An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic | 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters (Pre-Tournament)

Q. Welcome to Shanghai. Your fans in Beijing also miss you. You haven’t played in Beijing for a few years. Can you talk about the process of your decision not to play there this year? And are we going to see you next year in China Open?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I hope so. I had so far a perfect record in China Open. Yeah, unfortunately I didn’t play two years ago. It was a similar situation like this year where I had a long couple months with a lot of matches played previously. And in 2016, as well, I think I had Davis Cup and so forth.

And then last year obviously I didn’t play for the six months of the season. This year I decided to skip Beijing because I was just not fresh enough to compete because of the amount of matches I played, and also the Laver Cup that was quite an interesting experience but also exhausting.

So I just felt it was too close for me to get ready. I took an extra week to train and recover and spend some time with family and get ready for Shanghai.

But Beijing, China Open, has been probably my most successful tournament in my career, because I played it five times, I won five times, and I have perfect record there. Love playing there. So I’ll try to make it next year.

Q. Obviously with Rafa out for the rest of the season, you and Roger as well have a chance to go for the top spot from here. How does it feel to go for the top spot even though you already won two Grand Slams?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I didn’t hear Rafa is out for the whole season. Is that new information or… No? So Rafa is out only for China?

Q. Yeah, this part of the season.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, so he’s still in contention for No. 1. He is the No. 1. So I am really glad that I put myself in a position to compete for No. 1 of the world. And maybe four, five months ago, that was looking a little bit far from reach, but with the recent results, you know, I put myself in a pretty decent position to fight for No. 1, year-end No. 1, which of course is always one of the ultimate goals that you have as a professional tennis player.

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Q. As we come to the end of the season, how do you balance your workload? Does it go up, does it go down, training? And do you look at your calendar more closely as you come to this stage? And is it different now than when you were younger?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think the schedule, first of all, is such that after the kind of Grand Slam season is over, you know, a lot of I think tennis players and tennis fans specifically just drop with excitement a little bit, you know, and I think many of the tennis players are also getting a little bit tired from the length of the season.

I think most of the top players especially have always aimed to play their best at the Grand Slams. And when the Grand Slam season is over, you know, the next thing that you’re looking forward to in terms of the level of the tournament is London.

But at the same time, you know, I mean, at least from my perspective, I value all the other tournaments as much that I value others. Of course, some of them, like Grand Slams, just stand out because of the history and everything, but I really want to do well in every tournament that I play on till the end of the year, because, you know, first of all, out of respect for every tournament and I want to win as much as I can, but at the same time, I want to give myself a good chance to be No. 1 in the end of the year.

So I will definitely play this tournament and any other after this as it’s a Grand Slam for me, in a way.

Q. You have held No. 1 at different ages, different stages in your career, and different motivation to get there. What may be different this time that you can come back to it? The context is completely different. Inside does that feel different? Do you have to go through a different motivation kind of way?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: After I won the career slam, I mean, the Roland Garros in 2016, and I talked about this before, not to repeat the whole story, but I had to kind of remotivate myself and find ways to, you know, have that mental freshness and just kind of like a drive, emotional drive, you know.

I didn’t think or feel that that’s going to be some kind of a challenge for me, because I never felt that I had been challenged mentally to really kind of force myself to find new ways of motivation because I really love playing tennis and I never lost that. Even in those periods where I was kind of struggling with results and injury, I still kept on training and even harder, because, you know, I was finding a way to get better.

But I think it was just that my emotional tank for competition, for playing matches, was quite empty. And then, you know, I had to face something that most, if not all, of the past champions have faced before, and I have talked with some of them and they did confirm that at a certain stage of career, you do go through that and that you have to, you know, kind of reinvent yourself on the court in a way, just find whatever your motivation is in terms of achievements, because, you know, for the love of the sport, you know, you can always play tennis. I mean, if you want to be a professional player and if you are former No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam winner, it’s hard to satisfy yourself with an average results, so to say, at least in our eyes. You know, you always aim for the biggest heights, which is slams and being No. 1 of the world.

You know, in a way it’s good, because you always strive to be the best, and that’s what keeps you going on a daily basis in terms of training, dedication, but at the same time, it’s tricky because then, you know, you have to always kind of remind yourself that small achievements are part of the big achievements, too. You’re kind of having this battle with your ego and having a little game with your mind.

But it’s all part of the life and our profession and evolution for me as a player and as a person, and I’m grateful that I’m going through that, because, you know, it makes me understand how I can actually get better, how I can get stronger, and I want to keep on going, playing tennis in this level. I’m enjoying it.

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Q. If you can talk a little bit about Jeremy Chardy, who is your first opponent here, beaten him all 11 times you played him. Must have been so painful he thought you played 14 times.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He keeps on telling me that.

Q. Won all 26 sets, why you think you have that success against him? Will the courts being a bit faster here maybe help or hurt?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think generally he likes the faster court. I think he played a good match today. I saw a little bit. He’s got a big serve, big forehand. That’s what he bases his game on.

I have known him. I have played him 11 times in our career so far. We actually practiced several times now in Chicago because he was part of the Team Europe and we joked around a little bit. Today I congratulated him. I said that he knew we are going to face each other here, and that’s why, when he was warming me up in Chicago, when I told him serve and backhand he was serving on forehand, so he was kind of playing mind games with me already back then.

Joking aside, of course, he’s a great guy. I get along very well with him. I think, you know, what I did well in the past in our matchups, I managed to neutralize his first serve, and I think also take advantage of his second serve and try to be consistent on my service games, move him around the court, because he — you know, he’s not the best mover forward, backwards, so I try to expose his weaknesses, in a way, look for the backhand, but obviously his forehand is lethal if he gets the good rhythm on it.

So I will try to approach things and execute hopefully tactically well.

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Q. We were all lucky enough to see you play doubles with Roger at Laver Cup and we saw the bromance that you two had. How has your relationship with Roger changed since that experience? And what does that mean going into a potential matchup here in Shanghai?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was a very unique experience. I have never experienced being on the same side of the court with him before. I was very excited. I was looking forward to it. I know he was, as well. I thought we had a blast on the court. We had fantastic time.

We enjoyed competing. I enjoyed training with him before that, preparing for that doubles match, tactically talking a lot about tennis in those four, five days, talking a lot about life and different subjects, family.

You know, I think in terms of respect, you know, at least from my side towards him, it has gotten to even a higher level of respect, and I think this kind of experience in Chicago has strengthened our relationship.

But obviously it’s not going to affect our rivalry. I think if we play each other and when we play each other next, you know, we want to win against each other. That’s not going to change.

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