An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic | 2018 Cincinnati (Final)

N. DJOKOVIC/R. Federer

6-4, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Congratulations. Ever since the Dimitrov match when you hit the overhead and he put it in the net, I noticed you’re hitting a lot more lobs in the subsequent matches. Is that part of your game plan now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, not really part of the game plan. I mean, in a way it is, because if you’re in an awkward position, if you’re in a very defensive position and the player is already at the net and he closed all the angles so he’s very close to the net, the only option you really have is to put the ball really high.

It helps — I mean, obviously I won some crucial points this week that I managed to kind of come back into the point or make the other player — I just try to make the other player hit a difficult overhead. At times it doesn’t work. But that’s what you’re left with, you know. The options, there are not many options from there.

Q. You’re the first singles player to win all nine Masters 1000 events. Where does that rank among everything you’ve accomplished in your career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Definitely one of the most special moments in my career. Achievements, making history of the sport that I truly love is a great privilege and honor and something that I’ll be very proud of for the rest of my life.

I was saying, you know, previously that during this week that obviously this trophy has been a motivation, big motivation for me. But at the same time I tried not to think about the pressure of really making history too much, because I have had already some failed attempts, three years ago with Roger, and coming into today’s match, I mean, wasn’t easy psychologically because I knew I lost to him every time I played him on this court. But at the same time, I liked my chances because I felt better and better as the tournament week was progressing.

I felt that in the past when I had this particular, you know, circumstances in the tournament and matches where I come back, you know, from situations where I’m down a set and a break and I managed to win close matches, I usually come out semifinals or finals playing my best tennis.

That’s something that I was hoping is going to happen again, and I believed that it will and it did. It was by far the best performance of the week.

Q. You felt you played your best match today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: For sure. Roger wasn’t obviously at his best. He missed a lot of returns. He had also seems like a difficult time to move. You know, he was not really playing as well as he did in previous matches this week, but at the same time, you know, I thought I was solid. I didn’t allow him to, you know, come to the net and be aggressive too much, and I tried to kind of hold ground and protect the line.

It’s much easier said than done when you’re playing Roger, especially in these conditions where he loves playing here. Everything happens really, really fast and there is not much time to think or to construct the points, so you really need to be alert all the time, you know, especially against him.

I’m very pleased the way I held my nerves at the end, you know. And even when I lost the break of serve in the second set, I managed to rebreak the next game and get back on the right track.

Q. Roger yesterday said that since you hadn’t met in two-and-a-half years and a lot of things have happened both to you and to him in these two-and-a-half years, this could have been a fresh match, fresh start, not something that everybody knows how it’s going. How fresh was it out there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, for me it was fresh because it’s the first time that I won this trophy and against him here. I did miss matches with him. You know, I really, what I said on the court, it’s a pleasure to share the court with him, with the all-time great, I truly mean that. With him, with Nadal, these guys have been such an integral, important part of my life and my career and my evolution as a tennis player.

You know, they make me play my best tennis. They make me improve. They made me, you know, think about what I need to do in order to try to be the best player in the world.

Having not played Roger for over two years was really strange, to be honest. I mean, I thought that we haven’t played for, like, maybe a year or something like that, but then I remembered that actually the last time was in Australia. Was quite a long time ago, which is unusual, because we got to play so many times over the decade.

Q. Just what kind of space did Cincinnati occupy in your mind? Because you had won the other eight, and this was the only one missing for quite a while.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.

Q. How does this quest to get this set complete compare to your French Open quest, where that was the only one missing for quite a while at the slam level?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s very fulfilling. It’s hard to compare. I know you guys like to compare, but I just — I will just say that I’m very, very, you know, pleased and proud and, you know, satisfied. Just filled with great emotions. You know, obviously I tried for five times. I didn’t succeed. I kept on coming here, and I felt, to be honest, more pressure every time that I kept coming.

I haven’t played at this tournament for two years. Three years back was the last time I was here. Played finals against Roger in ’15 and played against him I think another two or three finals.

