Novak Djokovic sounds very enthusiastic about his 2011 Australian Open chances and he’s overjoyed that the weather forecast is for cooler temperatures. The former Aussie winner has struggled with the heat in Melbourne before but this year it sounds like there won’t be a heat wave to worry about.
Djokovic also touches on his preparations, Davis Cup, looking up at Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and the depth at the top of the men’s game.
Here’s the full transcript:
Q. Novak, how has your preparation been?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Good. After a couple of days of rain, it’s good to see some sun and hit some balls outdoors. I played a couple matches indoors in Hopman Cup, which were good for me.
Very short off season, but still feeling quite well.
Q. What did you work on in the off season?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there was not a lot of time really to work on a lot of things. But I tried to build up my physical strength, my endurance, because I knew that this is probably going to be one of the most important things coming up, the Australian summer, which can be really hot. I had some problems in the past in Australia, so I really wanted to physically be fit for the tournament.
The other side, tennis wise, I played a lot in the last two, three months. You know, as soon as I started after the very short off season, I already felt that I’m hitting the ball well. I tried to work just on some specifics, like serve, maybe some volley game.
I’m happy with the way that work has been done.
Q. Given what you said about the weather and the problems here in the past, are you happy it’s pretty cool this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, definitely (smiling). I’m probably one of the few players that loves rain in Melbourne.
Q. Have you noticed a big impact, the Davis Cup victory, back home?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, I didn’t spend that much time in my country after the victory. But it was two days and two nights celebration. We definitely felt in some way what it meant for the people and what it meant for us in the end.
It was an historical win, maybe once in a lifetime opportunity to play and win the Davis Cup at home in front of almost 20,000 people. It was just a different feeling from the feeling that you experience playing for yourself in any other individual event.
It’s the biggest success that I had in my career so far, next to the Australian Open in 2008.
Q. Not a two day celebration for you, though?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was, yes, definitely (smiling). Our goal was three days, but… After the second day, we were already in hospital.
Q. Do you think that could take a toll on your chances or preparation for the Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, I don’t think so. I already knew when we won the semifinal tie against Czech Republic in Davis Cup in September that I’m going to have a very short off season because of the finals of Davis Cup, the Masters in London.
It’s not the first time that the top player is facing this situation. Nadal had a very similar situation a couple years back. So you just have to adjust to it, try to rest, get the best out of the couple of weeks of preparation that you have.
Hopman Cup was probably the toughest week of preparation that I had. I played a lot of tennis. I had a lot of fitness. And, as I said, I’m feeling good at the moment. I have to. Biggest tournament at this period of the year is coming up in a couple days’ time. There are no excuses anymore.
Q. Where do you think you stand compared to Federer or Nadal? Do you think you’ve caught up to them?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: They’re the two best players in the world, deservedly. Of course, two biggest favorites in any tournament they play on to win the title. I guess I’m in this small group of players behind them that is trying to challenge them in each event.
How far back, I mean, I can’t say. Rankings are showing everything, and results they have made are probably two out of maybe five best players to ever play this game.
To be able to compete with them is a big challenge. Every time we play, you know, they take my game as well to another level. They make me play better.
In case I get to play them in this tournament, I will look forward to it.
Q. Who do you think deserves to be favorite?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Out of them two?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s hard to say. You know, they’re really in top shape. I think Federer has been playing fantastic tennis in the last three, four months. He’s the defending champion. So maybe he has a little advantage there. But still Nadal, you know, is No. 1. They’re always there at the top.
Q. Do you notice their level going up and consequently are you a better player now than when you won here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I am. But now there’s a lot more good players that I think improved their games tremendously. I think Soderling is playing great, Murray, Davydenko. All these guys have improved so much. Then you have Federer and Nadal that keeps on playing better and better.
It’s really hard to say whenever you see them play in which aspect of the game can they improve, but they still keep on improving.
But, as I said, it’s a big challenge for us to play them and to keep up with them. In order to stay where I am at this moment, No. 3, or eventually get a shot at the step further in the rankings, I will have to play very well at major events and get in the later stages of a Grand Slam.
Q. Novak, you and Andy are practicing a lot. Is this on purpose to try to get your level higher? Not very often guys as good as you practice a lot together. Is this something you figure will help you catch up a bit?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there is no such intention. It’s just a practice, you know. I’ve never had problems practicing with my close rivals or any top players. I actually look forward to that because I know that these practices are going to be very intensive, that I can get something out of those sessions.
Although we have to improve on football skills, still, comparing to them. His team is winning in the last two football matches, so…
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