An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic (French Open, Quarterfinals)

D. THIEM/N. Djokovic

7-6, 6-3, 6-0

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. Obviously a great performance from Dominic. But the way it ended, did that suggest mentally you lost your way a little bit towards the end?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it’s hard to comment the third set. Obviously nothing was going my way and everything his way. Just pretty bad set.

All in all, it was decided I think in the first set. You know, I tried. I lost that crucial break in the beginning of the second, and he started serving better, you know, backing it up with the first shot. He deserved to win. He was definitely the better player on the court today.

Q. Did you feel in the first tiebreak six of his seven points came off of backhand forced errors? Did you feel that shot let you down at the end of the first set and at the start of the second set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, yeah. It did. I guess, you know, he made it difficult, obviously. He has really heavy spin. You know, he can also play very quick. He’s got an all-around game. For clay courts, he’s a tough player to play against. So could easily lose the rhythm, which I have done especially from the backhand corner, and there was no way back from there.

Q. You have always been a great fighter, turned around matches often in your career. Are you surprised that it didn’t come out again?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was not there for me today, especially in the second part of the match. You know, I was just unable to, you know, hit the ball well and many unforced errors. And he was just getting better and better and more confident as the match progressed. That was the case.

Q. I guess this time last year you had just won four Slams in a row. How different does it feel now? Do you feel you’re actually getting your game back and it’s not a massive…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, the last couple of tournaments I have had some great matches. I mean, it’s unfortunate to finish Roland Garros the way I have done today. You know, I obviously always expect a lot from myself, but it’s a fact that I’m not playing close to my best, and I know that.

Again, I’m trying, as everyone else, to work on the game, and, you know, work on things. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

For me, it’s a whole new situation that I’m facing, you know, especially in the last seven, eight months, you know, not winning any tournament, which hasn’t happened in many years.

So, you know, it’s not something that hasn’t happened before for any player. You know, all the top players have been through that. So I guess you’ve got to go through it, try to, you know, learn your lessons and figure out the way, how to get out of it stronger.

You know, it’s a big challenge, but I’m up for it.

Q. I know you have only just lost today, but can you tell us what your plans are on grass, and in particular when you next plan to work with Andre?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we’re gonna try to get together in Wimbledon but, I mean, that’s all for now. I mean, I was planning to play only Wimbledon. I might play a leadup event; I might not. I’m not really sure right now.

Q. You know what it takes to get to No. 1 in the world and win big games. Is it still an ambition of yours to try and get back to the top of the mountain and reclaim that No. 1 spot in future?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is. You know, it’s one of the highest points that you can reach as a tennis player is to be No. 1 and, of course, one of the highest goals of any player. You know, I was very fortunate, obviously, to spend a lot of time there. I know how it feels, you know, to get to that spot, to be there, and to also lose that spot.

You know, I hope that the experience that I have and also, you know, time ahead of me will serve me well and hopefully I’ll be able to get back.

You know, for me, it’s more about the game itself, my own game, you know, working on it, because obviously there are things that need to be better and I need that continuity. I’m going to focus on that, and then I guess results will follow, and No. 1 ranking, as well. Then I will have a better chance if I start playing better.

Q. You’re talking about playing through these issues. But if you could, would you take a break right now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, trust me, I’m thinking about many things, you know, especially in the last couple months. You know, I’m just trying to sense what’s the best thing for me now.

Obviously there has been a lot of changes with the team and so forth. So excited to work with Andre and the new team. At the same time, I have responsibility to the game itself, towards others.

We’ll see. Obviously it’s not an easy decision to make, but I will see how I feel, anyway, after Roland Garros and then decide what to do next.

Q. You spoke quite highly last week of the impact of Andre. With the way the match ended today, do you think you maybe missed his impact today? Would you have liked him to be here this week?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Don’t put Andre, you know, in the midst of this. This final set, of course, that’s all me.

