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May 8, 2021

Aryna Sabalenka

Madrid, Spain

Press Conference


6-0, 3-6, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Your feelings, emotions on the very tough three-set match against the world No. 1?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, of course I'm really happy with this win. It was crazy match there. I'm really happy that I could win this one. Yeah, it feels amazing right now.

Q. You got off to the best possible start. What happened in the second set? Do you feel she maybe got better in her game or maybe the level was getting closer?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I think that's why she's No. 1, because she's always trying to find a way. She did it really well in the second set. I mean, yeah, the first set was just really quick one. I was surprised that it's finished that quick.

Yeah, in the second set she start to use a little bit more her slice, like moving better, be a little bit more aggressive. Yeah, I mean, it's tennis. I think it's just a great level during the whole match. Yeah, I'm really happy I could finish it with the win.

Q. Do you find long, grueling matches on clay courts to be more physically taxing or mentally taxing? Can you compare that to long, hard matches on hard courts?

ARYNA SABALENKA: It's definitely different between the hard courts and the clay courts. On the clay court, anyway, it's longer rallies. Yeah, it's a little bit different tennis. You have to stay a little bit lower, moving better. Yeah, it's different. I think it's more difficult physically than mentally.

On the hard court, it's different tennis, I would say. On the hard court you have to stay mental stronger, so yeah.

Q. Hard courts it's more difficult mentally. What about clay courts, more difficult mentally or physically?

ARYNA SABALENKA: On the clay courts it's much more difficult physically I would say, yeah.

Q. Third time lucky for you this year against Ash. What do you think was the difference today compared to the previous two matches in the last five weeks?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I wouldn't compare match in Miami and here to Stuttgart. Stuttgart I was injured. Yeah, it's tough to say anything about that match. She was just unbelievable. I gave her opportunity there, and she took it.

In Miami, it was really slow courts, long rallies. It was really hot. There physically I would say it was much harder to play against her than here.

I think what I did really well here, I stay focused from the beginning till the end. I was putting her under the pressure, especially in the end of the third set. Like in those key moments I was a little bit more aggressive. That's what really helped me to win this match.

Q. Do you think the altitude of Madrid had a bit more of an advantage for you? Coming off that altitude going into Rome and Paris, there will be a difference?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I think, yeah, it's little bit different. Even if we would play one more time tomorrow here, it might be finish differently. You never know. This is why we're here. We're here to play and see what's going to happen, yeah, try to play our best.

I don't know what's going to happen in Rome or in Paris. I'll make sure that I'll be there 100% on. I'll fight for every point. This is what I can promise you. But I cannot say what's going to happen, yeah.

Q. Your results on the clay are obviously so incredible compared to what they have been in the past. In your mind, what have you able to do in the last few weeks on clay? Do you see it differently now how much you can accomplish on clay?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I would say before I was too much thinking about the clay court, that this is surface not for me, that it's really tough to play on this surface, it's long rallies. I was really too much thinking about this.

This year I kind of relaxed and kind of just play my game. I worked a lot on the movement, so I prepare myself really well for the clay court. Yeah, I just stay aggressive. This is just a little bit longer rallies here on the clay court than on the hard court. This is different. I just have to put, like, extra few balls in the court like more than on the hard court. This is the difference.

My focus is just on my game, that I have to stay aggressive, that I have to move well on the clay court, make sure I can hit these shots really clean, heavy shots.

Yeah, just something change in my mind for the clay court for this year. I'm not really scared of this surface any more (smiling).

Q. Was there something somebody said to you, something you saw from another player? What was it that allowed you to sort of make that change of mindset that you were just describing when it comes to playing on the clay?

ARYNA SABALENKA: So I spoke with my coach. Before on the clay court I tried to change my game a little bit, tried to play with the topspin, slice, all this stuff.

He said, Listen, you don't need to change your game. Of course, it's good that you can use a little bit more spin on the ball, have this variation. You just have to stay aggressive here and be ready that the ball will come back a little bit more than on a hard court. It's just about, like, little bit longer rallies.

This is everything what he said.

I was like, Well, actually, maybe yeah, I don't need to change too much in my game. This is what really help me.

Q. How has your confidence level on the clay changed maybe over the years? I was looking at your French Open results. Each year you've gotten one round further lately. Do you feel more sort of comfortable and confident now than a few years ago?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, of course I feel a little bit more confidence on the clay court. I kind of understand that I can play well here. But as I was saying, it's tennis, you never know what's going to happen. You just have to be really focused and be ready for everything. Against everyone, you just have to be there 100% on, every time show your level.

I would say it's not about confidence, it's all about your focus.

