Novak Djokovic: “Physically I’m Stronger, I’m Faster, Mentally I’m More Motivated”
Novak Djokovic won his second Grand Slam title Sunday defeating Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to win the 2011 Australian Open men’s title. Djokovic swept his last three matches defeating Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and then Murray in capturing his second title in Melbourne.
Q. Do you think you could play any better than this? Is it a perfect match that you expected, that you dream of, or not?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: This was a great match. From the start to the last point, I did what I intended of doing tactically, what I talked with my coach, what I prepared for. Physically I was very fit. I had two days between the semifinals and finals match, which was important at this stage of the tournament.
Because I was aware of the fact that I am going to yeah, bring it to me. (Laughter.) That will have long rallies and I will have a player who doesn’t miss a lot, a very talented player who is one of the best returners in the game.
And, yeah, you know, I had to step in. That was the key. When I had the chance to step in and try to move him around the court, that’s what I did. Probably the turning point was the last game of the first set where we had some incredible exchange from the baseline, long rallies, and some passing shots that turned the match around.
You know, when you have a set advantage, it’s much different, you know, instead of getting into the match.
Q. Is there a sense sometimes when you do feel a bit indestructible? Whatever he can do, you have an answer for it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t think of myself in that way. I just try in those moments to maintain the good feeling on the court and feeling comfortable. Yes, in some ways I felt today that I could get any ball and I could make a fast transition from being defensive to being offensive.
I used the serve in crucial moments quite good. I was opening the court, serving wide, so I can have the other part of the court open for a winner. I was patient when I needed to be. You know, I was changing a lot of rhythm, changing pace, because I know that he likes more pace. He likes to be the one who is going to control the match. I didn’t want to allow that.
Yeah, to be able to win in straight sets against a player like Andy Murray in the finals of Grand Slam, it makes my success even bigger.
Q. When you got the match point, your celebration, you didn’t do a lot. Was that sort of out of respect for the friendship you’ve got with him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, in a way, as well. You know, it wasn’t easy, of course. I understand how he feels. It’s his third final and he didn’t get the title. It’s a tough one.
But as I said on the court I’ll repeat it again I really have big respect for him and his game, because I think he has everything what it takes to become a Grand Slam champion. You know, I’m sure that very soon he will be.
Q. You said he’s the best returner.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: One of the best, yeah.
Q. In the first two sets he made only six points on your serve. How do you explain? You were serving very well or he wasn’t returning that well?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t think I was extremely well serving. I was just trying to place my serves well. And the first shot after the serve in the rally was important. It was important for me to start off the point and having the aggressive role in that points. That’s what I did.
As I said, you know, that was kind of a tactic, you know, to try to open up the court more, spread him out, and then get to the net.
Q. It’s been three years between getting one of those. Do you feel like now that you’re older and more experienced, it won’t be as long the next time?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I feel like more experienced player. I feel a better player now than I was three years ago, because I think that physically I’m stronger, I’m faster, mentally I’m more motivated on the court. I know how to react in certain moments, and I know how to play on a big stage.
It’s the best way that I could ask for to start a season.
Q. Especially beating Roger and Andy, two good players?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, both of those guys play their best tennis on the hard courts, as well as I do. But to be able to win against those players in straight sets is incredible.
Q. How did you fix your serve?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, hitting thousands and thousands of balls on the practice. It’s all about hard work and patience, I guess, dedication to the hard work which in the end pays off. That’s the situation. There is no secrets.
Of course, I was aware of what I do wrong. But once it gets into your head, it’s really hard to get it out of your habit. Everybody was, you know, criticizing me, Why did I change my serve? I didn’t change it intentionally. It just came like that.
I worked hard the last 10 months, and now it’s back.
Q. You took a tough loss here last year, Roland Garros obviously, and then even Wimbledon. Did something happen in between Wimbledon and the hard courts where you regained confidence?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Something switched in my head, because I am very emotional on and off the court. I show my emotions. This is the way I am. Everybody’s different.
The things off court were not working for me, you know. It reflected on my game, on my professional tennis career. But then, you know, I settled some things in my head. It was all on me. You know, I had to try to find the best possible solution and try to get back on the right track. That’s what I did.
Q. Can you talk about some of those secrets that you discovered about yourself that helped you get back on track?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, you know, something switched in my head. It’s been a big mental struggle, because I was trying to separate my, of course, professional life from my more private life.
But, you know, if somebody’s emotional we’re all humans. It’s not possible. If something isn’t working off court, then it’s going to reflect on the court. I managed to solve that problems.
This is all part of life. Of course, everybody’s facing difficult situations in their lives. To overcome the crisis and to stand up and try to still dedicate yourself to the sport was a big success for me as a person.
Q. But professionally for a time you were using two separate coaches.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah.
Q. From outsiders looking in, you seemed to be confused. You were getting two different messages.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it’s not working, you know. I’ve tried. But with all due respect to Todd Martin, which I think he was a great player, he’s a great coach, but it just didn’t work. You know, it’s really hard to compensate and have two coaches traveling with you. I tried.
Of course, I tried a lot of things. And if you don’t try, you don’t know. Now I know that it’s not working.
Of course, Marian Vajda will always be a part of my team. He’s just more than a coach. My physio, Miljan Amanovic, my fitness coach, all of these guys, put incredible effort into my development, into my improvement on the court, off the court. I owe them a lot definitely. It’s them who deserve a lot of credit, as well.
