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September 9, 2020

Victoria Azarenka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

V. AZARENKA/E. Mertens

6-1, 6-0

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You seem like you'd be fired up to play anybody in the semifinals. Judging from what I saw in your post match interviews, you are really fired up to face Serena. What about facing her here in New York excites you so much?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Not necessarily New York. I love playing against Serena. I think we have one of the best matches - at least that I played in my career - against her. We always played on big stages. It was a lot of big fights. She's one of the players who push me to the limit, who makes me better. I'm excited for that.

It's been a while since we played. I think the last time was, what is it, Indian Wells. I think we both were not really playing well at that time. I think the semifinal of a Grand Slam is a different stage. It's going to be a different fight. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Can you remember the last time you played that complete a match and had that much fun in doing so?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, I have fun on every match. It's not because I played the scoreline today this way it makes me happy or not. Actually, I enjoy the tight battles as much as I did today.

I felt today I really executed the game very precisely. I was moving really well. I saw the ball very long. It was long on my racquet. I saw it where I needed to see it. So I felt I played well.

I found all the right answers to everything she was trying to make today and more, so I'm very happy with that today.

Q. You mentioned your mom is cooking at your house. Can you share what the house life is like, what she is cooking?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: She can cook anything. She's one of the best cooks I've ever seen in my life. I've been to Michelin star restaurants so I'm going to give all props to my mom. She's the best.

She's been cooking every day a different meal. Sometimes she makes two main courses. It's like a restaurant. I'm spoiled that way. My team are spoiled as well. We've been enjoying some home cooked meals, which is something so precious in the bubble life. I definitely have the advantage of that.

Q. On court you mentioned in the past tennis wasn't much fun, a job, tough to lose. Take a moment and explain how you made the incredible change.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think when you're young, at least for me that was, you identify yourself as a tennis player. It's basically your life is a tennis player. You get judged when you win, you lose. Sometimes you don't know how to dissociate tennis from your life and who you are as a person. Who you are as a person didn't based on a winning or losing result. I think when you're young, it's hard to accept that. It's hard to accept losses.

I think what I've done really well before is I do learn from my losses, even though sometimes you keep repeating the same mistakes. The way I see myself now on the tennis court, off the tennis court, is that I don't necessarily put myself into a point where I'm going to be just this or this result is what matters. Everything is an experience for me. I live in the moment. I enjoy the moment no matter what it is. I take life as it comes.

It took me a long road to come here with a lot of struggles, a lot of understanding, forcing me to find this route, this path, if you can say that. But I'm here and I'm happy.

I can definitely say this is the most exciting part for me. I mean, being in the semifinal of a Grand Slam is a blessing for sure, it's an amazing opportunity. The way I feel about myself, about my tennis, about my life, is the biggest win for me right now.

Hopefully it's just the beginning for me and I continue to go on this path.

Q. This was the first time you played against Elise. What did you think of her game and her as a player?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I thought she's great at using the pace and surprising an opponent with very, like, fast shots, but redirecting the ball. Her backhand down the line was great. Sometimes it's hard to see where it's coming from.

I felt that today I just knew what she was going to do. I did my part really well. I didn't let her play the game that she likes: take the ball early, take time away from you, move the opponent around. She can create really good angles with her backhand. I felt I really made her, you know, move a lot into uncomfortable spots.

I think she's a great player. I've seen her play well. I know the scoreline was this way, and I played well, but she's an incredible player. I'm sure we'll meet again and it will be an interesting match again.

Q. You said you really enjoy playing against Serena. What are the reasons you enjoy it so much?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's very simple: I like playing against the best. That's where you see yourself, your level, the biggest challenge. That's what I'm working hard for, to play on the biggest stages against the best players. There's no one as tough mentally as Serena. I love that challenge (smiling).

Q. How different or similar do you think this next match is going to be from the number of matches you would have played in the past, putting aside Indian Wells because that was not that long ago? When you think back to some of the other epics you played, do you think it's going to be similar or quite different this time around?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I really don't think about it. I don't think. I don't predict. I'm just going to go out there and do my best. I don't need to think about what's going to happen because it's a waste of my time. My time is very precious for me, so I'm going to enjoy it.

Q. 10 wins were almost unexpected by someone who won the last match in August 2019. How do you react to that? Are you getting every day more surprised, I am the same as seven years ago, or you don't even think of?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I don't count the wins, to be honest. I definitely don't want to look back on old times. There is no point of that. I'm just really excited for every match that I'm going to play. It's like a puzzle that I need to solve every time. That's what motivates me to keep working hard, to keep exploring my own experience.

I absolutely don't waste any time thinking about those things.

Q. What have you learned about your game and about yourself maybe in these matches with Serena? It's the ultimate test. You have been able to push her, got wins. What has it taught you?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, first of all, some wins are painful. I always know one thing: the match is never over. I think the same goes on the other side. No matter what the score is, the match is never going to be over. I think that's the most visible lesson that we can learn.

In terms of tactics, at this point there are players who can have a certain tactic, but they're so good at adapting those and changing when it's needed, coming up with solutions. That is something that you not necessarily can be prepared for.

Knowing that the match is never over, for sure that's the most visible part.

Q. You talked the other day about rediscovering your brand of tennis.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Sorry, sorry. Could you repeat? I couldn't understand it.

Q. Rediscovering your brand of tennis, your style of tennis.


Q. Pushing up to the baseline, that kind of thing. I'm curious, how difficult is it physically and mentally to play like that? Not many people play your style of play.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think the hard part of playing is not necessarily there. It's not that it's harder to play. I think to be able to be prepared for that, that's where the hard work comes in, is the hours you spend on the court or in the gym and everything to be able to sustain that level match after match after match. It's a big amount of time where you put in. After that you kind of rely on that work. You know, Okay, I've done that before.

I practice harder than I play, for sure. That helps me going into the match knowing it's not going to be as hard as my practice. That makes me physically very, very confident. I've always kind of felt that way, that I always practice harder. It's just sometimes I've been more distracted than now.

Q. You talk about your ability to rebound, to be able to fight through this. What is it about you? Is it your life experience that makes you such a fighter?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I mean, where I grew up is a tough place. The way I grew up is not an easy place. From a kid I've been conditioned to adversity. I've taken that adversity as a challenge to push me and get better. I'm grateful for that. It makes me tougher.

But where I come from, we have tough people. I love that.

Q. What do you think is the secret, the strategy, to be able to defeat Serena and qualify for the US Open final?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, if it's a secret, why would I tell you that (laughter)?

Q. Tell us, please.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: No, there is no secret. There is no secret. It's just a good execution and being able to fight for every ball. But there is no secret. I think if there was a secret, I wouldn't be 24 or... I don't even know our record.

Q. If you were to be writing a story on what you've done, what you've achieved, how would you start it? What would be your opening lines?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's way too early. I'll tell you one thing, from last year's November through January, I can write three books of what have happened to me, so...

The opening line, I have no idea. It's too early for that.

Q. About all the matches that you played versus Serena, which one do you think you will remember forever? Which one would you like to forget?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Hmm... That's a good question.

I don't think I would want to forget anything, to be honest. I think we've built a lot of memories to remember. There's been a lot of great matches. I think it might be quite hard to pick one.

I think one of my favorites was Cincinnati final. I think it was just a great match, super tight. We had so many great battles when I won or when I lost. A lot of good matches. I'm sure I'll remember all of them because it's part of the history, part of what I went through. I would like to keep all those memories.

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