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February 20, 2023

Victoria Azarenka

Dubai, UAE

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium

Press Conference

V. AZARENKA/A. Pavlyuchenkova

6-3, 7-5

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How did you feel about that one? You still managed to win in two.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I mean, happy to win, for sure. I felt that a bit too many ups and downs today. I didn't really feel that comfortable to lead and then kind of go back and try to restart.

I mean, I know it's part of the game, it's part of tennis. But, yeah, I just wanted to kind of close it out a bit earlier. Finding the way to win, it's also very good, especially when you're maybe not playing you're best.

But, yeah, Nastia is a great player. I'm really happy to see her back. Yeah, today was a good win, but definitely some things to work on.

Q. You seemed to be able to carry the momentum you had from Australia into this stretch. How pleased are you with where your form is at at the moment?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, honestly it's kind of hard to tell. I feel like I'm playing well. I felt like I played really well in Doha. I didn't convert the match, but I played against a great opponent who has a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum.

Even though there's a lot of positives to take out of that, the competitive side of me is kind of frustrated. It was important to go through today with those momentum shifts a little bit and find the way.

The season is long. I'm hoping to play a little bit more this year, a bit more consistency through the tournaments, and really see how I can build throughout the season. I'm excited for that.

Q. I'm asking some of the players about Sania. You've been on tour with her for many years. If you can give us some perspective on what you think she meant to the game and if you have any personal anecdotes about Sania?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'll never forget about the match I lost to her in Australia the first time I qualified for a Grand Slam in Australia as a professional.

I'm a bit sad that she's retiring. I do feel like she can still play a few more years. It's very cool to see her bring her son.

I think what she has done for India, for the region here, is absolutely remarkable. Little girls who didn't really have a role model before now can see what's possible. I think that is priceless. That's going to be her legacy.

But it's a bit sad, yeah, to see. There are so many people retiring right now, so it's almost like every week or every month we're saying good-bye to somebody from my generation, so... A bit emotional.

I think she didn't come to this decision slightly [sic]. I wish her the best in her life after tennis. I hope she will still do things to help her country, her region, to grow because that's really what I believe our mission is as a global sport, is to give opportunities to all parts of the world to strive to dream big. At least that's the way I see it.

Q. About your generation retiring, I asked Gael that question. All of his compatriots were retiring. I asked him if it comes to a point where it's almost like your classmates are leaving. Does it feel that way, that you're missing some people in a way, or you're fine?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, maybe it's me, but I don't really miss many people. It's not because I don't think about them. It's more because I feel like they're making the choice for them, and I'm happy for them whatever it is that they do. I've built a lot of great relationships and friendships on the tour.

From my standpoint, if somebody retires, not because they wanted to retire, because out of injury, obviously that's a more difficult thing to accept. But so far there wasn't many cases like that.

It's easier to connect obviously now through social medias, through technology, so it's very cool to see other parts of their life. I've always been that type of person who sees the life much bigger than tennis. In that way it doesn't make me miss them, it makes me excited for what people are doing.

But I miss Gael, for sure. I'll tell you that. I hope to see him on the court soon.

But yeah, I mean, it's also kind of exciting to see a new generation coming up. When I see somebody like 16, 17, they're double, double my age, doesn't make me feel old, but it's like, whoa, the difference is pretty big.

It's still exciting.

Q. Speaking of retiring, has that thought ever crossed your mind? You've been playing well again. Australian Open was really good.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I mentioned it before I came back in 2020. I wasn't sure if I'm going to play again.

I feel like when there are players who are older, like me, older in tennis, not older in life, I'm very young still, I see a lot of people keep asking about retirement. Once they retire, it's like, We miss them.

It's like let's not waste this time before everybody retires to talk about retirement. People will let you guys know when it's time, and that's kind of it.

But I see that coming up all the time, those comments. Oh, the age... You know, mind your business in a way. Like you really should mind your business. When it's ready, everybody's going to announce it one way or the other, and there's going to be a parade for some, maybe some not. Maybe some just say bye and you never see them again.