Q. You'll be No. 4 next week. What do you make of that milestone?

ARYNA SABALENKA: That's unbelievable. That's crazy. I'm really happy with this improvement. There is still lot of things to improve. Yeah, of course I'm really happy, but I'm also not really focusing on the ranking. I'm more focusing on my game.

No. 4, this is not No. 1 (smiling). There is still lot of things to work on and to improve.

Q. You play such a high-risk game, yet managed to tap into a vein of consistency this year. Your only losses since Australia have been to Garbine, Serena and Ash. Is that an extension in the change of preparation you were working on last fall or something more different, or what do you attribute this consistency to?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Before I wasn't really focused on the matches with a lower ranking players. I was focused, but I was kind of like emotional. If someone make winners, I would pissed off. I would, I don't know, just get crazy.

This year, I don't know, I just understand that everyone can beat you if your level not there. Every time you're stepping on the court, you just have to bring your level and bring your focus, just be there from the beginning till the end, just don't give people any chances. This is what just change in my mind.

It's been working so well so far. Hopefully I can keep it up, I don't know, just keep the same mentality.

Q. What are you most proud of from your journey in Madrid, winning your fourth title since the tour restart last summer?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I'm proud of my team actually this week because after that injury in Stuttgart, well, honestly I couldn't move. I don't know, I couldn't do anything. I really, really wanted to withdraw from this one, make sure I be ready for the French Open. Just in four days they prepared me really well. They work so well so I was able to play and win this title. This is what I'm really mostly proud of, yeah.

Q. What can you tell us about the little dance move you did?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know why Jason didn't join me on that dance. We actually spoke a little bit about, If I win something, I will do this dance, and you have to join me. He didn't. I will actually say him couple things about this one (laughter).

Yeah, we've been doing this dance little bit before. I thought he's going to follow me, it's going to be like really cool, like teamwork. He didn't. This is what I'm really not happy with (smiling).

Q. You've always had success in finals. Was today extra special because of how close it was? Is this a new level of confidence you're hitting?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I think I was really lucky that I won that game on 1-2, 15-40 actually. I'm really happy that I won it. I don't know. You never know.

It's not about confidence, it's just about, I don't know, keep working, keep playing, keep trying. Yeah, somehow I handle this pressure and I won this match.

But this is something, yeah, unbelievable.

Q. You say maybe it's not necessarily confidence. How much of it is maturity over the last six months, understanding what you're able to do, you're putting it all together because your experience is there a lot more compared to even a couple years ago when you were a bit more erratic, you'd get more emotional on court, et cetera?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, it's a big different, like, between me two years ago and right now. It's a big different. Two years ago I was getting crazy on the court every match, I would say a couple times on the court in each match.

Yeah, I think the more experience you have, the more you understand little bit more what you have to do, what you can't control. Yeah, I'm just trying to focus on the things that I can control, just work, fight for every point. Yeah, that's it.

Q. You played a lot of matches against Ash in the last few years. What do you make of your combined improvements? Now the two of you are in many ways two of the best players on tour.

ARYNA SABALENKA: Hmm... Yeah, it's always unbelievable matches against her. It's always, like, really tight ones. I don't know. I think against these kind of players, the best ones, you just have to stay aggressive. If you have the opportunity, you have to take it, otherwise they will take it.

The different between our matches like maybe few years ago and these matches, if we have the opportunity, we take it straightaway. Before it could be like a lot of up and downs during the matches. This year it's different. If you give her opportunity, she will take it. If she give me opportunity, I will take it. Hopefully we can keep it the same or even better.

Q. Coming back from the pandemic, some players have really struggled, not played as they did going into it. You and Ash have really soared. Was there anything that happened during that break from play that you use to attribute your tremendous success, mental, physical, anything?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, in that period I was really sad about that I'm not really playing matches. On that period, I understand that I really love tennis, I really love to play matches, that I need the atmosphere of the tournaments. I worked a lot there all those months. I had a break for two weeks because I couldn't, like, practice for that long. I didn't have any power. Emotionally I couldn't. But overall I was working a lot. I was, like, really waiting for the tournaments. I think because of that I kind of just 100% on each tournament, so yeah.

Q. With this win today, how close do you feel maybe to possibly winning a Grand Slam?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know. Tough to say. I think everyone can win a Grand Slam. You just have to bring your level and be there. It's tough question. I don't know, it could be Grand Slam or not.

On the Grand Slams, it's a little bit different. If I can stay on this level on the Grand Slams, like mentally be really tough there, as I was here, maybe I can win a Grand Slam this year. Yeah, of course this is what I really want. Yeah, I will do everything I can on the Grand Slam to bring this level there and to compete there as I did here, so yeah.

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