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An Interview With: Victoria Azarenka (Round 2)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Q. Tough match. Obviously she pushed you. Got a break on you. To get through and fight like that, feel good coming away with a win?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Definitely. In a tournament every match won't be perfect. Yanina came out playing well and she really started to dominate. I was just trying to find my way into the match and find opportunity to create opportunities and whatever it took to fight for every point. So there are definitely things that I could have done better, but overall, I got the win. That's important to win matches when you're probably not playing at your best.

Q. Did you make corrections in the second set? Identified some problems in the first and then were able to make some adjustments in the second set?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, better adjustments. I still felt I had to do a little bit better. I went on the practice court to just find what I was looking for after, and I'm going to bring it to the next match.

Q. The next match, talk about what you expect from that matchup.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, very tough match. She's an amazing fighter and sometimes you feel like you're playing against the wall, so I have to find a lot of ways to make her out of balance and to be aggressive and try to find empty space in the court. But she's an amazing player. She's been really solid, you know, throughout the year, so I'm looking forward to having this battle and test myself and try to find a way to win.

Q. When you're trailing in a match, what are the most important qualities that you think you have or what are the things you draw upon most to turn things around?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, the most important is to have a clear head no matter what it is, an open mind and willingness to fight through whatever it takes to win that match. You know, to really just put the ego aside that you're losing and just try to battle. Really, I look forward to -- the way I think is to just take one point at a time and try to hang in there, and, you know, stay focused and also not be afraid to go for your shots.

Q. The way you played important points today was really impressive. When you're on court like this and 5-4, first set, is there something that clicks?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think in the tough moments, pressure moments, that's where I find my best game. I like to be in that battle and I like to test myself. Sometimes when things get always your way, you know, to me it gets a little bit boring. Sometimes I can lose focus and get myself back into some kind of mode that I have to climb my way out of there, so it's a challenge. But in tough moments I believe that I just, you know, try to play natural. I like it when it's tough.

Q. You seemed to express real composure today. Nothing rattled you. Normally when you have great composure it's because the confidence is getting up high. Confidence is where these days, would you say?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it comes first from making the effort to stay composed and to stay balanced and just be ready to fight, and then that's what builds the confidence after winning, winning matches like this when it's not easy and you have to go through that. But I think it comes first from your will and from your passion, not confidence at first.

Q. Two-time finalist here, yet you're the 20th seed. What is it like for you going through this draw?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Doesn't matter to me, really. I never looked at the draw. You know, it is what it is. I don't look at what I had last year situation or what happened two weeks ago. I'm just slowly but steadily coming back up. I'm improving myself. I'm in the third round. No matter what kind of seed you are, you still have to go out there and win matches.

Q. If I heard correctly, you said if you don't have a challenge it sometimes can get a little boring. I mean, you're arguably at the most exciting tournament of the year. Talk about sort of the tedious or boring qualities of the game. Is that sometimes a challenge to get yourself fired up or excited in order to go on in a day-in and day-out basis?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, what I meant by boring is not like I don't enjoy it. Maybe it's not the correct word. Sometimes when it comes everything your way you don't maybe -- it's just comes easy. I feel like I'm not used to getting easy, so I like to make it more tough. But I think the most challenging part is that the everyday routine is that sometimes you have to push yourself through. But to me, honestly, it's because I enjoy what I do right now so much that it doesn't take any extra effort. It's just, for me, to be able to continue to keep my focus and play every point like it's my last point.

Q. You have played a lot of matches out on Ashe. Did today feel any different? Do you feel like the conditions are different compared to years past because of the partial roof?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, the courts here, all of them are really different. So if I played the other match on Armstrong, coming to Ashe is going to be a little bit of a different feeling. But with a roof it definitely feels a little bit less spacious. It feels a little bit more, as I said, cozy and like a little bit like a bubble. Definitely I think less wind, so there is less traveling of the ball. I love the atmosphere playing there, honestly. This is really exciting to go out there, and what's happening up there, how they are building it, is really impressive.

Q. You spoke a moment ago very thoughtfully about the mentality when you're down and coming back when you're not playing your best. What are your thoughts when you see Serena challenge like that? Because so much of her success has been when she's been down in matches. What has gone through your mind as you've seen her come back in matches?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I have seen that too many times against me. (Laughter.) Well, I think this is a difference between the really top players and the players who are a little bit lower ranked, is that ability to stay balanced and stay, I would say, hungry to win or hate to lose that bad that you're willing to do whatever it takes. But I believe it's that open mind, that no matter what the score is, you still believe that you can get out of any situation possible.

Q. With her specifically, what have you seen in the way she's handled adversity in matches that you've noticed most?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, she's so tough mentally. She's just really tough. I think she hates to lose so badly that she just -- she will do anything possible to win that match. And that's how, you know, it should be. That's what makes you the best, is the ability. Not maybe so much exciting to win, but really hating to lose sometimes.

Q. You're obviously still one of the best players in the world, but still making your way back into the top 10. Are there any benefits to being outside the top 10?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know. (Smiling.) I don't look at it -- I don't look for a specific number besides No. 1, so for me doesn't matter. Is it 11? 12? 13? 5? 6? The only number I'm looking at is 1.

Q. Tennis is still a big part of this production. You said you have to be willing to go for your shots.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Uh-huh.

Q. Talk about the times where it's tough to go for your shots or you feel, I don't know, inhibited or you just can't do it. How do you sort of self-talk your way into it where you have a freedom and you're going for your shots?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know, it's a battle. Sometimes you're not just battling against your opponent, you're battling against your nerves, against your expectations, adrenaline, whatever it is. Your emotions, whatever it is. I think in tight situations that's what you're fighting probably the most. I think it's totally normal for everybody. Everybody experiences that. It's being able not to be afraid to fail, you know. I would rather go out trying and doing the best I can than regretting something that I didn't do.

Q. Have there been times when you regretted not going all out, that you felt you just fell short, or is it that you are always pushing...

VICTORIA AZARENKA: In my career?

Q. Yes.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Of course. No doubt about that. But that's the precious learning experience that, you know, you wouldn't get if you didn't go through it.

Q. You just said that you don't really think about numbers except for the number 1. You have had a taste of that before. To be top of the world in your profession, once there, is it almost an obsession to get it back? Do you want that feeling again so badly?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I wouldn't call it obsession.

Q. But the drive?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: The drive, definitely. You know, for me, it's not worth it if I'm not trying to be the best. If I'm not motivated to do and to be the best, it's no point. I don't see myself as good enough. I want to give myself the best chance to be the best, and I'm going to think that way. And if it happens that I don't get it, that's okay, but I will never think less of that.

Q. Is it more so because you have been there before and you know what it's like to have been there?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: No. I mean, when I was 10 years old I thought I wanted to be the best in the world. That was the goal. So I don't know where it came from. Obviously I don't know if it was conscious or not when you're hitting against the wall by yourself and you're imagining yourself playing in the big stadiums, if that's conscious and that's normal for a kid to think that way, but that's how I think. I dream about that, and that's how passionate I am about the game, that I have dreams about that. (Smiling.)

Q. (Regarding the serve.) Do you feel it's paying off this summer? You're really getting a way better serve.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, definitely. I don't think I have ever worked that specifically on it and had that much improvement that I had in the last couple of months. To me, it's really exciting that I'm discovering this shot as a weapon and I'm trying to build from it. To me, it's very exciting to actually work on it, because I hated to do that. It's so boring. It's just, (Demonstrating serving.) You would think it's so easy because it's something you have full control in, but it's one of the most difficult elements in the game. But now I feel excited to actually work on that.

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