An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic (Aegon International Eastbourne, Final)

N. DJOKOVIC/G. Monfils

6-3, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Are you in a rush?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: In a rush? No, no (smiling).

Q. That was a nice way to build up to Wimbledon, wasn’t it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was a great week. Obviously it feels right to, looking back on the decision-making process and whether or not I should come here, now it feels like it was a good decision.

But also, a few days ago it felt right, because I had a lot of time spent on the court, some good match play. But most of all, I felt very welcomed here by the people. On and off the court I was greeted. I was respected. And so, for me, it was just a phenomenal experience that I will definitely take with me to Wimbledon. As I was saying yesterday, you know, I will not rule out coming back to Eastbourne next year or the following years. But obviously it does depend on the schedule and on the tournaments and my results.

But yeah, it was just a great buildup, and hopefully I’ll be able to take the confidence from here, good level of performance, into London.

Q. You mentioned pretty much every day how much you felt the warmth and affection here. You’re obviously very popular at every tournament you go here. Has it been even more here than normal or than what you expected?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s different here in a way because I spent a lot of time every day interacting with people on the grounds, because there are no kind of underground tunnels to get to the court or, you know, secret entrances (smiling). Once you go out from the players’ locker room area to go to the court, practice court, match court, you know, you’re out, interacting with people. You’re in the midst of all the crowd.

So that allowed me to be close to them and to obviously communicate, and, well, every single person that I met in this eight, nine days that I spent here was warm and affectionate and kind.

If you have that kind of energy that goes around the grounds, of course it gives you even more, I guess, inspiration to play your best and of course to finish up with a trophy. It’s the cherry on the cake.

Q. Any conversations that have stood out in particular with supporters?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, I had more than a couple conversations about seagulls. A lady just recently, when I got off the court now, she told me, I hope you’ll thank the seagulls. I said, I already have. They were in a mood to talk and express themselves today. They were really loud.

And there is plenty of seagulls going around. I guess that’s a side of the usual tennis stories that’s probably something that would stand out and that I will remember.

Q. After the first match you said Andre was following everything back in the States, watching matches.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.

Q. What’s his feedback been? Pretty good, I would imagine.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Pretty good (smiling). Pretty good. He was mentioning, you know, what I also felt, that he has noticed that my game has kind of raised the level and quality of tennis, is going in the right direction every match, and the competitive spirit and fighting spirit was there.

I’ll see him in person tomorrow already, so I’ll talk it through more with him there.

Q. What is it that you feel you have a need for having Mario on board, as well?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I was saying before that Andre cannot be committed full time. I mean, he’s someone that has a very busy life, has family. He’s probably going to come on the biggest tournaments, and whenever he has free time in the schedule, he’s going to come and support me and help me out.

Mario, on the other hand, as well is someone that is very busy. I think he works on Wall Street for last couple of years, so he went completely, you know, kind of other direction from tennis. He was always very nice guy, very smart. I remember even during his career he studied law. You know, he had a lot of energy put into education, as well, which not many athletes do these days. Most of all, we stayed friends.

We always had that respect, mutual respect, and appreciation for one another. We have talked, obviously with Andre first, and we have made a conclusion that we need someone, you know, next to Andre that is going to be maybe more frequently with me and more often on the small tournaments or maybe some practice weeks and so forth.

You know, Mario was the perfect guy. At the moment he was definitely on top of my list. And Andre agrees, as well.

But, you know, we don’t have, Mario and I, any long-term commitment, as well. He was anyway prescheduled to be in London for his own commitments, so he’s going to use the opportunity to be with me. So whether we’re going to build from there a long-term relationship or not, we’ll see. I don’t know.

I think what we talked about kind of between the lines is just to be now in Wimbledon and maybe, you know, if we decide to continue, to maybe spend a few more weeks till the end of the season and then see where we take it from there, because, you know, he’s obviously engaged in a lot of businesses and he’s working for, you know, big companies. It’s not easy just to give up the work like that, you know, because we just talked about this potential work in couple weeks, few weeks ago. So it’s still very fresh.

Q. Would it not be easier to have someone who is always available as opposed to…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah, I don’t like things easy (smiling). I have certain criteria, I would say, for the profile of a person that is going to be next to me. It’s not just anyone who was on the tour. Everyone has their own preferences. I’m looking to have someone that fits into the values that I stand for and not just in sport but in life in general.

Andre and Mario are there for a reason, and I’m very grateful to have them.

Q. You have enjoyed the informal atmosphere here. Wimbledon has upped its security after the terror attacks in London and Manchester.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: So no seagulls there?

Q. No seagulls there. Would that detract from your experience? You obviously enjoy being among the people. I imagine you’ll be less among the people than ever before.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s very understandable, of course, and it’s expected after devastating events in Manchester. The security levels in Grand Slams in general, especially nowadays, last few years, are very high. Better safe than sorry, obviously.

But I still feel like the crowd is very close, I mean, to the players, the stands. It feels very intimate, you know, playing on the courts. You still have an opportunity to go between the crowd if you want, because usually the walk from the Centre Court to Aorangi Park where we usually train, you have a choice whether you go underground or you go between the people. Sometimes it’s nice just to go between the crowds. It lifts you up, gives you good energy and good vibe.

I think not many people are thinking about potentially something happening. Of course you have to take some measures, precaution measures, but generally once the people come there to enjoy tennis, to enjoy sport, to celebrate sport, support their favorite players, that’s why we are going there.

Q. You arrive in London this time with no Grand Slams, having arrived last year with four. How do you feel this year compared to last year both physically and mentally?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, quite different, as you can imagine, from that standpoint. You know, it’s been a while now that I have been trying to find my best game and kind of consistency with the performance level of tennis. It hasn’t been the case for me in the last 12 months to win many big tournaments. As a matter of fact, only one. I think it was Toronto. Played finals in US Open and World Tour Finals. Other than that, the results were really up and down.

But not to get into too deep, I mean, as I was saying before, it’s the way it is, and life throws certain challenges at us when we expect the least, and you’ve got to go out and face the adversities and learn from these experiences and try to evolve, try to grow.

That’s kind of my approach, my mindset. I don’t try to, you know, pity myself or life or anything like that. You can’t always have it all. In order to, in a way, reach the next peak, you need to have a little drop, because, you know, that’s how life kind of circulates around, as waves going up and down.

You know, I try to have that kind of mindset that will allow me to, you know, to become a better player and become a stronger character. You know, I have been in the game long enough to know what I need to do. Playing at Wimbledon and playing at any other tournament, as a matter of fact, gives me a lot of joy, and I think that’s the key. That’s the essence of me still being professional tennis player and traveling. So as long as there is a flare inside of me, I’ll keep on going.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

 

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