Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Aryna Sabalenka speaks to media ahead of contesting the 2023 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
THE MODERATOR: Aryna, welcome to Dubai. Your first tournament as a Grand Slam champion. Does it feel any different?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Not really. Not really, to be honest. Just happy to be here. Have nice days of practice. Yeah, no big different.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How did you spend the time between Australia and now? What did you do?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I had few days off kind of to understand everything. Then we start practicing. Yeah, went straight here to Dubai, so…
Q. When you say to process everything that happened, was there any kind of realization that you came by? You said you didn’t really believe that you could win before, then you did it.
ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, yeah, it means a lot to me. What I’m saying is, I mean, I believed in myself, but I was waiting for so long, I was working so hard, I couldn’t get it. I had tough losses on the semifinals.
Then when I won, it’s kind of, yeah, it means a lot. I was super happy. I couldn’t believe it on the beginning. Then for the next I think week I was like, Oh, my God, I did it. Yes, it happened.
I was, like, having this conversation in my head that, Wow, that’s happen. It’s so amazing. Now I have even more – how to say?
Q. Ambitions, hunger?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I want more. ‘Motivation’, this is the word. More motivation to work hard, just to feel it again.
Q. You said it’s a motivation, but which one is bigger, satisfaction or motivation?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Motivation, I think. Yeah, more motivation.
Q. Do you feel like the world changes because of what happened in Australia?
ARYNA SABALENKA: What change?
Q. The world?
ARYNA SABALENKA: The world?
Q. Yes, in terms of inside or outside…
ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I don’t know. The world? I mean, it’s definitely changed something in my mind. But no much. I still have to work hard. I still have to prove every time on the court that I’m on the right place. Nothing changed much.
It’s just really nice to achieve your goal. Yeah, but I still have to work, so nothing changed much.
Q. Does it feel like you’re undefeated this year or do you not feel it that way?
ARYNA SABALENKA: It’s only two tournaments for me. It’s been only two tournaments. It’s many weeks to go (smiling).
It’s good that I didn’t lose match in Australia, but now we’re in Dubai. I don’t know if it’s going to be the same. I’m doing my best to keep improving, keep winning.
Q. You won in Abu Dhabi, the title, and you won Doha before.
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yes.
Q. Do you want to finish the hat trick?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, it would be really cool to win Dubai (smiling).
Q. Are the conditions similar or is it different here?
ARYNA SABALENKA: This year is different because they changed the balls. The surface is new. It’s different than it was last year. Last year was super fast. The balls were flying.
Right now I feel like I have more chance to do well in this tournament just because of these changes.
Q. This is such a strong field. Do you think this has motivated you to perform and keep winning in Dubai?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Say that again. Like…
Q. Is it almost like a Grand Slam, very strong field, 17 of the top 20?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Okay, I understand.
Q. That way, is it motivating you to get your first Dubai title?
ARYNA SABALENKA: I mean, yeah, the draw is really strong here. I like this tournament. I like this city.
Yeah, of course I want to win this tournament. I know that there is a lot of matches ahead, a lot of tough matches ahead, so I have to work hard.
If I’ll win this tournament, it will be really great. Yeah, I would like to win this one.
Q. Speaking of the draw, the players here, are there any players you would pick as your toughest competition?
ARYNA SABALENKA: I’m not looking at the draw that far. I’m just taking it step by step. Sometimes you look far in the draw, then you losing the first match because you’re already thinking about your semifinal match or whatever. I’m just trying to take it step by step.
Each opponent is really tough. I think tennis is improved a lot. Like, if you see in the draw No. 1 playing against No. 30, it doesn’t say anything. Anyone can beat anyone.
I’m just taking it step by step.
Q. You spoke of the realization after the Australian Open. Is that the mentality of not looking too much into numbers or opponents? Is that something you carry for the rest of the season?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I would like to just focus on myself because I think the only thing why I won Australian Open is because I was focusing on myself. I didn’t really think about all the expectations, all the things happening around, this is Grand Slam, all this stuff.
I was just focusing on myself. I was just keep telling myself that I have to bring my level on court, I have a lot of chances to win the match.
So, yeah, I’ll just try focus on myself.
Q. I saw you practicing with Jil. Did you see the draw or not? You might play her.
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yes. Actually we practiced with Fernandez, then with Jil. My coach said, We’re 100% going to play against lefty.
Then I saw the draw that I can face here. I was like, yeah, nice. Good pick of players for practicing (smiling).
Q. Where were you in the time after the Australian Open, where were you?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Here.
Q. In Dubai?
ARYNA SABALENKA: I was here, yeah.
Q. I wanted to ask you about your serve. You said in Australia that it was biomechanics, you had that sorted. Is it a default setting? Is it naturally a physical thing that you go to? Is it a default setting that you have to correct?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, it’s actually a tough question because I was struggling a lot. It was biomechanic, then it was mentally. I just watched a lot of videos of my serve. I understand that there is a lot of wrong motion on my serve from the biomechanic side. I cannot put the serve in. So I just changed the motion a lot. I just change it.
Q. You had go through many ups and downs, tough moments.
ARYNA SABALENKA: More downs last year (laughter).
Q. Some specific matches or tournaments, important decisions, what do you think changed your mindset?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Everything start…
Q. …clicking together.
ARYNA SABALENKA: I think last year before Cincinnati.
Q. Which year?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Last year, Cincinnati.
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, because I start working on my biomechanic. I start realizing things a lot more. So, yeah, that’s why.
But, I mean, I would say on the clay court season, I start kind of, like, working through it. Like even if my serve wasn’t working, I was trying to win with a different weapons, you know? Ever since start like a little bit working, mentally working better on the clay court, but physically more before Cincinnati.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports