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August 27, 2021

Aryna Sabalenka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What has it been like so far? How are you feeling the courts? How are your body and mind feeling?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I can't wait to start playing. Just tired of practicing (smiling). Just few more days to go.

Yeah, I feel good. Really happy to be back here, especially with the crowd back. Yeah, that's something unbelievable. I'm really happy to be here.

Q. Wimbledon semifinals was obviously such a huge accomplishment for you. Coming to the next Grand Slam after that, what are your goals for this tournament? How does your approach to the tournament change, if it does?

ARYNA SABALENKA: The goal is, as always, to win it. I think everyone have the same goal.

But, yeah, after Wimbledon I just understand that I don't have to think about, like, win it or final or be in the second week, I just have to enjoy my game on each match and just be ready for every match, yeah, make sure I bring my level on the court and do everything I can. That's it.

This is actually what I change. I actually reached the semifinal on Wimbledon, so hopefully this time I can do even better.

Q. Before Wimbledon, the US Open was one of your most successful majors. Having those good memories, how does that help your preparation to be in the tournament?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, US Open is a special slam for me. I feel different here. I don't know. I feel like at home. So, yeah, I enjoy the crowd here, and people support me really well here. I'm really looking forward for the first match, yeah. US Open, it's a special place for me.

Q. Coming back to the tour around this time last year, now as some protocols are relaxed, we're here in the room with you, what do you see in your fellow players? Do you feel there is maybe more tolerance or capacity or willingness to spend time with the media because we didn't have it for a while, and if we did it looked much different?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I just didn't understand the question, like...

Q. Is there maybe more willingness or more desire or patience to do this sort of thing because you didn't have it for a while?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I mean, I just can't wait the day when everything will get back to normal. For me, seeing you guys sitting here, asking me questions, it's amazing. Hopefully in a short time everything will get back to normal and I'll see you, like, more often on the tournaments.

Yeah, to have no bubble, like knowing that I can go out for a nice dinner or whatever, it feels more like release and, I don't know, like free. I think this year US Open, it's even more special I would say for every player. But for me, for sure, I don't know, so...

Q. How would you describe what Ash Barty has done this year to assert herself as the top player in the world?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, what she's doing, it's unbelievable. She's playing really well. Her game is really tough. She's a really tough opponent, I would say, for most of the players on the tour. That's why she's doing what she's doing.

Yeah, what she's doing, I think it's a goal for every player to be on the top for, like, so long and be consistently there. Yeah, that's something unbelievable. I would say this is the goal. For example, for me, I would like to be on the top for such a long time and be there consistently.

So, yeah, that's something unbelievable. I'm impressed what she's doing.

Q. What do you point to as the biggest strength in her game?

ARYNA SABALENKA: For sure her slice game. She's serving well. She can use the slice, which is for most of the girls a really uncomfortable shot. She can hit the ball pretty heavy. She have everything in her hand, so she can do everything. That's what's makes her stronger than everybody.

Q. Are you trying to spend less time on-site? How will you balance that this year?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, everything stayed the same. I'm trying to stay less on the site, so trying to be away from the tennis life, I don't know. Like, I just want to do my job and leave and rest and relax, yeah, make sure I save my energy for the matches.

So, yeah, I'll keep doing it.

Q. Anything that you like to do in the off days?

ARYNA SABALENKA: To be away from the tennis courts?

Q. What have you been doing?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I want to keep doing it. I feel better like this.

Q. What are you doing?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I just have practice and, like, I don't know, I feel like I spend maybe few hours on-site just doing, like, tennis, fitness, then some stretching or whatever. Another hit I have at another club. For example, yesterday I had at John McEnroe Center. There is not that much players. I'm staying away from the tournament atmosphere.

Yeah, I'm just trying to, like, spend few hours and go to the hotel, I don't know, watch some movies and enjoy my dinner and just rest.

Q. A couple weeks ago, I think in Montreal, you were talking about your work with a sports psychologist, how they've been able to help you confront or deal with fears.


Q. That work that you've done, does that mean now when you go into these big events that you're not scared, that you have a different mindset? How does that translate into this new mindset?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I feel like all those conversation with psychologist definitely help me to put my focus on the right spot, I mean, on myself instead of everything around. Knowing that I have someone who's going to help me whenever I need it, for example at night I can't sleep, I just really need to talk about all my thoughts going through my mind in that time, it's definitely help.

For example, like, one time at night I couldn't sleep because I was overthinking about everything. I just call her and I spoke with her. We had a conversation about all that thoughts. After that I felt, like, much better, like I didn't have any of that thoughts and I could sleep good.

Yeah, that's definitely something what I was needed.

Q. Naomi Osaka's public discussion of mental health issues, did that resonate with you at all, maybe changed the way you think, or if you have a sense of whether players maybe are more comfortable talking about that now?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Can I just say no comments to this one?

Q. I'll ask about Naomi's tennis. She's been the dominant figure at the Grand Slams now lately. What about her game works so well on this surface?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know. She's serving well. She's hitting the ball quite flat and deep. I think that's why hard court, it's really fit her game better than other surface. Especially here at the US Open, courts are much faster than on another tournaments, so it's makes her serve even more effective.

Her baseline game also. Like these courts are really help her because it's really fast. If you hit flat and deep here, it's really going even faster. It's really tough to do anything against her shots on these kind of courts.

I think that's why hard court are really her surface.

Q. The past year has been obviously a challenge for everyone. How have you navigated all the hassles, the bubbles, protocols, the whole time keeping your head on straight?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Honestly, even before bubble happened, I wasn't really going out for some dinner or whatever because I didn't have time for that. Like, I was going somewhere, but not really often. For me, bubble life was fine. I didn't feel, like, really big different.

Of course, knowing that I can go somewhere, it makes me feel a little bit more free and relaxed. But, yeah, when we were playing with the bubble, I think we will play in the bubble, so for me it's fine. I don't feel really different.

Q. About your work with a sports psychologist, can you tell us if you had worked with a sports psychologist in the past or is this the first time? In general we're seeing a lot of younger players are starting with sports psychologists, whereas in the past it felt like it was the older players who did it. Was there any barrier in your mind in the past towards having a sports psychologist? How was that process for you?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Actually I work with psychologist for I think four or five years already. But, like, every time I was struggling with different problems. Also, like, she can't help me with everything in one moment. It's also a process, like step by step. First you struggling with playing against top players. For example, I remember when I was 18, I spoke with my psychologist saying, like, Oh, my God, she's top 30. I remember I played against Bertens. She was top 30.

She was saying like, She's just another player, it doesn't matter. Yeah, she's 30, but, I mean, that's why you're playing matches. If result was always depend of the ranking, the tournament will make no sense to be.

Yeah, it was just example. So this is where we start from, then it was another problem and another and another. It's also like a big process. It's a long time to improve a lot of things.

Yeah, I'm working for five years. Only right now I start to be honest with her about the Grand Slams, and I start to maybe to be more open with her, saying, like, all my - how to say - problems on the Grand Slams, that actually I was afraid of something. I was telling her. We just, like, maybe a few Grand Slams before we start working on a real problem here on the Grand Slam.

It's a long process. It's a long way, a long journey actually.

Q. I want to say I saw you training at JMTA the other day, like you said. You seemed to be so intense. How do you bring that intensity to your training, especially when it's so hot and humid?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know. I just have a big goals. Every time I want to stop practicing, I remember myself about what I want to do here on tennis. It's help me to push myself a little bit more even in this weather.

Just remember what you want to do in tennis in a tough moments and it's going to help you to keep working and keep going.

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