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An Interview With: Victoria Azarenka

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Q. Coming back from an injury, what is the toughest part? Is it mental? Are you afraid of hurting yourself again? What was the hardest part for you coming back from such a long injury?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's just a matter of getting it back into the rhythm. You know, you're always used to playing matches and tournaments, so you go from one place to another. Once you stop, it's just a matter of getting that timing back. A little bit of reaction. But really just building that base of kind of a consistent playing. So I think that's the toughest part that takes always a longer time, and it's a process. When you come back you expect the result to be right there just where you kind of finished, but sometimes it takes a little longer.

Q. When you come back from injury, how is your exercise routine, your time at the gym? Does the fitness plan change in any way?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I mean, while I was rehabbing, you had to change a little bit. But the whole routine, yeah, I got a new trainer not so long ago. Routine changed a little bit. But, I mean, you still do squats and weights. You still run. It's kind of the same. It's just a matter of how you put it, you know, in the program. That's it. I don't worry about that. I just do what they tell me to do.

Q. You have been used to being a top contender in Grand Slams. Is it tough for you, maybe you're not back at your best? Your ranking is down.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I never cared about that stuff. I'm the same way if I was better ranked. I always take it one match at a time. I always know that it doesn't matter how high you're ranked or how well you play the tournament before. You still gotta start from zero. Game-wise, I think it doesn't matter how you feel every day. You're not going to play perfect every day. You cannot go through the tournament playing perfect. The work in progress, the mind you put behind it, the work ethic, I think that's the key things for me right now.

Q. How much do you know about your opponent in the first round?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know much about her. I think we practiced one time, but we never played against each other. It's going to be new. But I always try to focus more on my game rather than my opponent. Of course you take some things into consideration - and I'm sure my coach knows a little bit more stuff about her - but I'm really just going to try to focus on my execution.

Q. How would you describe the mental challenge to dealing with the physical problems that you have had and anything you might have learned about yourself in dealing with those frustrations?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, yeah, I learned -- the big thing that I had to learn how to spread my toes. That's not a joke. It's for real. Because, you know, spending so much time in the shoes, some people cannot really spread their toes. I could not do it on my left foot. I had to learn that, and it took me about two weeks, because it was constant, mental thing. It wouldn't move. For the first week, wouldn't move, but then it started moving.

Q. So when you see yourself able to do it now...

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I ran and I screamed in the hallway, like I don't know. I never been so happy in my life (smiling).

Q. If you were to win the US Open this year, what would be your dream meal?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: My goodness. Jesus, if I'm going to think on the court if I win what meal am I going to get? (Laughter). Serving for the match, the tournament, Jesus, Am I going to have chicken or fish? Hmm. Where should I go? Jamaica or Barbados. I don't know. It's gonna be, you know, a tough decision. Tough decision.

Q. Is it more satisfying when you beat the top-ranked players getting to a championship or more important to have those top-ranked players in the way to get there and beat them in the finals?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it doesn't really matter. I think it's a matter for a story, but for you personally, you don't care as long as you have the trophy and you worked your way through it. If you won the tournament, you don't really care who you face really. Of course, you always want to compete against the best and whoever gets to the final at that place is the best. So that's how I really look at it.

Q. It's no sweeter if you beat Serena or Maria versus some other players?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Sweeter? Sorry, when you said sweeter and Maria, I totally thought about the candy. (Laughter.) I was like, Jesus. But I think, you know, just playing against them it's always -- I consider them one of my biggest rivalries, so it's -- I don't think if it's sweeter or not. We just had a lot of -- there's more history in that. Let's put it that way.

Q. Do you feel that you're at 100% right now, that you will be able to win the tournament?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: If I had a magic ball I would answer to you as to that question. I believe I am. You know, I don't think if you ask an athlete when they wake up in the morning and they feel 100% that -- when they will tell you that, I'll be very surprised.

Q. Wondering how your injury is doing after pulling out of Cincinnati. How is the healing coming along? Do you feel as ready as you can be for this tournament?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: It feels a lot better. I think it was a very smart decision to not play there, which was very unfortunate. But I feel better. You know, I don'tneed to tape my knee that much anymore. I have just been working hard to get strength in there and just to be stable. During practice it doesn't bother me, so I'm ready to go.

Q. In the absence of an ideal preparation to a tournament like this, is it comforting to come back to a tournament where you have had so much success?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah. I mean, it's not really about coming back with what you had done before. I just love playing here. I think it's such an amazing event. The energy that is here, you know, it's a Grand Slam in New York City. You cannot take it for granted, no matter how many times you have played or how well you have done here. I just want to look at it from this perspective. I'm always excited. You know, the preparation, I believe I have done the best I could. I have been managing every day to try to get the best out of every day. So in that way I think it was ideal, you know. We'll see.

Q. Why do you love to play here? What's so different in New York than other tournaments?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it has their own -- New York has their own character. You know, I love the fans here. They are very honest, and I love that. You know, they like you. They love you. They'll cheer. If they don't like something they'll boo. That's what makes it very passionate and exciting. Plus, I have been dreaming to play here even as a kid to be on the big stages. Every time I come here it feels special.

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