Thursday, September 1, 2022

New York, New York, USA

Victoria Azarenka

Press Conference

V. AZARENKA/M. Kostyuk

6-2, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Straight sets. An hour and 27 minutes. Your thoughts on the victory.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it was a pretty solid match. I felt that I started, you know, really well. I felt like I was in control throughout the match. I felt a little bit, you know, in the end, got a little bit tight. She ripped some big points, changed it up with some higher balls.

I definitely could have adjust a little bit better there, but, you know, in the moment I felt that I still played pretty solid and very happy that I was able to finish the match on a strong note.


Q. How did you feel when you realized she wasn't going to shake your hand? Were you expecting that, or were you surprised?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I wasn't surprised. I don't believe that making a big deal out of it is important. I always shake hands with my opponents. I had the same situation with Yastremska in Washington. It is what it is. I just move on. I cannot force anybody to shake my hand. It's their decision.

How did it make me feel? It's not the most important thing in the world right now.

Q. Marta seemed particularly upset you haven't reached out to her in the last couple months. Is that something you would like to do and why maybe you haven't?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I've offered many times through WTA, because I believe that there is a sort of sensitivity. I've been told that that's not a good time. I don't have, or I never had a close relationship with Marta. I obviously knew who she is, but I've never practiced with her. I've never really had conversation with her.

So in March when everything happened, I have reached out to all the players that I personally know and I still have a good relationship with -- I'm talking about Ukrainian players, of course -- and, you know, I don't feel that forcing myself to speak to somebody who maybe doesn't want to speak to me for different reasons is the right approach. But I offered.

I feel like I've had a very clear message from the beginning, is that I'm here to try to help, which I have done a lot. Maybe not something that people see. And that's not what I do it for. I do it for people who in need, juniors who need clothes, other people who need money or other people who needed transportation or whatever. That's what is important to me, to help people are in need.

If Marta wants to speak with me, like she texted me yesterday, I replied. I'm open to any time to listen, to try to understand, to sympathize. I believe that empathy in the moment like this is really important, which has, again, been my clear message in the beginning.

I'm going to stand by that, because what's happening in the world is very difficult right now, but we shouldn't forget that we are all human and we should treat each other that way.

Q. About the text that she sent you yesterday, she said she wanted to kind of give you a heads-up about the handshake at the net. She wanted to explain to you why she made that decision. I just wondered, she also spoke about your role on the player council is part of why she spoke out last week and how she thinks you should be more vocal about this issue. I just wanted your reaction to that.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: My role on the player council, I think I don't want to speak to myself but you can ask every member of the player council and a member of WTA who see me in that player council role and what I stand for and what I do for players.

So I don't need to sit here and pat myself on the back. I know very clearly of my actions. I don't think that, with all due respect, I don't think she has any idea of what I do on the player council because she's not there.

So if anybody, as I said, if anybody wants to talk to me, I'm always available to players. Because it's part of my job, player council, to listen to feedback of players, and Marta is no different for me.

To me, I look at her as a tennis player, as a colleague. I know she's going through a lot of difficult situations. It's not easy to handle.

From, you know, my perspective, I wish she had somebody who guide her a little bit better through this difficult time. So, you know, there is going to be more sympathy from others. I feel like when you're trying to, I don't know, react, it's not always received that well.

So I'm always open to listen. I can't force people to do something they don't want to do. But any time, she has my number, as you know, she texted me, and all others, as well.

Whatever I can do to help people, I don't play political games, I don't play media games, that's not what I'm here for. I'm very direct person. I mean, many of you know me for many years. I don't go around the corners. I go straight to the person.

The Twitter is not a place for discussion. The place for discussion is face to face, and if anybody who knows me outside of the court, that's what I'm about. I talk with people, not through the phone or through the text, face to face.

As I said, I'm just going to bring it out there. If it's needed to be said in the media, that I'm very open to do whatever is necessary. Because I think, as I said, in these type of moments, it's important to be human and be empathetic to others. What people are going through you never know, sometimes you cannot see it.

Q. Less-sensitive topic, you are one of the few who has been in that stage, playing big matches in Ashe against Serena types. Players this week have never heard that kind of noise.

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I have heard that noise. Believe me, yep.

Q. What is it like? Is there anything that compares to it? Anything that can prepare you for it? How does it affect you just trying to play a game when I'm sure you don't hear anything like that very often?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, it's not easy thing to handle, absolutely. I think, as you said, for somebody who has never been there, can be quite intimidating.

For me, it always fueled me to be better. You know, the second final that I lost to her, I actually had a lot of people supporting me, as well.

I understand why they are coming here. It's not like, okay, they are against me, they don't like me. I don't take it personally. I believe that she's such a big magnitude of, you know, tennis, and so much force, that there is no doubt that people are going to be supporting her in New York.

I take it as motivation to show great tennis. I think that speaks for it. That's why people want to support you after, is you showing, you know, great tennis.

But being it's last Serena's tournament, like, nobody wants to kind of miss those matches. It's pretty special. I'm sure it's not an easy place to be across the net. But also special. I will say it's special.

Q. Before the tournament, obviously you wanted to be a part of the exhibition of Tennis Plays for Peace, and then it didn't happen. Can you tell us what the sequence of events was like. How did it go for you?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I mean, it's a long story, but, you know, I have been called by the USTA and asked if I would be participating. It's a no-brainer for me. Like, why wouldn't I participate in a humanitarian aid for people who are really struggling right now. It's not even a thought for me at that moment.

I thought that when people, you know, asking -- the question earlier, when you are asking, You're not doing enough, you're not saying enough or not... I thought that this was a gesture that really shows commitment. I'm not sure why it wasn't taken it that way. I don't want to judge that, that's what happened.

I make steps towards help, towards listening, and if it's not received, again, it's a simple thing. I can't force it. I'm not going to go and say, Oh, how dare you? It's not my place. My place is to be there to offer, offer my help, and that's it.

I thought it was a great idea to make this event. It's turned out to be an incredible event, raising a lot of money for a great cause. That's it. I mean, was I there or wasn't I there? The most important was the objective to help people. That's how I take it.

If I make it about myself, it's a different thing, and I don't want to make anything about myself, because hopefully I don't perceive as self-centered.

If that was more helpful for people, then that's it. It's simple.

Q. So what lessons do you draw from the event of last week and then today about what you can do, want to do, what the WTA should be doing in this situation moving forward towards these players who, as you have said, are really suffering?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think that there is a lot of things are done and they maybe are not talked about enough.

From my perspective, I see there is a different thing on public and when there is cameras around, and there is a different story when there is no cameras around and when there is conversations face to face and personal conversations.

So that is what I sometimes struggle with to understand. But again, it's not up to me to judge. What I can do is offer my help, and then I don't know what else can we do. Hopefully we can find some solutions, open to listen to solutions of what that help needs to be.

But as I said, I'm not going to play these media games and I'm not going to play any political games. That's just not who I am and I have never done that in my life and I won't do that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
124284-1-1063 2022-09-01 18:04:00 GMT

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