An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic (Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Final)

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How much do you read into this win tonight in terms of the Australian Open heading forward?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Best scenario I could ask for for beginning of the season. Playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against No. 1 of the world, biggest rival, and winning in a thrilling marathon match is something that definitely can serve as a positive incentive for what’s coming up in Australia.

Obviously I’ve wanted and wished to finish the match earlier. Even the two sets that we played went almost two hours. Very physical battle, as it always is. Kind of dragged each other all the way to our limits.

It’s only the beginning of the season, so we had a little laugh at the net actually about it. We both felt like if every match we’re going to play against each other is going to be this way this season, we’re going to have a fun time.

Might as well put a lot of hours in training and recovery, because every single point is a rally. I mean, and I did not expect anything else, to be honest. I knew that the only way to win really against Andy is you have to work your points out and you have to work your way through him basically.

He’s such a great defender and he is fighting so much and always gets the ball back. All the way to the last shot I didn’t know if I won the match. It was really, really thrilling performance from both of us. Just a great way to start the year.

Q. Obviously you received a point penalty in the second set. Going back to the first incident when you received a warning, can you clarify where you were trying to hit the ball? Was it towards your coach and box?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it was —

Q. Did you feel you were fortunate not to have something more serious?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Fortunate of unfortunate, depends from what perspective you’re looking at. I definitely didn’t want to hit the ball at anybody. Just happened. Fortunate not to get a bigger fine.

On the other hand, unfortunate to actually have that incident happen. I have to be more careful I guess in the future.

Q. Following up on that, I know it’s difficult for you to talk about, but you did actually hit a woman that was watching. Were you aware of that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I was not.

Q. Just quickly, as someone who plays the sport at such a high level and is in the public eye, do you think it’s acceptable behavior?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I’m going to pay my consequences for that. I accept that I made a mistake. It was not intentional at all. Of course people get hit, especially in the first rows, from big serves and so forth.

It happens. It’s not the first time. This is something that definitely cannot happen, I mean, from my side. I accept the consequence, absolutely.

Q. You play and win a lot of points at the net. Was it a strategy for this game?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, if he’s not the best defender in the game of all-time then he’s right at the top 2, 3. When you play somebody who always gets an extra ball back, you know, it’s a game of cat and mouse in a way.

You have to construct the point well and find the right time to approach, but you need to come in. You know, you need to win like that. He was also coming into the net. Maybe less than I did, but I know that with aggressive style but kind of controlled aggressive style of play is the way to win.

That’s why I was at the net. But I don’t know how successful I was. Many times I have missed smashes and volleys and he was kind of — he reads the play unbelievably. He has an amazing eye. He plays many times this very high kind of looping ball from back of the court and he always plays it very deep.

You must hit the smash perfectly well because he covers it very well.

Q. I don’t know if this is easy enough to do, but how does playing Andy rate or how do you feel about it in comparison to matches with, let’s say, Roger and Rafa?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I was saying before, I mean, all three rivalries that I have with these guys are quite unique in their own way. The matchups are different.

I guess, you know, playing against Andy somehow it feels like playing the mirror image of you because we have very similar styles of the game.

He has a bigger serve and we have certain elements maybe in the game that one has better than the other. Generally looking, where are both baseline players. We both hit the ball quite flat. Maybe I play with more spin from the forehand.

But I can’t recall out of the 35-plus matches how many were kind of one-sided really. Maybe few. Most of the matches we play it’s always going down to the very last few points to decide the winner.

So good recovery time after this is very much needed.

Q. Speaking of recovery, do you still use oxygen pods like the one in Melbourne? Is that important to your recovery?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I do.

Q. What’s the main benefit from them?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the oxygen itself. We breathe in 20% normally, and under pressurized conditions you breathe in 100% oxygen, again, which of course does many different beneficial things for your body, cells, muscles.

I don’t unfortunately have access to it everywhere I go, but I try to use it wherever I can, this opportunity to use the cryotherapy, the hyperbaric chambers. Especially hyperbaric chamber is very good. I’ve seen many top players using it as well.

So I’m looking forward to Australia actually.

Q. The possibility to find soon Federer and Nadal in Australia is something that you are thinking about or no?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, tennis missed them. We missed them, to be honest. Because these guys, they are legends of our sport. They are the guys that have done so much for the game on and off the court.

They are stars. Anywhere they show up, people love them. They’re very important assets to our game. It’s great to have both of them back and to have Andy and myself and Wawrinka, of course everybody playing after long time at the one Grand Slam together.

I’m looking forward to competing with these guys and to see them. See what happens.

Q. You took a tumble; point penalty. This is a 250 point tournament. Does it have to do anything between and you Andy, world No. 1 and 2, in terms of ranking? And also, the 20 matches when you won the first set you’ve never lost against him.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn’t know for the last fact that you brought up, but of course it has something to do with Andy and myself.

As I just mentioned before, every match we play is a huge challenge. You have to accept and expect a great battle. Whether it’s a 250 or 1000 event or Grand Slam final, doesn’t change much, to be honest.

You saw tonight how much we both wanted to win. Playing against your biggest rival always adds a little bit more flavor to the game and to the match.

Of course you don’t think about the category of the event or whatever happens the next day. You just think about that day and in that moment where you can deliver.

Because you don’t want to lose against the biggest rival in the beginning of the season. I’m sure we both felt the same way. But one had to win; the other had to lose.

This time I was fortunate that I was on the winning side, but I expect a lot of battles with him to come. I hope we going to play against each other. That means we kind of are going to play finals in the event, so I hope for both of us. We make each other work hard and improve and continuously work on our games and ourselves. We strive to get better, both of us.

He’s very dedicated to this sport, and the results he had in the last eight, nine months are basically an example of his work and commitment to the sport.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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