Q. You said you were sure Andy would win one one day. What makes you sure?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I just said. He’s, first of all, a very talented player and he’s a hard worker. He’s been in finals three times, and he just needs to make that final step.
Of course, it’s not easy. You could see his struggle and frustrations tonight, because he felt his chances to win a first Grand Slam trophy tonight.
But, you know, it’s a learning process, I guess. It wasn’t easy for me, as well. I know how he feels. I’m sure that he knows how he feels the best. He’s still young. I’m sure he’s gonna have more chances to win it, so…
Q. Three sets to Federer and three sets to Murray. How different were you feeling against Federer and Murray? When you were more worried?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You’re always worried, the semifinals and finals of Grand Slam. You have your own worries and little pressure and expectations and things that you feel during the match.
But, you know, you work hard to be mentally prepared for these moments and physically fit to overcome the long five setters. You know, both of those matches were different, because I played against two different types of players.
You know, I take always one match at a time. I try not to look who I’m going to play, you know, in the later stages of the tournament, even though maybe as a top player I’m expected to.
But, you know, it’s always been like that. I always try to take one match at a time.
Q. You know him very well obviously. You talked about the way he plays the game. When playing against him, what’s your number one imperative to impose your style of play onto his?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, first of all, we haven’t played for a long time because we were 3 and 4 in the world. Most of the times we were in different parts of the draws. It’s strange that we haven’t played for a long time, because we were making it to the later stages of all the tournaments, most of the times.
But, you know, of course, we had Roger and Rafa who were very dominant in men’s tennis. You know, last two, three times he won on the hard courts. But since then we both improved a lot. Of course, I was analyzing his game, trying to implement some things what I intended to with my coach tactically, and I did it really well.
I get into the match aware of the fact that he is going to give me a lot of balls back in the court and we going to have a lot of long rallies, so I need to be patient in some ways. Yet again, if I get a short ball, I need to attack. That’s more or less it.
Q. You have so much in common. What’s the difference between having two Grand Slams and not having one? What’s the difference between you, do you feel?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s hard to say. What do you mean?
Q. Do you feel for him it’s a mental issue in the big matches? You looked very confident and strong out there tonight.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is in some ways a mental issue when you are facing a situation, playing the finals of a Grand Slam, being so close to winning a title. Every time you get it there, you know, you want to win it badly, but some things go wrong. You’re thinking too much. You’re worrying too much in your head. It’s a mental battle, definitely. Bottom line is that this is a very mental sport in the end. Everybody is very fit.
I think tennis has improved so much in the last couple of years. It’s incredible. To compare the tennis from 2007, ’8, to the tennis of 2010, ’11, I have the feeling the ball is traveling much faster, they’re big hitters, big servers.
So in order to keep up, you have to be always dedicated professional and consistent with your success.
Q. You got your game to this level against the best players. Do you have the sense you need to make the most of it and win the big tournaments now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s the best possible start of the season, very short off season, but I was building up my confidence, and taking the Davis Cup title, taking that confidence into the preparation for Australian Open.
And, of course, during this tournament I was feeling great on the court. The Davis Cup win may have a big role in my great performance here in this tournament. After we won Davis Cup title I was feeling great on the court, just eager to compete.
Q. There are a few people saying now that because Rafa and Roger went out before the final, the tide is turning, a changing of the guards, so to speak. Do you feel that’s the case?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Still Rafa and Roger are the two best players in the world. No question about that. You can’t compare my success and Murray’s success to their success. They’re the two most dominant players in the game for a while. All the credit to them.
It’s nice to see that there are some new players in the later stages of Grand Slams fighting for a title. That’s all I can say.
Q. Some of your footwork was outstanding. At the end when you took your shoes off to throw them into the crowd, you took out the insoles. Do you have to have special insoles?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. That’s the secret to my footwork. You got me there (smiling).
Q. The Davis Cup win and now this, the last two months, has this been the best period in your life so far?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: On the tennis court, yes. Yeah, Davis Cup title and another Grand Slam title. I’m living the dream of a tennis player, definitely.
Q. Are you more focused than ever on your game?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I’m very focused. Yes, I have been more focused and dedicated to the sport than I have ever been before.
Q. How will you celebrate tonight? Is it going to be a big night, do you think?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, after winning a Grand Slam title, what do you think? Of course celebrations are part of the success.
Q. There are only two players but Nadal and Federer that have won two slams, you and Hewitt. Hewitt when he did it, he stopped. What do you expect from yourself, to win many?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t want to stop here. Definitely I want to keep my body healthy, fit, and ready for some more challenges to come. I feel that I have a good game for all the surfaces. I have proven that in the past.
Q. Which ones?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Hard court. Hard court is my favorite surface. Two finals in US Open and two finals here. It’s obvious; results are showing everything.
But, still, I feel I can do well at French Open and Wimbledon.
Q. You’ve driven yourself to the point of exhaustion, overplaying, in previous seasons. How do you avoid doing that again this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think you’re getting wiser by the time of being a part of this sport. You are more aware of the things that you should do and not do. I was spending too much energy on the things I shouldn’t spend on.
I mean, it’s school, a learning process. That’s why I have a big team around me of people who are organizing my time and making me feel a bit released and making me perform the best that I can on the court.
Q. Are you going to play doubles with Andy on the court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We talked about it, yeah. I don’t want to ask him anything now, obviously. But when the time passes, I will ask him. So we will see.
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