Indian Wells, California
T. DANIEL/N. Djokovic
7-6, 4-6, 6-1
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How did you feel in your first match back? What do you think happened in the third set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’d like to congratulate my opponent for fighting and showing great, great spirit on the court.
For me it felt like first match I ever played on the tour. Very weird. I mean, I just completely lost rhythm, everything. Just struggled also a little bit with the health the last couple of weeks.
But yeah, it was just — I was grateful to be out on the court after surgery that quickly. But at the same time, just didn’t feel good at all (smiling).
Q. You never had these kind of injuries and long time away from the court. It has to be scary or different. Have you tried to talk to other athletes who went through that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, yeah. I talked a little bit, you know, Viktor Troicki also has been through injuries and suspension from ITF that took him out for 18 months. You know, I have been through his process, and I understand — you know, I understand what he has been through mentally.
You know, it takes time, I guess. It’s the first time for me to kind of face these kind of circumstances.
Q. Can you talk about the surgery in Switzerland? Looked like it was the hand, but we know you have an elbow problem. What was it about?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I did my statement. I don’t know if you have read it or not. So maybe you can look back and read the statement. I have explained everything there.
Q. You said your opponent was showing a fighting spirit on the court today.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah.
Q. Could you talk about what makes him tough to play against.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, exactly that. I mean, he’s known around the tour for being a great fighter and just trying to get every ball back. Look, I don’t want to take anything away from his win. You know, it’s well-deserved.
Q. You have been here practicing for a while. Was the way you played today comparable to…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, practice sessions are different obviously from official match. Mentally mostly, obviously.
Yeah, I mean, I haven’t been playing that well on the practice, as well. It is what it is. You know, I’m just happy that I managed to recover that quickly after surgery and just get out on the court.
Q. Do you mind elaborating a bit on how you felt on the court? You’re saying it felt like your first match.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah.
Q. In what way? Mentally or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, everything. I mean, nerves were there. I mean, I made so many unforced errors that it was just, you know, one of those days where you’re not able to find the rhythm from the baseline, especially from the backhand side. That has always been a rock-solid shot for me throughout my career.
You know, just some inexplicable, uncharacteristic errors. But that’s, I guess, it’s all part of those particular circumstances that I’m in at the moment.
Q. Is it fear of hurting yourself, or is it pain?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, it’s not really. But, you know, obviously having only played a couple of matches in nine months, you know, you’re still, in a way, battling inside of your mind, you know, whether you’re fit or not.
And even though you don’t have pain, you’re still thinking about it, because it’s been something that I have been feeling and dragging for over two years. So, yeah.
Q. Did you set yourself any expectations or did you just want to go out there and see what level you’re at?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I just wanted to go out and see. I mean, I had no expectations.
I was not even supposed to be here because of the surgery that was only five, six weeks ago. But I recovered very quickly, and I got myself ready. That’s it. I mean, I played like everyone else.
Q. All week through the practice you were hitting the Kleenex box quite a bit, wiping your nose. I don’t know if you had a bit of a cold. Is that really bad timing in terms of you needing all your energy and everything to come back and play some tennis?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s life, you know. God always challenges you when you expect it least. He always throws everything possible at you.
You know, I have been — I have experienced many times similar situations, so I know that there is always something good in it. You just need to try to set your mind at that frequency.
So obviously right now, I mean, I’m sitting here and talking after a lost match. It’s not something that I as an athlete want but, at the same time, there is a reason everything happens in life.
Q. Sounds like you were pushing quite a bit to come back at this tournament. Do you feel like you should have delayed it a bit longer?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I don’t want to look back. I mean, I have played a tournament, and that’s all.
Q. The issues have been happening from before Wimbledon, et cetera, and going back and forth. Even though you have had the surgery and all that, are you concerned about the rest of this year and how it’s going to place you and how you’re feeling physically and mentally about the whole situation?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m definitely going to think about everything. You know, obviously I miss tennis. In one way, I miss competing. I miss being out there. It’s a big part of my life.
But at the same time, you know, I just have to, you know, talk with the team and create the best possible strategy moving forward.
Q. If I could switch the topic from a tennis match to something else. You sent out an incredible picture of yourself reflecting on the edge of the Grand Canyon. What was that experience like for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, when it comes to energy, it was one of the most powerful places that I have ever physically been in my life. The serenity of the place and connection with nature is quite outstanding. It was a wonderful experience.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports