of the match is not even in comparison to what was in Australia, the level of my game is not even in comparison to what it was in Australia.

From this match, there is a lot more positive that I can take. It was a great two sets of tennis from both players. You know, unfortunately this was the second round.

Q. In terms of the level that you were able to put forth out there, is that just a reflection of the work you have been putting in, practice coming into this, or playing Serena, you know, bringing out the best in you? What do you think?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it's a little bit of both. I feel like I have been improving from week to week after Australian Open. You know, I thought I took a pretty good step forward in Acapulco even though I didn't do the results that I wanted.

It's the little pieces, you know. There is nothing big that is missing in my game. It's really about putting those things together. Today I was able to do most of the times that. Sometimes, you know, you play against the best player in the history, and they gonna push you.

But as I always said, Serena pushes me to play my best tennis. I thought that today was a good match. Definitely a lot of high quality. I don't feel there was really a loser in this match. You know, she really won. She deserved to win.

She played better on those important moments. I felt that every game was ad, deuce, ad, deuce. It was all about who was going to take that chance, and she took them a little better today.

Q. Been a long time since you played her. What were the emotions like before the match, seeing her across the net again, feeling her game?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know, as much as she's the toughest opponent I have ever played in my life, she's my favorite person to play against.

I feel that, for me, why I still play is because I enjoy the challenges. If it's easy, if it's boring, I don't want to play.

But those type of challenges always motivate me. Serena is one of those players that I always look forward to play. Again, maybe not in the second round, but my draws have been amazing my whole career (smiling). There is no surprise about that.

Q. Given that statement of meeting the big challenge, though...
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, I have plenty of them. Don't worry. I have so many that I would love to share with people.

Q. But when you're not coming up against such a big player, that's going to happen, to progress further, how are you going to get yourself up for that in a similar way to capture that kind of motivation? It worked so well tonight.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I feel like I prepare for every match really the same way. You don't prepare for opponent. You prepare yourself for the match.

It's up to me to continue to bring that out of me. You know, that desire to play, that fight, you know, that's something that I never lose is to fight for every point no matter who I play, where I play, good, bad, whatever. Everybody knows I will fight till the last point, and I'm going to continue to do that.

Q. Extraordinary match. Extraordinary moment at the end of the match. Could you share a little bit about that? What was going on there? You guys had a pretty extended, warm hug. What were you talking about?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think it's not a surprise that we have mutual respect and love off the court. You know, on the court it's a fight. It's a war. You know, it's a lot of intensity.

But after the match, it's over. After the match, that's it. Whoever won, you know, congratulations. I think it was quite an amazing match. I hope people enjoyed watching it. I hope we can do some more of that, because that's what tennis is about today. And having such a match on International Women's Day, I felt that was really incredible.

Q. How rare are those friendships on the tour? That kind of warm exchange, you just don't see it that often. There are some girls that just don't really get that close to other players.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I would disagree with you. I think that there is a lot more. I don't think it's maybe visible as much, but there is a lot of friendships on the tour.

You know, I actually had a wonderful time in Acapulco getting to know my doubles partner. I have never really played with her. I knew about her, but we got to hang out in Acapulco and play doubles. She's an amazing girl. I got to know another person.

And I think, you know, I don't think -- I feel that there is a few players that are in their own lane, let's put it that way, and they just want to focus on themselves, so it's up to them. But I don't think it's a tendency in the tour. I really don't.

Q. You said that you felt that every game was a deuce game. I counted 12 or 13. Is there one of them that you feel like now, 20 minutes after stepping off the court, that maybe that one was the one that could have kind of tipped the scale?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I feel that every one of them could have. You know, I feel in this type of close matches and this type intensity, one point, one shot can change the momentum.

But when you're facing someone who will not give you one single free point, it's a tough one. So that's why it was a lot of those games.

Q. You were briefly a part of an amazing ad by Nike that was aired...
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, yeah, my crying? (Smiling.) Yep.

Q. It was powerful.

Q. What do you think of that message in that ad campaign?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I felt that it was an amazing moment for women in sport. I feel that we showed great vulnerability that does exist and what people don't really talk about. We talk about being tough, being strong, being focused. And we are all that, but we are also human with vulnerable feelings and emotions. We get hurt, and people see that.

I felt there was a little bit of some -- too many comments about, you know, men don't praise themself. And I was, like, Well, go ahead.

But why can't we do that and celebrate each other and support each other and show what we are about? We just want to support equality. That's everybody's right. There is no discrimination about men or women. We are just women who want to be better for women.

It's one of my goals to try to pave the way, you know, for women in sport who have kids right now, and I feel that the Nike ad was in great support with that, and I hope they gonna continue to push those limits, to push those boundaries.

Because that's what it's all about. For us, Billie Jean King did it 40 years ago, it's up to us to continue to climb up, to not look back, to continue to move forward. I'm really proud to be part of that.

Q. Just from a tennis perspective tonight, just from on the court, what were you pleased with that you did well, and if there was anything that you didn't think you did well.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, there is going to be plenty of things that I can improve, because, you know, you dissect a little bit the game after and you try to look.

I felt like I definitely returned well today. It was probably one of my best matches in terms of returning today.

You know, it's hard to talk about serve, because you have someone on the other side who bangs the ball, and it's a lot of pressure. There was a lot of breaks like that because we know we gonna put pressure from each other.

I felt that I moved well, which is a part that I have been missing, you know, before.

So there is a lot of positives. There is a lot of things that I could have done better. So I need to really look at the match and take the best out of it.

Q. Is there anything Serena has done better, you think, than when you played her three, four, five years ago?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I feel she's playing a little bit more aggressive. You know, she's really going for a little bit more.

But she's still -- there is not many weaknesses where you can find. You have just got to go through and find and play yourself, because she's not gonna give you much, at least to me (smiling). Some other players maybe, but not me.

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