As I have mentioned before several times when you guys ask me about his influence and impact on my game, it’s gonna take time. You know, it’s not something that comes out in the first week. We have spent seven days together. We just got to know each other.

Obviously he didn’t want to give me too much information when the tournament already started. And just getting to know each other, as I said, and then we will see where it takes us.

Q. You have talked over the past few months about feeling you’re getting closer to finding your best again. Do you still feel like that’s the case? What’s the biggest thing that’s missing at the moment?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s hard to pick one thing, you know. It’s just certain technical stuff. Not to get into details, but, you know, obviously more or less all the parts of my game are kind of going up and down. You know, I’m feeling like I’m missing consistency. I play a great match or two in a row, and then I play a completely opposite match. That’s what happened today.

You know, I guess it comes and goes. As an athlete you have to accept that and get used to it. It’s a little bit disappointing, obviously, for me knowing how I can play and knowing that I have played also during this tournament very well in certain games, and then just coming back and just not feeling it.

So, of course, with all my respect and credit to my opponents. Of course, Dominic today played really good, and he forced me to play the way I have played, especially in the second and third sets.

So all in all, I’m aware of where I am at the moment. You know, I know where I also can be. So I’m working towards that.

Q. It’s such a different match to when you played him in Rome and you talk about up and down. You have always had a great record against him. Were you kind of surprised you weren’t able to draw on that result from Rome or just a different day?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s completely different conditions, different tournament, you know. Also, he obviously hasn’t played well that day in Rome. And surely I expected him to raise his level, because he was playing really well throughout this tournament. He hasn’t dropped a set, and he still hasn’t dropped a set.

No, I haven’t been too surprised with his level. I knew it’s gonna be tough one, as it was. You know, hour and 15 minutes I think the first set. And that’s where if first set went my way, who knows? Maybe the game would change. But that’s sport. That’s how it goes.

Q. Given everything you said, was today’s performance from you a surprise or was it half expected?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don’t expect myself to play as bad as I played in the third. I don’t wish that. I don’t visualize that ever.

Of course, as I said, I had high expectations for myself. And I try to, you know, try to work towards perfecting my game and improving my game.

No need to repeat again, but as I have said before, you know, I’m not close to my best. I know that. Look, it is what it is, and it’s an opportunity for me, in a way, some kind of lesson to be learned and to kind of progress in whatever way life wants me to.

So I’m just figuring it all out and trying to be in the moment. You know, obviously I love this sport. I’m motivated as any other player on the tour. Even though I have played for many years, I still want to do well.

And I respect this sport and, you know, it’s given me so much. The least I can do is give my all whenever I’m holding a racquet in my hand. That’s what I have done. But sometimes, you know, circumstances are such that you are not able to perform as well as you want.

Q. You kind of half answered that question I was going to ask, but I was wondering after the incredible high of what you achieved here last year if you’ve kind of second-guessed your love for the sport, and if the effect of winning last year has kind of surprised you in the last 12 months from that perspective.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the win here last year has brought a lot of different emotions. Obviously it was a thrill and complete fulfillment, I guess. I have lived on that wave of excitement, I guess, till US Open or so. And at the US Open, I just was emotionally very flat and found myself in a situation that I hadn’t faced before in the professional tennis career.

You know, it’s obviously tough to get out of it and figure out the way how to move ahead. At least I’m trying. You know, I’m trying to get better, trying to be on a high level again. I know that I have achieved the biggest heights in this sport, and that memory and that experience gives me enough reason to believe that I can do it again, although I’m aware that I’m not the only one.

So Dominic Thiem today is one of the up-and-coming rising stars that, of course, is very hungry to beat you and to get his hands on a Grand Slam trophy. He’s got a really good chance.

There are different players that are in a position to fight for it. I’m not the only one. The world is not spinning only around me. I’m grateful for the attention, but, you know, there are many other players that deserve that, as well.

Well, as I said, the next chapter for me. So now I’m just figuring it all out, and obviously there are things to think about and to work on, and we’ll see where it takes me.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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