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August 22, 2020

Victoria Azarenka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference


6-2, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. A nice bounce-back after Lexington. What kind of satisfaction do you get from a match like today, beating a good quality opponent like Donna Vekic?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I'm very happy honestly to win a match. It's been like a year or so (smiling).

I haven't played a lot, but it's still like finally to get over that mid-hump a little bit and to be able to close out the match and stay strong throughout the match was super important to me.

I didn't really think about Lexington that much today. It was my kind of first tournament back, and, you know, it wasn't in my favor, but I felt like towards the end I was getting into the rhythm there.

And today I started from what I was working on there and try and transition that today and start to play better. It's just when you play against Venus Williams and you finally start playing at 6-3, 4-0, it's a little too late (smiling). I was unfortunate there.

Q. Are you getting used to the new normal, playing without the benefit of a crowd to cheer you on?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: No. It still sucks.

Q. I'd like to actually follow up on what you just said. What is it that you don't like about playing without fans?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: The atmosphere. I feel like they create an energy. You know, those kind of magical moments always happen when there is a crowd, and it can swing each way.

That's what motivates me and excites me going on the court is to be in front of people, and, you know, it's kind of two eyes on you and you're trying to -- sometimes it's a lot more pressure sometimes, but I love that energy I feel like you can feed off. Sometimes you have the whole stadium against you and you kind of feed off of that, as well.

But I have been in different situations, but I miss fans. That's what we play for. I mean, we play for -- you know, obviously we play for prize money and points and whatever, but we are entertainers, at least I feel that way, and I want to be in front of the crowd.

Q. For example, at Lexington there weren't crowds either, but do you think a place like New York, Ashe Stadium, you have played in the finals a couple of times in New York, the size of the stadium, the electricity, the New York crowds, do you think in particular here it will feel weird to not have the crowds at the US Open?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I hope they don't put fake people, because that's going to be super weird. I feel like that's just -- you know, whatever the NBA is, to me, to me it looks so creepy. So I hope that's not going to happen.

But I don't know. I actually haven't had a chance to get on Ashe Stadium yet. But, you know, when you practice there before the tournament, it always feels like calm before the storm.

So I don't know. I'm sure it's going to be different. But I feel like we are still competitors, so we're going to bring that edge of competition. But as I said, you know, I miss the fans, I miss the energy, and in New York it's always electric, always fireworks, and people really get into it.

We are going to miss that. At least I will.

Q. You played Donna twice a year ago, and I'm just wondering, what did you do differently to get the win this time? And what were you pleased with the most?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I feel like -- well, it's difficult to kind of go back into last years, so, I mean, obviously I was aware of what she does on the court well, and I feel like a couple of previous meetings, especially in San Jose when we played, I had a lot of opportunities, but I kind of let them go and she stayed really strong. She played really well.

But today I felt like I started well and I kept kind of my foot on the gas. I served a lot better today. I feel like I was consistent with putting a lot of pressure.

I felt that my movement was solid today, as well. Last year was a different story for me personally, as well. I don't know. I think the biggest difference is like I really enjoy myself on the court, which haven't happened in such a long time. Yeah.

Q. You had that big smile on match point, and it looked like a mixture of joy and relief, I don't know. I don't want to read your mind, but I'm curious, how much was it weighing on you, you know, the last year of kind of looking for that win and things like that? Was it on your mind at all? Do we make a bigger deal out of stuff like that, or were you feeling it as well in terms of chasing the first win?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, of course you think about it. I mean, I'm not going to pretend I don't care about that, because I don't like to lose. I like to win all the time.

But, you know, it's kind of like going to a place where you have to be a little bit realistic sometimes and accept that, because I feel like if I wasn't accepting that I'm coming from a place where I have to build, it's harder to take that.

As I said earlier, like, a match in Lexington was not in my favor, but in that match, I was able to kind of find something that would work for me maybe later on, which was positive, which I feel is also a bit of a personal growth for me, and build on from that.

But you guys have a unique ability to put pressure on players, but it's part of the game. And I will say that that's where you have to come off stronger. You learn. But, you know, this is part of the game. I'm not going to say that it wasn't kind of on my mind, but I was looking for, you know, just that ability to kind of put what I have been working really hard on to put it together, because it's sometimes a little bit discouraging when you work hard and you put everything in but result doesn't come.

But if you keep going, and obviously today was a day that really showed that what I have been working on, can put it in match situation, and I just want to continue to keep going this way.

Q. Can you talk a bit about your work with Dorian? I think you guys started just before the pandemic? How did it start, and what kind of value does he add to your team?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: We started working in February. Actually Patrick Mouratoglou's academy helped me out with finding a new team.

Dorian has joined me for a couple months, and I actually haven't seen him for a bit during the pandemic, because he was in France and he had just twin girls, so he had a personal break (smiling).

But we stayed a lot in contact, and he brings a lot of energy. He hits the ball really well, which, like, pushes me to at this stage to adapt more to the game, because I feel the game became a lot more powerful with one, two strokes.

We get along, you know, pretty well. So I like the new team. They are kind of my age, so we kind of share a lot more in common. Yeah, it's been fun.

Q. Obviously every match you play going into a major is important. But when you look at this situation and all that's happening, how much more important are all these matches going into the US Open?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, I think -- I don't personally look at it this way as projecting for the US Open, because for me, any time I play right now I'm in match competition, like singles or doubles. It's such a valuable opportunity to be able to kind of test myself.

So I'm not really projecting into US Open yet. Of course you think about it and of course it's on your horizon, but right now I'm really trying to focus on taking every opportunity to kind of have that, you know, pressure moment in matches.

So I think for right now, for everybody, every opportunity to compete is very valuable.

Q. Obviously I have been following you for a long time and you're an exceptional athlete who speaks your mind.


Q. In your home country, there is an incredible moment of history, an uprising for freedom with huge protests, arrests in many developments as well as the silencing of the media. Could you please take a moment and express what's in your heart and share with us what your feelings are?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's a very difficult topic to speak on.

Q. Of course.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Honestly that's breaking my heart to see what's happening, because not being able to be there and understand the whole situation, you know, it's really sad. It's really sad, and it's really difficult to speak on that.

But I just hope that all the violence stops immediately, really does, because it's really heartbreaking. I can't even speak without tears in my eyes when I think about it, to be honest.

Q. Do you hope the will of the people will soon be felt and be implemented? There are so many who are protesting and asking for a change.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I hope people's voices are heard. As I said, it's a very, very difficult topic to speak on. I don't want to be put on and my words be taken to anybody's agenda, so I'm going to do what I feel like doing without media, you know, attention and twisting it to their own ways.

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