An Interview with.. Novak Djokovic (Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, RR2)

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You had beaten Milos before many times, but today it was really hard moments on the court. What is your opinion?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was a very close match. I think very few points separated us tonight. It really could have gone either way.

I was fortunate to get through the first set tiebreaker. I was down very early in both tiebreaks tonight. But I just managed to stay committed and put pressure on his second serves. I had couple looks on his second serves midway through, towards the end of both tiebreaks, which helped obviously to get into the rally. I knew once I get into the rally, I have a better chance to win the point.

But I should have done my job earlier, to be honest. I’m not very pleased to drop my serve twice against Milos, especially the second time. I was 4-3, 30-Love, then just four pretty bad unforced errors.

Credit to him for really hanging in there, putting pressure, being aggressive, especially from the forehand. But, you know, I think I should have done better there.

Again, all in all, two tiebreaks against a big server is a great win and great confidence boost.

Q. Despite your lapses, is this the kind of match that can boost your confidence for next round and semifinals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It certainly can. I mean, Milos, he’s probably the best server here in the tournament, and one of the best in the world. I mean, he has a huge serve, around 135, 140 miles first serve. Even if you read his serve, it’s not easy to I guess get it back with depth. You can put the ball in, but then he’s got a really good forehand from middle of the court. He can play anywhere.

So, yeah, he won a lot of points like that against me today, big serve and then forehand. But I knew that I’m going to have a couple of opportunities when his serve percentage drops, which happened early in the second set.

You know, other than couple of loose my service games, I thought it was a good performance. I should have maybe been a bit more aggressive in certain points, maybe too static in certain points. Maybe that caused a little bit passive game.

In general, this definitely can serve as a great wind in the back for the next match, matches to come.

Q. The key to tiebreaks for you, Milos does very well, but you’ve had his number this year, winning five or six of them, what is the key for you to find your spot?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I guess it comes down to one or two points really, or one or two guesses, intuition, where he’s going to serve, you pick the side. If you have the second serve looks, then you must use it. Shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself, but you know that’s the moment when you need to step in.

So he was also quite aggressive with his second serve today. He served a lot to my forehand. He didn’t give me the same look. He was always mixing it up.

At least when you have a second serve, you have a better chance to get into the rally, then start the point. But when you play against Karlovic, Isner, Milos, it’s a gamble sometimes. It really comes down to one or two points.

Q. In the semifinals of the US Open, you played an opponent who some people thought might not have been giving his full effort. There have been more recent incidents. Your role on the player council, how do you feel the sport is managing these situations in general and what could be done?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, there is a certain department of ATP that deals with that. They have the authority obviously, the referees, the supervisors. I guess there’s certain rules in place that everybody’s aware of and following.

On the other hand, there are some points where a chair umpire or supervisor, especially a chair umpire at the match, needs to give his call, make a good I guess judgment, whatever he feels at that moment is appropriate, whether there is a hindrance, a lack of effort, et cetera.

Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to say to go back and really remember what happened point to point with Gael in the semifinals. You know, Gael is also a player that feeds on the crowd energy a lot. He’s very entertaining. He needs to have things flow in his direction, not just game-wise, but he needs to feel that excitement. That’s what keeps him going. He’s been up and down obviously.

Yeah, it’s up to referees, really, chair umpires, to make that call. There were some changes with regard to cramps. You can’t ask for medical timeout for cramps. They reduced the time between points. They became less tolerant.

I guess ATP council, governing body, leader I guess of all professional tennis players, is doing everything to recognize, I guess, these points and deal with them.

Q. I’d like to know if there were times when you felt almost – almost – unbeatable? Was it more in 2011 or 2015? Now do you feel more a little bit more vulnerable than you have been in the past?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I never felt unbeatable, and I never will. First of all, it’s not my mindset. Second, I don’t think it’s fair to say you’re unbeatable. There are few athletes ever in their career that have retired unbeatable.

Q. I said ‘almost’.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Tennis players, no. That’s almost impossible.

Again, I did have a certain periods of my career, especially in the last five years, when I really felt very confident on the court, and I was dominating the play, winning many tournaments in a row, matches in a row.

In terms of consecutive matches, it would probably be 2011 when I won 42, 43 matches in a row. That felt great obviously. You can’t kind of rely on that fact and think like that’s going to be the case always.

But knowing that I have done it helped me to do maybe half of that a few times. I guess even 10, 15, 20 matches in a row is pretty good. I’ll accept that.

Q. What about vulnerable?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t feel vulnerable.

Q. We saw some nice pictures of you out in London. How much of a release is it to be able to get out and do those normal things? Now you’re definitely here into the weekend. What other things have you got planned, any outings?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, Hyde Park is one of the nicest parks there is in this city. Because of its vastness, I guess you have so many different contents, the lake, nature, different amusement for adults and for children. My son is here. Obviously I try to dedicate my time daily to him, at least in the morning.

We take a stride. We play with the ducks and swans, ball, playground. It keeps me relaxed. It keeps me grounded, as well. I get to spend time with my family and him, quality time. It’s very important.

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