An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic (2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters, Round 2)

Q. Two-part question. First of all, your thoughts on this first match since the US Open. And also, have you decided to start the Eric Cantona look?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I haven’t decided to start the Cantona look. It was just that from one side it was a lot of breeze. Maybe you couldn’t feel that on the stands, but we felt it on the court. I was a bit wet here, so the neck was getting too dry — it was quite cold. That’s why I did it.

And the first match, I was just pleased to be back on the court, considering I skipped Beijing that I planned to play. I had great memories and success in the past in this tournament in this court.

It was solid. You know, I was just trying to focus on my game and things that I worked on last couple of weeks.

And, you know, it’s satisfying, surely. I know that things will — I believe things will progress as days go by.

Q. How much of that new inner joy of playing tennis you have found tonight?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I mean, it’s great. You know, I think everything is in our minds, you know, the way we perceive things, the way we approach. I just change few things in terms of approach, in terms of thinking, in terms of lifestyle, I guess, from mental point of view.

Yeah, I enjoy it right now, you know, this kind of transition. I’ll stick with that.

Q. Are you aware of the sound of running feet catching you up called Andy Murray at the top of the rankings?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. (Laughter.) I’m sure you are.

Q. Very.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Great. Good for you.

Q. You said in the press conference the other day that, you know, staying at No. 1, it wasn’t a priority, there are things that are more important. Why is that and what exactly do you mean by that? Does that mean you’re not looking at what it will take to stay at No. 1?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said before, it’s very simple. I try to look at things from different perspective, from more human perspective rather than from perspective of professional tennis player.

When I get on the court, of course I want to give my best and eventually try to win the match, but that comes as a consequence of how I feel and how I approach, how I prepare, you know, just a general mindset and approach. But not as a priority of must-win type of mindset, you know, because that is not working for me anymore.

That’s it. As I said, you know, I’m going to stick with that and I have just a different kind of vision right now.

Q. Concerning your mindset and everything you have achieved, how hard is it for you to say, Okay, I have to have a different priority and look at it maybe not win everything and stuff? Because it would seem probably difficult for your personality.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, I guess I’m not the only one in the world, person or tennis player, that has to face this kind of life’s lessons and challenges and I guess evolution of some sort. Each day for all of us is different, even though sometimes we think that it’s the same or we think that things that are coming our way, our profession or people that we meet are the same, but it’s actually different.

So that’s the way I approach it. I try to be in this moment and take things slowly, and, you know, I’m not rushing anywhere. I’m not in a need, you know, to achieve anything. You know, I feel like I have overcome that step.

Right now it’s about just, you know, following my gut, following my instinct, whatever I feel like doing. Right now this is what I feel that I want to do.

It is a transition of some kind. That doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna play tennis, you know, because I feel like some people have that kind of idea about what I’m saying.

But again, everybody has a different perception or understanding of what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that I’m still here, I’m still playing because I enjoy it, but that’s my main priority. You know, there is some different character, I would say features that I’m focused on more, and this, you know, subtle feelings on a daily basis that I need to stick to, I guess, because they give me that motivation, you know. I have plenty of inspiration in tennis world, outside of tennis world. I’m a father, I’m a husband, I enjoy my life to full extent. But in tennis, you know, things happened differently for me last three months and that’s it. Right now this is where I am.

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Q. With your new mindset, do you still have it in mind to reach Roger Federer’s number of Grand Slam titles? Is that sort of a goal for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Right now, no. I don’t think about that at all. I don’t think about any achievements. I don’t think about any trophies or No. 1s of the world, the ranking or anything like that.

It’s completely different. It is there because — I mean, I play partly because, you know, I also enjoy being successful and seeing the results of my work. But on the other hand, that comes second now. It’s not the priority.

Q. Correct me if I’m wrong, but since you got injured more often this season than past four or five years maybe, do you see a reason? Is it just bad luck or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, some are mechanical injuries, I guess. Some are maybe reflection of my mental approach, as well, because I feel like in Olympic Games, just before I arrived to Olympic Games, things were looking great, I was in great shape. I won Toronto. You know, I was, as I can say, the peak of my abilities. I was extremely motivated to do well there, but I lost that equilibrium. I lost that balance, because I exaggerated with the way I pushed myself in that kind of preparation and I really, you know, wanted it too much maybe.

So that’s why I think this injury, if I analyze it more deeply, is a reflection of that kind of mindset. I learned a lesson and I move on. Again, I can learn so much from these kind of circumstances and situations, especially when I lose big matches, that that’s when I learn the biggest lessons. Yeah, that’s all.

Q. Please don’t think I’m singling you out to ask you this question, but I’m asking all the players here and my newspaper is asking players around the world, are you comfortable with the fact that Maria Sharapova — I know she’s a friend of yours — are you comfortable with the fact that with still seven months of the suspension still to go she was playing a highly visible exhibition tournament with a lot of famous names last night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was not aware of that. This is the first time I hear it. To be honest, I can’t give my opinion about that at the moment for her playing exhibition tournament, considering the whole case of Maria.

You know, from my opinion, I see that it was no intention in doing that, because the rules changed this year, but it was an error and mistake that she and her team, you know, in a way had to take the consequences and pay for and the suspension is there rightly so. And she, I think, was, in a way, courageous enough to come out and admit before anything was heard of this case.

So in that way, I thought she handled herself with the dignity, which is for praise, but I think she’s also aware of the mistake. So then the rules are there to be followed.

And regarding exhibition, this is the first time I hear it, so I really don’t have opinion on it.

Q. It was a big one, Billie Jean King…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay. Yes, I have to think about it before I answer.

Q. This week both Roger and Rafa, their ranking is out of top four. It’s the first time since 2003. Do you think there is no more big four? And do you think the competition nowadays is more open than before? What’s your opinion?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I never used the term “big four.” It was created by media and people around the tennis world. This I understand why, because there was a big dominance in the tennis world by these four players.

But, you know, Stan Wawrinka is somebody that went under the radar and he won three Grand Slams, so you cannot rule him out. Cilic won a Grand Slam and Del Potro, too. Those are the players that deserve always to be mentioned as the best players in the world.

And now you have the new wave of tennis players, a new generation is coming up, already established top 10 players, Nishikori and Raonic, that played Grand Slam finals themselves and won some big tournaments. And then you have Kyrgios and Coric, these kind of players that are young and motivated to show to the world that they can compete on the highest level.

So it’s kind of expected to have some new faces in this sport, but I still wouldn’t rule out Roger and Rafa and I would not take them out of that context of the best players in the world.

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