Whatever choice it is, just leave it up to people. That's my opinion.

Q. Do you still get butterflies before a match? Do you still feel nervous before a match?


Q. Or has something changed with your experience?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: To be honest, it's both. I still feel nervous, I still feel excited. There are definitely things that have changed. There's different perspective. I have my son now. I have a different perspective than when I was 20 years old. I hope I grew. I hope I matured in my life. There's going to be different emotions.

In terms of nerves and excitement to go on the court, as long as I don't feel nervous or excited, I think that's the time where I wouldn't want to play.

Q. 50 years of WTA tennis. You're someone who is very active on the player council. What do you hope to see for the WTA moving forward, for the next era?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I want to think about WTA as limitless, I really do. I want to see a lot of things grow. I want to see a lot of things change.

Unfortunately we are dealing with so many moving parts that changes are hard. We also have so many people who are - with no disrespect - but older generation that may be harder to see the future. I do feel that.

I think we need a little bit more unity hopefully in sport, more involvement from players, which I do feel at least from this player council that I've been on is very, very involved. We do want to change.

But it takes time. It's difficult. It's very difficult to change the ways that's been done, to break sort of traditions or the way it's been going.

But I do feel that tennis needs to change, it needs to grow, it needs to become more quicker in terms of timing. It needs to change the schedule. The tournaments, we need to definitely grow with more competitiveness.

I don't believe that this long of a season is exciting for fans. It's hard to follow. Even with the 'Break Point', I felt it was very well-produced, but explaining how the game works with 40-15. I was watching, What is that (smiling)?

I do feel there's a lot of potential. We just need to have people who are willing to take a little bit of a risk and step off the conservative bubble that tennis is about.

Q. We talked to Iga about her passion for listening to rock music before she goes on court. Do you use music as a tool in any way to pump yourself up?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Absolutely. When I work out at home, I always play music. I use music and listen to music before matches and stuff.

Q. Anything in particular?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, a lot of different ways. I listen to a lot of Spanish music, Reggaeton. I do like rock music, as well.

I'm having a really hard time with rock music lately. I used to love it. Now I can't understand what they're saying. I feel like when I used to drive in the car with my mom, she would just say to me like, What the hell is this music? That's how I feel right now about some of rap music (smiling).

But, yeah, that I have a really hard time with now.

Q. The headband, is that a charm, something that you got used to and it stuck with you?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, I want to think of myself as a little bit of a trendsetter. I wasn't the first one who wore the bandana, for sure. I was inspired by Mary Pierce. I felt like I've brought that back.

There was another player, Gisela Dulko from Argentina, who wore quite a lot of that. Nike weren't making them. I started asking them, Can you start making them for me? I started with the men's bandanas because Rafa used to play with them all the time. They started making the girl's ones. It felt like that catched [sic] on.

I think it's a cool look. A little bit like a warrior type. It fits my personality quite well, I think.

Q. If there's one shot you would like to have from any player in any era of tennis, which one would that be and why?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Any shot? Shot or quality?

Q. Shot.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Honestly I would say Nick Kyrgios' serve because it's so good. His serve is I think one of the best serves I've ever seen. You just can't tell where it's going. Second serve is really good.

Q. WTA Finals has been a topic, as well. Have there been a lot of conversations about when you hope to find a new home? From the players' perspective, what do you want?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: We need something that is deserving of the Finals. Last couple years with such a short announcement, absolutely no time for marketing - my opinion - it's been undervalued.

However, I think that the crowd in Guadalajara was unreal. Every player I've asked, they said it was amazing. I think that part is also very, very important for us, that we have a great crowd.

We need definitely a place that we have time to promote, players are excited and don't find out in the last minute or two months before where you're going.

It's about scheduling. It's about scheduling. We will see. There is really no defined place right now. There's still talks about China. There's nothing definitive. I wouldn't share it here anyway because it's quite confidential, but I can honestly say there's a lot of just talks.

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