An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic (2018 Madrid Open, R1)

Madrid, Spain

N. DJOKOVIC/K. Nishikori

7-5, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. This is obviously not a typical first round. What was your reaction? How did you feel about how you played?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was strange, I must admit, playing Kei in the first round. Our rankings dropped due to injuries and everything that was happening for both of us in the last year. I mean, it can happen and it did happen here.

Of course, I’ve played Kei on big occasions, in many of the big tournaments, finals and semifinals. It was different to play him in the first round. It was a big test for both of us.

I’m glad that match went my way, but it could have gone his way as well. It was a very few points that really decided a winner today. I managed to play the right shots in the important moments. In both first and second set I made breaks, you know, to win both sets at the really final stages of both sets.

It was exactly what I needed for my confidence and for my game. I’m just happy to go through this one.

Q. In the process you’re in, is it fair to say that could be kind of a turning point in terms of level? That was really good from start to end, no drops at all.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, I mean, as I said, Kei is a great quality player. We both haven’t had too many of these kind of matches in the last 12 months. He played well in Monte-Carlo, played finals there. Me, I was looking forward to have these kind of matches, looking to try to win these kind of matches. So that’s why it was really perfect scenario to start off the tournament where I always felt like I had lots of success and played well and felt well.

It’s great. I couldn’t ask for a better start.

Q. When you served three double-faults in your opening service game, you must have feared the worst, that it was going to be a bad day at the office serving-wise. Fortunately for you you only served two more double-faults throughout the match. You have to be happy with that.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, it’s never easy to open up the match. I mean, he’s one of the best returners in the game. Still you always kind of feel pressure on the second serve. I was going for my serves a little bit more.

I remember more the good serves today (smiling). Especially the two after this horrendous miss I had, probably the biggest one in my career. I had a service winner and an ace after that. That’s a great way to bounce back.

In the altitude, conditions like this, you need a big weapon, and that’s usually the serve. Obviously holding serve and winning some free points on the first serve is definitely something we as players are looking for. So I’m glad that I managed to get myself out of trouble couple times today with the serve. Of course, with other shots as well.

But I still need consistency. I’m still looking for that. All in all, it was a great test and a great match.

Q. Nice to see you back with some members of your team, like Vajda and Gritsch. The only one missing is Becker. I don’t know if you’re thinking of it, as well.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I mean, obviously Boris and I part ways. Right now we have a different paths. That’s it.

There is another one you forget, my physio, who is now with Milos. For now, I’m happy with the team that I have. I’m happy to have Marian and G.G., Gephard, back in the box, back in my team, back in my life, so to say, on a daily, weekly basis.

If there is anybody that knows my game well, that knows me as a person well, especially in the last decade, it’s these two guys.

I think it’s going to take a little bit of time for us to really get my game together the way we want to. Even though they know my game very well, it’s still a process because I haven’t had, as I said, too many of the matches like this, too many consecutive matches won. I’m still looking for that match play.

That’s the best practice you can have. I mean, we can practice as much as we want outside. Once you get on the court, it’s very much necessary to get as many matches under the belt as possible. This is a good beginning, hopefully.

Q. Did you need a victory like this against a player like Nishikori for your confidence? What are your expectations in this tournament? You’re just trying to be in better shape for Roland Garros?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I just answered couple times that confidence-wise this is exactly what I needed, this kind of match and this kind of win.

I have not really high expectations for the tournament. Obviously I learned that in last 12 months the situation is quite different. So I’m just trying to take one day at a time, build my game, because that’s something that I feel is a priority right now.

Of course, I’m going to try to get as far as I can in this tournament, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Yeah, Roland Garros obviously is the biggest tournament on this surface as a Grand Slam. Right now I want to direct the attention to this tournament that is one of the biggest in the world, as well. We shouldn’t talk about Roland Garros at the moment.

Q. When you started this year, has managing expectations been one of the biggest challenges for you over the past couple of months in terms of how you approach the tournaments, how things have gone so far?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, look, you know, it is a process. It’s something I have to accept, I have to embrace. I think in general I feel much better about everything that is happening on the court and around tennis, in general, with my body than maybe two months ago. I mean, six months off because of the elbow, and I start training again, getting ready for pre-season, then elbow starts hurting again. It’s not really a pleasant feeling.

I clenched my teeth and I kind of went through it, played Australia, but wasn’t really ready. Then I had to do surgery. It takes time to overcome that surgery. It has obviously some consequences on your body that I never faced before, I never knew before, because I never had any surgery before.

Yeah, it was a lot of new experiences for me, a lot of things that I had to face and understand. When I look back, you know, I don’t regret anything. I just think that’s life. That was something that was supposed to happen for me, to teach me some lessons, to make me stronger, to allow me to grow, to evolve as a person, as a player.

I’m grateful. That’s all I can say. There’s worse things in life. I’m just here, and that’s all I can say.

Q. You talked about your rebuilding your game, things that have changed for you. The tournaments themselves off the court, being a non top-8 seed, not doing pretournament press…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There are some positives about it (smiling). Not that I don’t like you guys, but sometimes it’s nice.

Q. Is there added anticipation of draws? Can you tell me what the differences you feel the most are?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I came in, I was, like, waiting for my team, Elena to tell me when the press conference is.

She’s like, No press conference.

Like, Okay, great.

So it is different. Some things that I haven’t faced, haven’t experienced for a long, long time. I mean, I was very fortunate throughout my career to go in kind of an upward direction always with my results and with my success. Ever since I got to top 10, for a decade I didn’t go out from top 10. That’s something I’m very proud about and of course grateful for. At the same time it had to happen. These are the circumstances that I’m facing at the moment. I’m trying to get the best out of them.

But that’s life. Life is there to test us, to allow us to understand that we can get the best out of all situations, to grow and to be the best versions of ourselves. That’s how I approach it. That’s how I see it.

It’s not easy. At times, you know, you start to question because I achieved a lot in this sport. Then when you have to kind of start over again, start finding inspirations and ways and stuff like this to keep on going, it’s tricky. The mind plays games with you. You have to kind of dig deep.

That’s what we are supposed to do if we want to get to a better place always, as people and as professional athletes. It’s a beautiful process.

Q. (Question regarding next opponent.)
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know who the next opponent I’m supposed to play tomorrow. But hope for the best.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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