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September 7, 2020

Victoria Azarenka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

V. AZARENKA/K. Muchova

5-7, 6-1, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Your first Grand Slam quarterfinal as a mother. What makes getting this far different than the 15 times you got that far before Leo was born?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I got there 15 times? Wow, I had no idea. I didn't even know. That's pretty cool.

How it feels different? Is that the question?

Q. Yes. How is this different being a mother than before you had your son?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I don't know if that's the only way it's different. I feel just that I'm different myself. The difference between being a mom is that my son understands that I'm in the quarterfinals maybe. I don't even think that he does.

I don't know if I feel different just because as a mother. I don't identify myself on the tennis court as a mother. I still identify myself as a tennis player. Me being in the quarterfinals, I didn't get there by being a parent, I got there by being a tennis player.

But it feels amazing that I can share this moment, and hopefully be a good role model to my son. When you have tough moments in your life, you still persevere with holding your head high and a smile on your face.

Q. There's another quarterfinal in your half of the draw that is going to be Serena versus Pironkova, two mothers. Pironkova took a longer break to come back, three years. What do you think of the rule change that happened in the last couple years? Would you have done anything differently with your own return to tour had there been a longer break and the rules the way they are now?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: No, I don't think so. I don't think I would change anything for me personally. I'm glad that our women have this protection. I'm not the only one who fought for that, but one of the players who fought for this rule that we are more protected and feel more comfortable because it's such a life-changing experience that you have.

To find that balance to be able to go out there ready to play, physically be ready, mentally be ready, I think it's just a better opportunity for players to take that break if they want to, if that's their choice.

I'm pretty proud that we have that protection for players. I hope it was beneficial to her. Seems like it is, so...

Q. Why was that so important as an issue to be fighting for when you were on the players council, I'm guessing this was?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it's just the right thing to do. You want to make things better for players, make sport grow. That's always been my intention. It always will be. I truly believe that making our tour, our sport better after I finish my career is the goal.

We got here by other players and other women making those changes and making the sport better. I feel like it's our also duty to continue moving the needle upwards and improve. I'm always looking for that improvement in our sport.

Q. You have a background coming from a small country, not a wealthy country. Now you live so many years or spent a great deal of time in the United States. Tough question. If you end up lifting that trophy, what will it mean to you in terms of being from Belarus? What will it mean to you in terms of spending so much of your life in America?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I won't even think about it at the moment. Does it mean more or less because I'm from one place and then I'm living in another place? I don't think so. I've always played for Belarus. I always will play for Belarus.

I don't really think about it that much, where I live, where I've been. I've been living in many places, not just United States. I think when somebody from a country like Belarus, a smaller country, it just becomes more significant because maybe there isn't that much opportunities that happens. Obviously when I have won Grand Slams, it was a big deal for our country. People really appreciate it.

I hope those moments bring people joy. Does it mean more or does it mean less? It's just how you look at it. It doesn't change really anything, I think.

Q. Care to say what your core emotion or feeling is? Satisfaction? Gratitude? Pride? What do you feel about being able to get this far in the Open?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Definitely grateful. Definitely grateful. Yeah, I would say that.

Q. Can you talk through the match a little bit, turning it around? Sounded like you were impressed by her game, another young player coming up.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, she was very, very impressive. She had a great game, very smart game. A lot of variety. She can create good power. She can create slice. She can create angles. She serves and volleys.

She's very, very complete player. That's really, really cool to see. Obviously I had to find many solutions. One way wasn't going to work because of the variety that she brings.

Especially the first set, I felt like I was rushing some of the balls. I missed a couple of, like, easier balls. Every time I would come into the net, she would pass me. I was a little annoyed by that, I'm not going to lie.

It was great. She has a great serve. Yeah, I was very impressed. I hope she continues to show really good results. I feel like she has a game for great results.

But I enjoyed myself a lot. It was fun to be able to turn it around, to find solutions today on the court, and have a great match. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great quality from both of us.

Q. What were the solutions that you found?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I felt that I had to be a little bit more aggressive, like not letting her move me that much around, even though I knew it was going to happen, and really make her move.

I knew that physically I'm very ready, so for her to beat me she had to play three hours the same way she played at the beginning. I was pretty confident that I'm able to sustain my level. But if she brings that level for three hours, then that's too good.

I was confident that I won't drop my level too much.

Q. Now in the quarterfinals stage of a major, does anything change? At this point the sticks start changing, it's business end, the chatter starts getting louder. For you, you've been through this, but how do you maintain equilibrium?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I do agree with you that the outside noise, outside expectations, the significance that that has brought the closer it is. But to me it really doesn't matter. I don't feel that winning a fourth round is more important or more significant than winning the match before or the match before. It's really about being in the moment and enjoying the moment.

It's just on the outside. My experience with me playing in the quarterfinals really doesn't change, it's just a match. I don't look at it that way absolutely at all.

Of course, I mean, you kind of want to win more. It gets addicting. But I really feel that it's exactly the same. My days are exactly the same. It doesn't change. If I'm winning or losing, it doesn't change how I feel. That's honestly what I'm most proud of, of myself.

Q. You mentioned coming close to wanting to stop playing tennis, quitting or retiring, earlier this year. How close did you come to that? What was the moment you wanted to stop?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, what was the moment that I wanted to stop? There was a few, there was a lot.

Q. What was the closest you came to wanting to stop?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, in my head, I had the situations I had to go through, I thought that I'm going to stop. Let me see.

I was prepared to start if the consequences of a certain situation were going to turn out one way. I was ready to stop. But they turned out a different way. I made a really conscious decision to try one more time to play.

I don't know how close that is, but I was pretty ready to stop. I mean, I didn't touch a racquet for about five months, so... Before the pandemic. That's pretty close to stopping.

Q. What got resolved that let you keep playing? You're alluding to things, but it's not clear what you're talking about exactly.


Q. You were saying one thing had to get resolved or something had to happen one way.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, my personal situation with my family. That had to be resolved, so... I'm not going to get into that more because that's not a public matter. It's my family. That's always going to stay private.

Q. How weird is it to celebrate a win in this new normal?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's not weird for me at all. I mean, can't really go out and celebrate anywhere. There will be time for that.

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