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January 28, 2023

Aryna Sabalenka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

A. SABALENKA/E. Rybakina

4-6, 6-3, 6-4

CRAIG TILEY: Aryna, welcome, but most importantly congratulations. It's pretty incredible to start a year at the end of January, and you've won every time you've walked onto the court.

ARYNA SABALENKA: This is crazy.

CRAIG TILEY: It is crazy. It's fantastic. But congratulations on your first Grand Slam. We're very proud of the fact that you've done it here in Melbourne.

ARYNA SABALENKA: Thank you so much.

CRAIG TILEY: As you know with Anton, your coach, your team that are here, we love having you here in Melbourne. You're always one of our favorites because we have a great deal of respect for the amount of work and effort you've put into for being as good as you are. Nothing comes easy, and you showed us tonight you have to work very hard to make it happen.

It was a great match. The crowd loved it. Here is cheers to a new champion, Aryna Sabalenka.

ARYNA SABALENKA: Thank you so much. It's a good one, you know (laughter).

CRAIG TILEY: Let us know if you want a refill.

ARYNA SABALENKA: I see there's a few more glasses (smiling).

Thank you so much. It's going to be fun. You guys told me to drink this one (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Aryna, Grand Slam champion. Talk us through the emotions you're feeling right now.

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know. It's tough to explain what I'm feeling right now.

Oh, I just super happy. Super happy. Proud. I don't know how to explain. Just the best -- is the best day of my life right now.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you try and explain how you were feeling in that final game, and in particular when you hit the double-fault on the first championship point?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, it was a good start for me. I was like, Well, it's going to be fun after the double-fault (laughter).

The last game, yeah, of course I was a little bit nervous. I was keep telling myself like, Nobody tells you that it's going to be easy, you just have to work for it, work for it till the last point.

Yeah, there was a tough game. I'm super happy that I was able to handle all those emotions and win this one.

Q. The fact that this hasn't come easy at all, does that make this sweeter?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I think it's even more enjoyable, I would say, after all those tough matches. I really feel right now that I really needed those tough losses to kind of understand myself a little bit better. It was like a preparation, you know, for me.

I actually feel happy that I lost those matches, so right now I can be a different player and just different Aryna, you know?

Q. Given the circumstance, the biggest moment of your career to date, is that the best match you've ever produced?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I think it's really the best match, I would say it was. She played an unbelievable tennis. I fought so hard to win this one.

I think tennis was great. I'm really happy that it wasn't easy match. I really enjoyed this battle.

Q. You said on TV that you and Anton, he suggested stopping at some point. Just wondering when that happened and why that happened.

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't remember exactly, but I think after Dubai, before Doha, after Dubai happened. He just said like, I don't know what to do. I think you need to find someone else who's going to help you.

But I was like I knew that it's not about him. It's just something about me. I just have to figure out the problem. Like, we have to get through it.

I'm really happy that we keep working together. We went through so many things together. I think it's even sweeter that we get it together as a team. It was a long journey for us. We are here with the Grand Slam title, which is really amazing.

Q. What did you learn from that defeat in New York that was your last one in Grand Slam? What did you use in your favor in this final?

ARYNA SABALENKA: What did I learn? I learned that I have to be a little bit calmer on court and I don't have to rush things. I just have to play my game, be calm, and believe in myself, that I can actually get it.

I think during these two weeks I really was super calm on court, and I really believed in myself a lot, that my game will give me a lot of opportunities in each game to win this title.

Q. Did missing Wimbledon make this any sweeter for you?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, missing the Wimbledon was really tough for me. It was tough moment for me. But, I mean, I played US Open after. It's not about Wimbledon right now. It's just about the hard work I've done. Yeah, it's just about the hard work I've done.

Q. You said on Friday that if you won, you'd say what it was like to win as a neutral athlete. I'm asking that question again. Is it strange to win it and not have your flag somewhere, not have 'BLR' on your name after the trophy? Does that take anything away from it?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Sorry. I didn't understand the question.

Q. You're not allowed to have Belarus anywhere in the stadium.


Q. I wonder if that takes anything away from what you achieved, whether that will make it different back home at all?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I think everyone still knows that I'm Belarusian player. That's it.

Q. You talked in Adelaide about becoming calmer on the court, learning to control your emotions. Can you talk us through how you do that. What ended up being the factor that solved it for you?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, I always had this weird feeling that when people would come to me and ask for signature, I would be like, Why are you asking for signature? I'm nobody. I'm a player. I don't have a Grand Slam and all this stuff.

I just changed how I feel. Like, I start respect myself more. I start to understand that actually I'm here because I work so hard and I'm actually good player.

Just having this understanding that I'm a good player, I mean, I can handle a lot of emotions, a lot of things on court. Every time I had a tough moment on court, I was just reminding myself that I'm good enough to handle all this just everything.

Q. So the emotion was about doubts, is that what you're saying there?


Q. The emotions in the past were because you were doubting yourself?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yes. Yes. Actually, yes.

Q. How big a deal will this be, your victory, back in your homeland? Can you give us an idea how famous you are in your home country to other sports people? Do you think that will change after today?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know. I mean, I think famous in my country? It's not so many good athletes in my country. That's why I'm famous there.

I think right now I have a little bit, yeah, more respect to myself. I kind of starting to understand that I'm actually good player. I have to respect, not only respect everybody, respect myself as well, you know?

Q. Do you think this will be a huge deal back home, your victory?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, I think so. I think people proud of me.

Q. How are you going to celebrate?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I will have some good pizza, of course, and a lot of sweets. Maybe a little bit of Champagne. Cheers.

Q. Today you hit 51 winners, 28 unforced errors. Relatively that is great ratio. After you lost the first set, you seemed like you were more determined to make more winners. Actually the number of winners is getting higher. What was your mindset, tactic, when you lost the first set?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, that's a good stats, 25 unforced errors and 51 winners. It's one more winners, more winners than unforced errors.

After the first set, I mean, I was just nervous in the first set. I just tell myself that I just have to keep going, like keep trying, keep fighting, and I will have my opportunity to come back in this match.

Q. It's been 10 years since Vika won here. Now it's three Australian Open titles to Belarusian women. What role has Vika played coming ahead of you? What kind of influence has she had on you? What's up with the Belarusian players and the Australian Open?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I don't know. I think we love Australia. I hope Australia loves us. So I think it's -- I don't know. Something is good about Australia for us.

And, yeah, 10 years, it's a lot. To be honest, I didn't really watch tennis that much when she won Australia Open.

But, I mean, of course, having a great player from my country helped me to kind of have this belief that I can do well. If she could, I thought if she could, then probably I can.

Q. You said this is the best day of your life. What was the best day of your life before now?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I think when I met my boyfriend. I think he's going to watch this interview, so (blowing kisses).

You see, you wanted me to drink (laughter).

Q. Will you go back to Belarus to celebrate with friends and family with the trophy?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I think I will go back to Miami. I live there right now.

Q. Obviously you want to enjoy this moment. Is the No. 1 ranking in your sights this year? Is that something you'd like to achieve?

ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, of course, as I said before, we all have kind of the same goals. Winning Grand Slam, of course, it's not the last one on my list.

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