An Interview With… Novak Djokovic | 2018 US Open Tennis Championships (SF)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Novak Djokovic

Press Conference

N. DJOKOVIC/K. Nishikori

6-3, 6-4, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You must be pleased with the way you won that one. The level of play was really high. Must be reassuring for the next match.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I mean, I was coming into today’s match knowing I’m going to play a player who is very quick and takes away a lot of the time from his opponent, just likes to go for his shots. I knew that coming into the match if I managed to sustain that speed of his shots, so to say, the game style, that I’ll have my chance kind of to break through and to make him feel uncomfortable and start making errors.

That’s what happened. I thought in the important moments I came up with some good second serves, some good first serves. I was returning well. I was putting constantly pressure on him, trying to move him around the court, take away the rhythm from him, not give him the same look always.

The match was really, really good from my side.

Q. What are your thoughts on all that’s gone into Juan Martin restoring what was once such a promising career?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I personally like him very much, not just as a player but as a person. He’s a dear friend, someone that I respect a lot. We all felt for his struggles with injuries that kept him away from the tour for two, three years.

But he was always a top five player in the eyes I think of everyone. Even when he dropped his ranking and started to, you know, work his way up, but we all knew that he has a capacity and a quality to get to the point where he is at the moment. It was just a matter of time.

I saw today before the match against Nadal a stat that he’s the player that made most wins against No. 1’s of the world. That shows the quality that he has, especially in the big matches. He’s a big-time player. He’s a big-match player. He’s a Grand Slam winner. He’s playing tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the last 15 months. I all kind of started with him in Rio, Olympic Games. That’s where he got, I feel like, a great confidence boost. Obviously he played ever since very consistent on the big tournaments. That’s what made him now No. 3 of the world.

He’s working his way up. He’s playing really some powerful tennis.

Q. You first played him here in 2007. What is the biggest difference in his game now and his hairstyle?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: His hairstyle? That’s a tough one. I really don’t remember his hair being any different color. Maybe the length.

But he always possessed that big forehand, big serve. His game kind of revolves around that. Backhand, he has alternated his backhand over the years because of the left wrist injury. But I think now he’s more comfortable with it. When he was coming back from surgery, he struggled a lot with the high balls or low balls, trying to kind of play very flat. Now it seems like he’s found the range.

I think for someone his height, he’s anticipating and moving really well around the court. He’s a smart player. He prepares his tactics well. He always relies, of course, on the first big serve and big forehand, one of the biggest forehands ever in the history of this game. Down the line, hit across, any angle. That’s the big weapon.

Q. You mentioned Juan Martin, big serve, big forehand. What will be the key for you in countering that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, counter to that, I guess: big return and some good backhands.

I’ve played him many times on different occasions. We’ve never faced each other in a Grand Slam final, so that’s something new. But I know what’s expecting me. I’ll try to prepare myself as best as I can.

One of the keys of the match will be return, how well can I return, how many returns I can get back in play, but also try to have some depth in that return, and how accurately I can serve myself. I think that’s very important. When you play a big server like del Potro, you feel pressure also on your service games.

So, yeah, I mean, there are few other things that I have in mind, knowing him from the matches we previously played against each other. I’ll try to take that in consideration and get myself ready.

Q. You have been able to avoid surgery until this year. As you now have a chance to win a second consecutive Grand Slam title, can you reflect about how worried you were about getting back this quickly to your top abilities? Does it give you a little more empathy or appreciation for what other players like Juan Martin have gone through?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ll answer the second part of your question first.

It absolutely gives me empathy. Even before I went through the whole process of surgery, post surgery recovery, I was still feeling for players that went through injuries. One of my best friends, someone I grew up with, Janko Tipsarevic, top-10 player two years in a row, ever since then, when he was top 10 till now, it’s been four years, he’s still not able to be healthy on the court. I’ve been with him through that process. Still going through. I know how difficult it is for him. With del Potro, some other players, especially players who were away from the tour for longer periods of time with injuries. I mean, I can relate to that.

I was fortunate not to be too long away, but I did carry my injury for over two years, so I understand what a player goes through.

There was always part of me that believed I could come back relatively quickly to the level of tennis that I once was playing. But at the same time I felt like the six months off served me very well to find new motivation, inspiration, to recharge my batteries, and also to understand how I want to continue playing tennis, in which way, whether there are certain changes that I want to make with my racquet and my game itself. I had more time to work on certain things. Unfortunately I couldn’t serve because I still had that pain. But all the other shots I could really work on.

I think sometimes that’s nice to have, even though you don’t want to be injured. At the same time it allows you to have more periods of time where you can focus on certain elements in your game, things that usually you don’t have time to reflect on. Once you’re in the tennis season, it feels like a machine: you keep on going, and it’s never ending.

Q. What is your relationship with the US Open final? You got there so many times, but it hasn’t always gone your way.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, well, probably seeing the results, consistency of the results I’ve had here, probably has been my post successful Grand Slam. Of course, I won the Australian Open six times, never lost finals there. I think I’ve played more than 10 semifinals here. It’s definitely one of my favorite tournaments to play because of the conditions and because of the fact that I’ve played so well in each year that I keep on coming back to the US Open.

I know that I feel very comfortable here. It just allows me to feel more comfortable playing, starting the tournament and going through it. Yeah, I mean, I think I have two finals won and five losses. But, you know, hopefully I can get one better in few days.

Q. How fun is it to win a match with such a great shot like that? Does it add a little boost?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It does feel good. It does feel good.

Q. You said you came to today’s match with the right intensity. Talk about how important intensity is.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s very important. But I think what is more important is controlled intensity. You don’t want to be too hyper, you don’t want to be too flat. You have to find the right balance. For every player, it’s different.

I know myself obviously very well. I try to use the experience playing in these big matches. I’ve had that many times before. I’ve played Kei many times before. It’s combination of things. Obviously to start off the match well, to prepare yourself, to be feeling good about your game, about your day, be positive, come out and have the right game plan, and execute.

The second part, to actually execute it well, is a more difficult one. But I think experience helps.

Q. You’ve twice won Wimbledon and the US Open. You might do that again. Talk about that challenge and how hard it is to win both in such a short period of time.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: These are pinnacles of our sport: majors. It’s where you want to play your best. There is something special about them. Two-week-long event, best-of-five. Especially the top players, they always try to set their own form, so to say, around the Grand Slams because that’s where they want to play their best.

I’ve been doing that myself, as well. I’ve been fortunate to really have plenty of success in Grand Slams in the past, played many finals. But as I said, I really like playing in US Open, and Wimbledon as well. Obviously this year is quite different from the previous two, three years for me because of the surgery, the injury, time off the tour, trying to make the comeback, build my ranking and everything.

The Wimbledon title definitely helped a lot, you know, in terms of approach to the US Open Series tournaments, winning Cincinnati, and of course the US Open itself.

Q. What makes Juan Martin so special as a person that he connects with so many everywhere?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, he’s a gentle giant. He really is. He’s very tall, has a big game, but at the same time he nurtures the right values in life. He cares about his family. He cares about his friends. He respects everyone. He fights every match from the first to the last point. I think people can relate to that and appreciate what he brings to the tennis.

He treats others the way he wants others to treat him. I think that’s why people love him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

 

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