An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic (ATP 500 Fever-Tree Championships, R1)

N. DJOKOVIC/J. Millman

6-2, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Well done today. Very good level from you. Would you rate that as your best one of the year so far performance-wise?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: On the grass, yes (smiling). I’m glad that it was the first one, as well.

Yeah, it was a good match. I mean, all in all, I can’t really talk about too many negatives. Today, I mean, everything, the focus was there, right intensity every shot. Every shot was working really beautifully.

I thought I put a lot of pressure on him, on his service games, because I was getting a lot of returns back in play. Also quite, you know, quite solid returns, strokes, and, you know, he was on the back foot from the beginning of the point.

Yeah, I’m very pleased to be able to start off the grass court season this way at the tournament where I haven’t participated for eight years, and, yeah, hopefully I can keep on progressing day after day.

Q. Going back a couple of weeks and the frustration and disappointment you went through in Paris, how long did it take you to get over it, and what did you do to get over it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, it’s not the first nor the last match that I lost in my life, my career. I know how to deal with these particular situations, although, you know, considering the circumstances that I was in in the last 12 months, you know, that kind of match loss hurt a lot, because, you know, I thought I had a really fair chance to get at least a step further, and I was starting to play really well. I thought in Rome I had a fairly good tournament.

Got to quarters. Played well. And then just underperformed in quarters, but that’s sport. You know, you have to deal with it. It was a big stage. It was a big occasion.

Credit to my opponent for winning. But I had to just take some time off the court, you know, and just recharge the batteries physically and mentally and just get back on it.

So that’s what happened, and this was the best way to sort of, say, bounce back from such a loss in Paris.

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Q. Was it a matter of just playing with the kids, just leaving the racquets to one side? And then if that is the case, when did you…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was hiking with my wife with no kids for five days, if you really want to know. It was a wonderful time after two years with not having a break only with her without kids, so we managed to do that.

We were very far away from any tennis court, in nature, and it was the best way to clear the mind and just also have a possibility to slow down. Because we live in a society where everything is so rapid and we are overstimulated with everything, you know, sometimes you need to just slow down and have time for yourself to think about things, to understand your emotions and what you’re going through.

So that’s what we have done. I managed to just kind of recalibrate and get back on the court.

Q. How many days did you just put everything to one side? What I’m getting at is when did you pick the racquets up again and start putting in the effort?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not sure, to be honest. But it’s been a week, for sure. It’s been a week, for sure. Maybe eight days. Played on hard courts a little bit back in Monaco where I reside with the family, and then I came over here.

I had four really, really quality days of training on the grass. I think that’s something that is very much needed, I feel like, for this surface, especially coming from clay with one particular style of tennis, a lot of sliding, slow surface, high bounce, to completely the opposite on the grass court.

So it takes some time to really adjust to this surface. And I had that, so I had a wonderful start of the tournament. I’m going to have a day with no singles tomorrow. We’re going to play doubles. Going to get a chance to work and practice a little bit more, also play match play in doubles, getting ready for a big challenge against Dimitrov on Thursday.

Q. During the offseason, you made some adjustments to your serve. Has that had an impact how you prepare for the grass court season? And does it feel any different to you over the years?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, I changed the racquet. I mean, the model of the racquet is the same, and what I wanted to say is I have modified certain dimensions of the racquet and things that I felt with my team that is the right thing to do, considering the problems that I had with the elbow.

This very problem with an injury of the elbow has forced me to also compensate a little bit my technique for the serve, the movement and everything. So I went from quite a familiar style of serving up to Wimbledon last year. Then I took a break obviously, and then I started reinventing the serve and game and racquet. And then I kind of had a completely new motion in Australia and then another one in Miami.

So I’m finally kind of feeling comfortable with where the serve is at, but it takes a little bit of time to work on it. It’s a very, very important shot, maybe “the” most important shot in our sport, especially on the quickest surface in our sport, which is grass.

I feel like it helps, you know, the racquet and the work obviously that I have done. Today I served pretty well. Obviously on clay, you know, it’s quite different. You don’t get as many free points, so to say, on a serve as you do here.

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Q. Grigor was saying — he’s someone you have a good record against but, he was kind of saying it seems obvious to him that your level has dropped since you last played. Do you feel you need to get a statement win against these guys to show you are back to your top level, or is it worrying to you that that aura has kind of gone of your invincibility, and does that make the match harder coming into it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, you know, everybody sees my game or any other player’s game different. We all see it from different perspectives, and I feel that in the last three tournaments basically my level of my tennis has improved and I start to feel comfortable with my game, in general, and I can actually finally focus on my game, which I wasn’t doing 100% because I had to, you know, more or less every time I stepped on the court, think about the elbow or other things that might occur.

So right now it’s all about tennis, all about improving, and getting on a high level. So a match against Dimitrov obviously is a very good challenge for both of us, especially me at this time, you know, with not too many matches under my belt in general this year or last 12 months.

So it’s quite important. He’s one of the best players in the world and loves playing on grass. I think it’s his preferred surface. He has won here, so yeah, I mean, after today’s performance, convincing performance, I feel confident to step out on the court and go for a win.

Q. World Cup has started this week. Good result for Serbia. Your country meets Switzerland on Friday, kind of like you versus Roger again? Your thoughts on that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We won’t be able to watch it together with the popcorn, but try to do that with Stan, and, well, let the best team win (smiling).

Q. Looking ahead to Wimbledon, it’s Roger’s 20th this year. I’m sure you knew that. Just give us a personal reason why you think Roger is such a special player, probably one of the best of all time.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, it’s hard to pick superlatives for him, because so many things have been said about him throughout the course of his career that, you know, he definitely deserves, you know, all the positives and all the compliments, you know, as a champion, on and off the court.

Well, he still keeps on inspiring everyone, showing that, you know, age is just a number and he keeps on going and, you know, playing some amazing tennis, really.

I mean, it’s not much to say. He is where he is because he deserves it, you know, so coming into Wimbledon, it’s his backyard, you know, it’s his court and it’s where he loves to play.

So he will be the man to beat there. He will be the first favorite.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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