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October 29, 2022

Aryna Sabalenka

Fort Worth, Texas

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to Fort Worth. How does it feel to be playing in your second WTA Finals?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I don't know. I feel super happy to be here, especially after such a challenging year. I feel like it's a miracle for me to be here, and I'm just enjoying every second.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Aryna, you talk about it being a miracle that you are here. The season that you have had, some great highs, some obviously tougher moments, but you never slipped out of the top 10. I think you and Iga and Maria are the only three that started top 10 and didn't fall out. How do you reconcile the fact that you are here at the Finals, still top-10 player, and you feel the way that you feel about the season that you had?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, it's actually really crazy the start of the season I had. I still was in the top 10 even with all those tough losses. But I really think that overall all the top players just dropped a little bit at the beginning of the season, and that's why I didn't drop so much.

On the clay season I kind of found myself and start playing a little bit better. I think I just - how to say - got all my points from that clay court season, then some of them at the US Open.

But, yeah, being in the top 10 and even with such a tough year, this is something incredible. I never say that, but I really proud of myself, how I handle all of these challenges, and I'm proud of my team that they were there and they just support me.

Q. Since the start of your career on the WTA Tour, we've always seen the tiger tattoo, and that's always been your trademark of being a fighter, but it sounds like you learned a different side or a different level of your fighting capability this year in terms of dealing with the adversity. Can you talk a little bit about that in terms of what made this year different in terms of what you learned?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, for this year definitely become - how do I say - for fighter than I used to be.

Before it was just, like, nice tattoo. I was, just like, Yeah, I fight because everything is working for me. You know, it's different kind of fight.

This year I was fighting with myself, which is completely different fight, and I learn a lot about myself. I think this season start as the worst season, but at the end I think it was the best season for me because I learned a lot, and I became even stronger, and like mentally stronger.

I don't know what else can happen, what can really put me under stress, you know? Of course, after you saying that, something is going to happen. But please God, I'm good at the challenges this year (laughing).

Q. Wondering, looking ahead at all do you already now have in your head goals for 2023, or will that happen after this tournament is done or closer to the beginning of next season, or do you not even think that way about an upcoming season?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Maybe not this week. I will think about it after next week.

Q. Right away after this ends you'll start thinking about next season?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, first of all, I will rest for a couple of weeks without any tennis in my life (laughing), and then I'll start practicing.

I will start speaking with my team and trying to figure out what the goal for the next season, what we can do better on the pre-season to make sure I start the season in good shape. Yeah, it's a lot of conversation will be after the offseason.

Q. Completely unrelated topic, I'm curious whether you ever watch other players and think, Oh, I would like to try to learn how to do this that I see so and so doing?

ARYNA SABALENKA: We always do that, of course. It's a top players, it's always something you can get from them. Of course, if I see something I really like and I would like to see it in my game, I would go to my team and ask, like, I want to have this shot in - how to say - my pocket, whatever, how we can work on it or how we can improve it.

So it's always something you can take from players, from other players.

Q. Could I ask for one example?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Slice (laughing).

Q. From?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Ashleigh Barty and Ons probably (laughing).

Q. Over the course of this year and even throughout parts of your career you have shown a willingness to take on other voices, whether it's a sports psychologist, even Mark at the beginning of the year, the technician that worked on your serve before the US Open. Where does that desire to sort of problem-solve come from? Is that your team's idea or is that something you have come up with? Is that something you have to work on? When you are on the tour obviously, there can sometimes be a reluctance to want to change things, but you seem willing to take on other things like that.

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I don't understand the question. No, I understand (laughing).

I mean, it all came from my team. They always think what can I change, what can I improve because I think they better see me from the side. They better see the mistakes I'm making, and they can show me on the video what I'm doing wrong, so we're always working and thinking about that.

The change I made this season with my serve, it's all came from my team. I was just, like, following them trying some things. If I feel it's right, then I will do it and see what happens. We tried a lot of things actually this season a lot. Believe me, a lot.

Just before the US Open the last thing was left is try to check my serve from the biomechanics side. So, yeah, this is how everything clicked when we started working on my biomechanic on the serve.

Did I get your question right (laughing)? Great.

Q. Aryna, just speaking of Ons and her amazing slice, you see it firsthand right away I think when you guys play. Can you just talk about opening your tournament against Ons? Since you are one of the players that has experience playing the Finals, how different is it to have to hit such a high level from the very first match compared to a draw?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, yeah, it's Finals. It's top 8 players. Of course, that's tough. But I think we all are on the same page. Like, she's also play not the easiest match. It's not like I'm the only one facing top player. This is the way I'm trying to think.

But, yeah, it definitely is going to be tough match, and she's really playing well this season. So, yeah, it's going to be tough. But, you know, I worked a lot on my slice game so probably I can surprise her. She will be, like, Oh, my God, she started slicing (indiscernible). Like, I'm done for this match. This is my plan. If it works, it's good. If not, I will try something else (laughing).

Q. I was wondering even not necessarily in your professional career, but what's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Oh, my God, the best advice? Just don't listen anybody. Follow your, like - I don't know how to say - journey and just don't give a fuck about what people are saying. Sorry, there's no way to say it different. This is just the only one way. You can do, like, bleep (laughing).

Q. Aryna, you were just on the practice court about a half hour ago. I'm curious what you make of the conditions. They seem a little slow. You have firsthand experience. I'm wondering what you make of it.

ARYNA SABALENKA: I'm the first one? Just leave it.

Q. First one I saw.

ARYNA SABALENKA: The court is really nice. It's a little bit slow, but actually I feel like I'm playing on the grass court actually. It's super low, slow. And I missed grass court season this year. So I was, like, yes, something similar to the grass court. Yes, I will play on the grass this season.

I like conditions here, and I like this court.

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