How difficult was this match for you? What helped you to win today?
Yes, it was a really tough match. Aryna had an unbelievable year. She is playing really aggressively, really hard, so it was tough to beat her, but I think today I played very well. I tried to go for my shots where I could and tried to stay in rallies when I had to, so I’m happy with my performance today.
It seemed that you read the game of your opponent very well, especially in the second set. What was the plan for this match? What weak sides of Sabalenka did you use in your game? What were the strong sides of your opponent?
I’ve played against her a few times before, so I know she hits the ball really hard especially from her forehand. So the goal was to play more her backhand or aim her body and to just go for my shots where I could.
How comfortable do you feel to play here with the crowd who mostly cheers for your opponents: yesterday – for a Russian and today for Sabalenka from Belarus?
I think, for me any support is nice. It’s already nice to play in front of such a big crowd. For me it doesn’t really matter who they are supporting, but I’ve also heard some fans cheering for me, so that was really nice.
You’ve already played against Aryna Sabalenka three times, and you have always defeated her. What was the key to success against such a tough player? Which of these three matches was the most difficult one?
The Fed Cup tie was also really a close one, and it was in Minsk, so the crowd was behind her there as well. But I think today was the toughest match, because she just improved her game so much. I think the level she played today was the best against me of all the matches we played before, so I think that today was the most difficult one.
Aryna’s progress in her early twenties is very reasonable and predictable. You are a bright example of how you can improve in tennis after 25, as last year was also very successful for you as well as the beginning of this one. What is your secret of such progress? What did you manage to improve? And what are your future plans? What are you going to play next?
When I was a little bit younger, maybe three years ago, I was in Paris in the semifinals. Back then I really had to get used to the pressure, I get used to the press, and just get used to all the attention that I was getting. So I think now I’m a little bit more settled, I’m focusing more on the things I have to do on the court every day and I can approach it a little bit more relaxed. So right now I’m feeling more ready than a few years ago.
Last year you played in the WTA year enc championships for the first time. How important this experience was for you? How did you feel about playing there?
It was great to play there. I must say that during the year I was so close to become Top 8 at the end of the year for the first time and also for the first time to reach Singapore. So reaching this goal was an unbelievable experience for me and a great year overall. Hopefully I can make another great year.
What are your expectations from the final match? Could you comment on both possible opponents for the final?
It’s going to be a tough mach either way. I’ve recently played against Donna in Brisbane. I lost a really close match there – 5/7 in the third set. I had some match- points, but I lost in the end, so it’s going to be a great battle again. Against Vera it will be also really tough to have the entire crowd against me, I guess, again. I lost against here last year, when I had to retire after the first set, because I was sick. I think either way it’s going to be a great match, and a great opportunity to maybe win the title.