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September 11, 2020

Victoria Azarenka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

V. AZARENKA/S. Williams

1-6, 6-3, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How is reaching the finals at this stage of your career different than when you last got that far seven years ago?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: How is it different? I mean, mentally I'm in such a different place. I think seven years ago, after I won the Australian Open and stuff, and playing kind of consistently with good results, it was kind of I wouldn't say expected but kind of expected for me to be in the final. I don't think that was the case this year.

But it feels more fun this year, more fulfilling, more pleasant for me, yeah. It feels nice, nicer.

Q. How did you turn it around after her great start?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I knew I had to step up with my game. It was very quick. In the beginning, it was a lot of very short rallies. She served really, really well. I felt like I was kind of out of range. I wasn't finding my serve. Second serve was getting killed.

I knew I had to get into the rallies, I needed to step up with my aggressivity, play a little smarter, play with a little bit more width of the court and bring the intensity up. I felt that intensity was important today, to bring it up.

I'm glad that that worked out for me.

Q. At 2-All in the second set you started to bop around at the baseline before the next game. What were you telling yourself in that moment?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, bopping (smiling).

What was I telling myself? Keep going. It was just take every opportunity. I had to take every opportunity. One set is gone, there's two more to play. I knew I had to step it up.

I needed to bring my energy up. I don't know if I was necessarily telling myself much. I think it was more energy than talking.

Q. Obviously the job is not done yet. Can you look ahead for the final, playing Naomi Osaka.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Very excited about that. I'm as excited as I was last week. I'm sure this time we're going to get to play and it's going to be a great match. I think it's going to be an amazing final. I hope it will be. I'll have fun.

But she's a very, very powerful player. She's a great champion. She's won two already. Aren't we both looking for a third one? It will be fun (smiling).

Q. You made an interesting comment in your on-court interview, talking about your ego in 2012, saying you had more ego then, how it's different now. How did that ego help or hurt you back then? How is it different for you now? How is it having less or no ego, however you define your current state as a player?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think when you're coming up from kind of nothing, then you become a No. 1 player in the world, sometimes you can start to think you're invincible and that you're better than everybody, and it's not true. So the ego starts to grow. It's very hurtful when it gets damaged, so...

Instead of getting the ego damaged, I tried to remove that and learn from my mistakes of that ego, and realizing, maturing, that being a tennis player doesn't make you better or worse than anybody else, that you're still human, and all you can do is try to be the best version of yourself and keep improving.

I try to put that aside, but not when I play card games. It's still so big (smiling). God...

Q. Did the match go as you expected it after having, would you say, nervousness in that first set?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I wasn't nervous. I was a little slow. I think my energy wasn't there. Serena started really, really well. I felt that I just didn't match the intensity that she was bringing. It was kind of going one-sided.

Is it how I expected? I didn't expect how the match is going to turn out. All I expected was that it's going to be a big fight, and it was a big fight. In a way, yeah, it came out to what I was expecting.

Q. My feeling is that you just said something pretty special, where you were this great champion, No. 1, big ego. You tried to sort of put it away. How did you approach that? What tools did you use?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, the best tools were me losing a lot of matches. That was the biggest tool that I could get. I could continue to stay on my high horse or I could just change it and learn from that.

I just feel I'm very proud of myself that I took that challenge up from losing and turn it around and become better. I'm not talking about a better tennis player. I'm talking about a better person for myself, for my son. That's what I'm most proud of.

Q. Did the loss to Laura in Australia, the last time you played in Melbourne, that was a particularly poignant loss, you had quite a moment in the press room? Do you recall that? Was that part of the process of coming back?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, that was a really tough moment for me personally. Obviously I'm the kind of player and person who shows their emotions, wear my heart on my sleeve.

At some point, when bad things are happening to you, challenging things are happening to you, you can be a victim and you can --

Ooh, lights out? Can you guys hear me?

Q. Yes.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I was saying that vulnerability is good. Having emotions is good. For me personally, feeling myself constantly as why things happen to me the way they happened was not beneficial. I stopped doing that.

I started taking more responsibility for what I do, for what happens to me, and responsibility of how I'm going to react to situations. That helped me grow. That helped me become a better person that I am today.

I think that shows on the tennis court, too.

Q. When you're in the changeovers and your eyes are closed, what do you see when you're sitting there? What's going through your mind?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That's my goal. That's my goal, is just nothing.

Q. After the way that the first set was going, I know towards the end of the first set you were closing the gap, getting a better read on her serve, were you ever close to feeling like this thing was slipping away quickly or were you fully... She jumped out quite quick.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I mean, I knew that I was a set down. I told you guys that before: no matter what, I know the match is never over. It's going on both sides. 6-1, I just didn't want to get 6-Love because that would have been tough.

I knew I was getting a little bit in a better rhythm. I was just not converting those games. At 4-1, I didn't convert the game at 5-1. I went for some of the shots that I was hoping to go for. I just didn't make them successfully.

I knew it was going in the right direction. I just needed to execute it a little better and get my energy up.

Q. Serena was telling us how much you inspire her in terms of how you manage to stay positive despite a lot of things you have been through. Where do you draw this positivity from? How long did it take you to figure out that positivity part?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't necessarily know if it's positivity only. I'm going to tell you guys. I'm working on this show interviewing people. You are always interviewing me. I switched the role interviewing people, so...

I had this very interesting discussion with one of the people. I'm not going to reveal it right now - about neutral mentality. That was kind of an interesting point. When shit happens to you, you're like, Oh, let's be positive, let's be positive, it's sometimes impossible to be positive. So being neutral, just not going into a negativity is very useful. It's very simple.

It's very hard to do because it's constant work, but it's very, very useful. I feel like I started there. Then I started to shift into a better energy.

So I don't think it's necessarily just positive. I think it's about being in the moment, taking whatever comes as it is. I always know that I know how I'm in control of how I'm going to feel about any situation.

Q. Before Cincinnati or New York, the Western & Southern Open, did you believe that you could be here? Was there a moment where you felt you were getting back to the level that you showed today?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, belief comes before. Before Cincinnati, before Lexington, it was coming on the tennis court, in practice, not in practice. I didn't start to exercise my belief when I started to get results. That doesn't work that way. So my belief came from way before, from deep within me, that that's what I want to do, and I'm going to work real hard about it.

Did I think about the results? I mean, I want to think about results, but I don't necessarily put that way in a perspective. I was thinking about how can I raise my level? How can I be mentally stable and tough? I've always been tough, but I had those moments where I was just not there. I wasn't in the moment.

I found that serenity being in the moment now.

Q. What are your thoughts about what Serena is doing at this age, pursuing the record for major titles?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: What are my thoughts? I think it's amazing. There's no other thoughts. Someone who is an amazing champion going for what she wants to do. All admiration from my side.

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