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August 13, 2019

Victoria Azarenka

Cincinnati, Ohio


6-4, 1-0 [Ret.]

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Obviously not the way you want to win a match, but can you just talk through that first set? Were you pleased with the level that you brought?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I think that she started, you know, really well. In the beginning she was very aggressive, which I didn't necessarily expect that from the get-go. I feel that she's the type of player that is more about redirecting the ball, using your pace and mixing it up. So that was a little surprising.

But I felt that I fought back well in that first set and took my opportunities, put a lot of pressure on her. Served smarter than the beginning. I moved quite well. I felt there was a lot of good rallies we had today.

Q. Did you sense anything was wrong with her at any point? Obviously before she retired.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I didn't, but I didn't really look for it. I was trying to focus on myself. I think in that last game maybe she slowed down a little bit, but I felt that we had a lot of long rallies.

You know, I'm not in her body. I don't know how it feels, and I feel bad for her that you have to retire. I know all about injuries and how frustrating it is, and especially right before the last major of the year. I hope she recovers quick.

Q. It started to drizzle a little bit at the end of the first set. Were you aware of that?

Q. Yeah, like rain a little bit.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I think here you never know what can happen. I was lucky. I didn't even bring the extra set of clothes today, so I'm happy that the match was over, because with the rain it would not be good (smiling).

Q. At this point in the season, in August, does this feel like -- a lot of players at this point will say it feels like a long season. Some people it doesn't feel like it. Where do you kind of sit? Does it feel like it's eight months into the season for you?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, definitely. I feel this year I played more than I have played in many years, so it does feel like a long season on top of everything else that's been going on.

You know, it will be over soon hopefully (smiling).

Q. Do you feel like your body has adjusted to playing more regularly again?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I think I'm adjusting well. I think I have been physically quite strong this year. Hopefully I'll continue to keep going.

Yeah, we'll see. I played, like, three matches in one day in Rome, so I recovered not too bad there.

Q. Donna again next. You met her a few weeks ago. What did you learn about that match, having played her for the first time, that you'll take into this one?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, she's a very good player. I think she doesn't really look like she can move really well, but she actually does. I think she anticipates the game pretty well.

I wouldn't really, for tomorrow, look too much into the match we played in San Jose, because I didn't feel like I was doing the right things at that match, so I try to just focus on what I actually have to do to win this match.

It's gonna be a fight, you know. She's a great player. I need to be able to play strong in the tough moments and in tough matches. Every match here is going to be tough. It's a very strong field.

Q. In your experience, playing through Canada, Montreal and Toronto, and then Cincinnati, do you feel as though any one of these -- like, which type of player does each one of those events seem to favor, in your experience? Or does it not? Is it completely neutral across the board? Like does Cincinnati -- on the men's side, the Cincy tournament seems to favor the more aggressive, faster players, maybe little bit slower conditions up in Canada. I'm curious about the WTA side.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: First I think it depends on which -- because Montreal and Toronto is different. I feel like Montreal is a lot faster than Toronto. Toronto is more grippy and the ball flies different there. I think those two are really what's, you could say, favors one another rather than compared to here and there.

I think that what we are missing a little bit is to have a little bit of consistency with the balls, because we are going from one to another to another. So I think for scheduling purposes, to have a little bit of similar conditions throughout the whole US Open Series is something that needs to be addressed.

Q. You're on the player council. This is something a lot of players have brought up in the past on the balls, both on the men's and women's side. From your perspective, like, kind of the both sides type thing -- from a fan perspective people say it seems so easy. Just use the same balls everywhere. Is it that easy of a solution?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, it could be. It could be. But it's not. You know, there is a lot of factors that you have to look into with sponsorships with the balls, with, you know, also sometimes different conditions, you know, where there is a little bit of altitude. I'm not talking about just these two tournaments, but you have to be able to adjust.

I think that we are looking for, from the WTA standpoint, we are looking into finding a solution. It's not a one-day thing, but I'm sure we are going to continue to push, because those things needs to be -- they have been addressed before, but not a lot of people do something about it.

I think now we are doing things that we're addressing, and we are just going to take a little bit of time.

Q. Another kind of somewhat random question, but the whole bye system, players getting byes, second-round top seeds, when you were a top player, did you like that, playing fewer matches at an event, getting a later start? Or did you not like it? Because some top players have said in a lot of ways they prefer to have that extra match to kind of get into the swing of things.

Q. Yeah. You should talk to your doubles partner.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, I think it depends. I think if you play deep in a tournament and you win the tournament, having that extra day to recover is helpful. I think if there is no week before, like, the tournaments Beijing and Madrid, that we have a full draw, which is 64, I think that's pretty fair.

But some smaller events, if they are going after bigger events, I think for some top players to keep healthy and not having withdrawal, sometimes it's necessary.

I think the structure of the tour is something that is a bigger issue than the byes at the moment. So it's really taking those things one at a time and trying to do what's the best for players, what's healthier for players. I think we are really committed to try to make the better place here.

Q. Do you ever think about, if I was the commissioner of tennis and I could rip it all up and start all over again, how you would, in that hypothetical world, structure a tennis tournament?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think it's wishful thinking. I think that to be more on the realistic side, you need to try to understand every side and every angle of the structures that have been going on and adjust.

But I'm not going to sit here and say I know everything how to do it right. It's a matter about being open-minded, being proactive, having the best interest and not being selfish, and trying to construct the best solutions, solution-oriented.

I think there should be equality and opportunities. So there is a lot of things that I really, if I can bring and try to shaking some things up, but I'm not gonna sit here and say I know how to structure everything, but I feel that I learn every day more. Hopefully one day we can, you know, keep just moving forward and forward and make it better.

Q. Is there something in the next one or two years that maybe if you're able to make that change it would feel like a success to you? Is there something in the forefront of your mind you'd really like to see happen right away? Or something you feel like maybe you can achieve from the player council perspective?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I believe I can achieve a lot of things. I'm going to push for them. I believe that the new structure of the tournaments is very important. Right now I believe that equality and opportunity in scheduling is going to be my main, one of my main things that has to be changed. It's not a conversation anymore of a possibility. This will change.

So those two things are very important. I believe that a very important part is to have paid maternity leave for our players, to have protection, having opportunities to have childcare services, because we do have women with more families. Our players deserve the chance to have a family if they want to and not think, oh, my career is over, how I'm going to do it if I have a family?

So I believe that this protection for our sport and we have that ability to make that and be a pioneer in women's sport, I think that's very important. I don't know if I can achieve those things in two years, but I'm going to try.

Q. Just kind of going off that a little bit, this year in Shenzhen, record prize money at the WTA Finals, Forbes List came out, all the top 12, top paid female athletes in the world are tennis players, this has been a trend always. How conscious are you in terms of a leadership position of this idea that the WTA, in a lot of ways, is kind of on the forefront? We see women's soccer fighting for equal pay, as well, and other sports. What example do you think that the tour can offer to other women's sports?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I believe that we have been fighting for equality for so long, and we stand really strong for that. I hope that in one way this has been an inspiration for other sports, and I believe other sports will push that needle for us to go for more, to go more forward, because really my goal is not only about tennis. It's for other women to feel comfortable to be doing sports or doing their job and have the same opportunities.

It's all about others. It's not just about tennis. It just happened that I'm in tennis, and it's something that I can do about it in this field, but I hope it reaches out for more. I'm very happy to see what other sports do in the movements, and I support fully that.

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