Just wasn’t managing to, you know, overcome the last hurdle. You know, coming in this year, obviously the Wimbledon win made things quite different for me in terms of approach to both Toronto and Cincinnati. So I felt more confident on the court. I felt, you know, I just need to get few more matches. I haven’t played really very well in Toronto, but I felt if I get two or three matches here under my belt, then things will start to work better and as they did in the past. And having that experience obviously helps to have that self-belief and the right approach.

Q. You talked a little bit, both after the match and here, about Roger’s form not being his best form, he wasn’t returning well. He confirmed that, as well, in press. He said it wasn’t his best form. He wasn’t returning well. You were successful hitting passing shots at him and he wasn’t volleying that well. Did you sense that he was making adjustments to that, or were you just able to focus on your own game and he wasn’t able to respond to it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, obviously you have to primarily focus on your game, regardless of who is across the net. Because obviously if you’re in the right balance, if you execute your shots the way you intend to, then I know that with the quality of the shots that I have, I think I can win against really anyone on any surface.

That’s the first thing. But again, coming into the match with Roger, obviously you know that it’s going to be high — well, you know, what’s going to be required from you to play a high-level tennis. It’s just he always plays, you know, at the highest possible level, especially towards the end of the tournament.

Obviously today he didn’t play at his best, but, you know, I still had to earn the victory. And obviously coming into a match you have to do preparation, do some video analysis. You think about what is the right tactics and what can be executed in a way that is gonna allow you to win the match.

Of course I do prepare for each opponent differently but primarily focus on my own execution of the game.

Q. I understand that Craig O’Shaughnessy has been working with your team in terms of preparation, data analysis, and all that. You seemed to be in really great positions today. You were there where Roger was hitting. I wonder how much that’s helped you.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think it’s important to have the data analysis. I mean, I have been, you know, doing that and I think most of the top players have been doing that for many years.

It’s no secret, because you try to prepare for your opponent. You try to get as much information as possible. You work and talk with your team to simply that and make sure you come up with the right tactics.

But I don’t think that has something to do with anticipation on the short balls and reading maybe where he’s going to hit his overhead. Maybe serves, yeah, at times, you know, but he’s putting so much variety in his serve, and he hits his spots so beautifully every time he needs it. I mean, throughout his career, you know, he’s probably the best-ever clutch server, him and Pete Sampras, probably.

But he always delivers, you know, and I was just lucky few times to read his serve well and be in the right position and anticipate. Sometimes that’s what you need to do, you know. You can’t rely on the stats, because they can get you to a certain point, but then it’s, you know, everyone’s game, I guess, you know, on the court.

Q. You have now won also the World Tour Finals. Do you have a big trophy room where you put copies of all these trophies there, or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s still much smaller than Roger’s room, that’s for sure (smiling), and Rafa’s and Jimmy Connors’.

But of course, you know, I take care of the trophies. Most of them are actually in Serbia. My parents, my father especially is very proud, and he keeps them — you know, we have a tennis club in Belgrade and we have a little trophy room. So we keep it there.

Q. Speaking of the World Tour Finals, there has been a lot of discussion about Davis Cup, but additionally that event in London is looking for a new home for 2021, I believe. What are your thoughts on that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, I have spoken about this previously. I mean, to be honest, I have had so much success in London. It’s a fantastic event. It’s amazing venue for tennis. You feel like a rock star. You really do.

Packed house, amazing sound, light effects. Everything is, you know, is done in a right way. The final eight, you know, every day you play a big match. So it’s a phenomenal week. It’s been proven to be a big success.

But at the same time, I feel like this kind of concept of the tournament, the World Tour Finals, should travel more often. It’s been there for, you know, now almost ten years. Basically it’s going to be more than ten years. And I just think that that’s too long, in my opinion, because this is one big tournament aside of the World Team Cup that is going to come up in a couple of years, but this is the biggest event ATP owns, and they should leverage that to promote tennis around the world.

I’m sure there are plenty of cities that want to have this event and host it. I just think that it would be such a great thing for tennis to have it in different places every, say, three years, three, four years.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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