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September 3, 2020

Victoria Azarenka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

V. AZARENKA/A. Sabalenka

6-1, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What did you learn from the match you two played last year that helped you plan for the one this evening?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: To be honest, I haven't really looked that much to last year. I think it was a little different circumstances for me.

I think what I took out from that match was a little bit of understanding of her game, because it was the first time that we played. We played against each other in doubles, but of course it's a different view of the player.

So I think that I was maybe a little bit more aware of the game, but I didn't really look back too much. I think, you know, last year I was winning and then I was up, and then I kind of lost the momentum.

So I think it's easy to get kind of caught up into that, but I'm happy I didn't. I really am. It was a new match, new day. It was a lot of fun for me to go out there and play, and that's it.

Q. How do you view your play at this particular point in the tournament?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think today was really solid, obviously. I felt like I stepped on the court and I was really making her earn every single point that we played. That was my goal to be really, really strong. If you hit a good shot, it's a good shot, but I'm going to make you work a little harder.

So I'm very happy with that moment, you know, that I was -- I was really steady throughout the whole match. I just would like to continue to keep going in that direction, because that works.

You know, I'm happy with the way I moved today. I think that I got to a lot of balls. And closing out the match was also really important, because, you know, in this moment you never know what can happen. She played a really good game at 5-2, so I'm happy that I stayed really strong in the end.

Q. Your confidence level now coming off the win in Cincinnati, can this kind of win over a top seed at a Grand Slam, what are you feeling about your tennis right now?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I feel good about it, but I said that a few times already. And I'm going to I think repeat on myself that I think confidence comes way before the result comes. I think if you don't necessarily -- at least for me, you know, I felt that I have been confident in my work and in what I do, and so confidence was there before. I think just results is more of a confirmation where everybody can kind of acknowledge that your tennis is result.

But for me, I have been confident going into the tournament. I have done a lot of good work. I was feeling good, I was feeling happy. So it was a matter -- I think it was a matter of time.

I'm glad I'm still eager to, you know, kind of perfect everything, which I know I'll never get to, but, well, we'll try.

Q. This is a match between two players from Belarus, which is a country that's been in the news recently. I was wondering if you were hoping this match between two top sportsmen from Belarus could send some sort of message to people or be some sort of encouragement for people back home in what's been a trying time for everybody back home?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I feel like there is a lot of things going on in the world, and obviously what's happening in Belarus is very dear to my heart.

At this point, what is it going to do? I think what it is, you know, I feel like sport has always been a celebration in our country. It's always been really appreciated. People really love sport.

I hope they are watching. I think there was no sport for a really long time. Having two Belarusian women playing on the biggest stages, I think it's really important.

I hope people have enjoyed our matches and will continue to watch.

Q. Have you been in touch with people back home very much during this time? I don't think you have been in Belarus for a while. Have you been in touch with people back home to understand what's going on on the ground there?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, my family is still there. Yeah. I have been. I have been, yeah.

Q. Just a question on mothers. I think it's believed to be that with nine mothers that started the main draw here at the US Open...

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Pretty incredible, right? (Applauding.)

Q. It is incredible. And that's what I want to ask you. I'm sure every one of you mothers have got your own reason for playing. What do you think is the reason that you have three in the third round already?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: What is the reason why... Sorry, what?

Q. Why coming back as mothers and the commitment to one life as a mother and another as a professional tennis player and what are the strains and efforts and things like that.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, there is a lot that goes into it in terms of balancing, you know, a lot of things, and juggling two things.

But identifying myself or other players just as mothers, I think that's not the only thing that we are. I think we are part of, you know, being a mother, we are also tennis players. We are also women who have dreams and goals and passions.

So that's, I think, being a role as a mom. Everybody has their own priority, they have their own list of where they rank being a mother is, but we are not -- it's not just being a mother. Your life doesn't stop.

My life just began when I became a mother. I'll say that really openly.

So I think to see that rise of women being able to fulfill their dreams, as well as balancing the motherhood, I think they all are heroes. I really, really appreciate all of them. And I hope this continues to go on where women are inspired to do what they love to do but still being able to go after what they want.

Because I think for the kids, and I hope for my son, really, it's inspiring that I still want to do what I want to do, and I work really hard for that. I want to be the example to my son.

I'm pretty sure that other ladies have that and share that same feeling as I do.

Q. Do you compare notes?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Notes? I think it's not necessarily just with mothers on the tour. I think it's just in general as a parent. I think parenthood really kind of unites people where you have the same stories. Where, you know, I saw Olympia with Alexis walking, and I asked her, What is your favorite cartoon? And she said, Paw Patrol. And my son is into Paw Patrol, so I had a little sticker and she knew what it is. Those little moments are really precious and they unite us, so it's beautiful.

Q. On the metrics of confidence, physicality, how your body is feeling, and preparation, any more of any of those things going into this US Open compared to any of the other slams that you have played since maternity leave? Were you more confident, more prepared? Or is everything the same? I'm just curious.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know, like, it's really funny to me when people do that, when they try to ask the one thing that you're like, I'm going to tell you and you will be, Oh, that's the thing that changed everything, you know, this one -- but it really isn't. It's really just a lot -- I'm not going to lie. I have changed the way I do practice, for example. I took the fear of failing away from myself, which has been really powerful for me to progress.

But other than in terms of am I hitting forehand the same way or I'm hitting backhand the same way, I think those things are pretty similar. But I think the way I approach the court, the way I approach doing fitness, you know, everything related to my job has been changed in the way of the perception that I feel. And, you know, COVID has been a terrible thing, but for me, it got me to pause and really overview a lot of things for myself.

And I knew if I had to do this last comeback, I have to do things differently. I can't keep trying going into that same circle, you know, every time, Oh, you were like this in 2012, 2013. No, I don't even remember how it was.

So I knew I needed to find new ways to be able to progress, to be happy on the court, and to keep moving forward.

Q. After today's win, I saw you do this (demonstrating).

VICTORIA AZARENKA: There is no particular ways. I'm trying to do my new handshakes with my team, but we are still perfecting those.

Q. But is it too much of us to read into the fact that seeing you kind of wave that finger, because we saw it in 2012, we saw it in 2016, that it's a signal at all as to your mindset here?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: No, I'm pointing to my coaches, like, You guys, you, you, you. There is not many people I can point a finger to, so... No, no particular sign there.

Q. You have been speaking a lot of Spanish lately. What's your level of Spanish at the moment? Are you ready to start shouting some "vamos" on court like Rafa?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I do that. Well, not like Rafa, but I do do that. And my Spanish is getting okay (smiling). I know a lot of lyrics to a lot of reggaeton songs.

But I'm very, very shy to speak, but I hear a lot. Now I'm watching a lot of Spanish movies and stuff. So I need a little more time. I need a little more time to show my skill. Give me a little more time.

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