Novak Djokovic Indian Wells Interview: No. 1 Ranking “Is My Lifetime Goal”
Novak Djokovic is easily the hottest player in tennis right now. The 23-year-old Serb is a perfect 12-0 in 2011 after titles at the Australian Open and Dubai.
Djokovic is seeded No. 3 at Indian Wells but can move up to No. 2 depending on how he and Roger Federer fare.
The 2008 Indian Wells champion will play Andrey Golubev in the second round on Sunday.
Q. Off to a really good start this year. Can you talk about how you feel about your game at this point of the year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I could not ask for a better start of the year, that’s for sure. It all started from the Davis Cup final where I felt great on the court. I think actually the last couple months of the year have been really successful for me.
The US Open was a great tournament that I’ve played, and from this moment on I felt quite comfortable on the court. I was feeling like I could really play that game that I’ve played before, you know, in 2008, you know, the aggressive game just with a lot of self-belief on the court.
So, you know, last two months I have been playing probably the best tennis of my life, no doubt about that. But, you know, I still want to keep going. I know it’s only been two months of the year, three months, and I need to be really consistently successful in order to, you know, have a chance in couple of the top spots in the world.
Q. Do you feel that your improvement and so on has a lot to do with your footwork and your increased speed?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Yes, but more than that. I think it has to do with my mental side, I guess, more, because I always — I mean, I felt physically prepared and strong on the court last two, two-and-a-half years, but, you know, I wasn’t managing to kind of play well when I needed to in the later stages of the Grand Slams. I had a lot of ups and downs. You know, I was playing well, and then, you know, just kind of dropped the form and just wasn’t stable enough mentally.
Right now I feel that — I feel that, of course, the confidence is there, is present, no question about it. But mentally I’m stronger player and more experienced, and obviously it all comes with it.
Q. For the last few years everybody has talked about Roger, Rafa, Andy, yourself. Do you feel you ever made it away from Murray, Soderling?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I leave you guys to judge who is in which group. I really don’t pay too much attention on that. You know, the top 2, top 3, top 5, whatever, I think there is many great players around the tour.
At this moment, I think there is a bigger group of players than it was in the last five, six years that are able to win major events. It’s good for the sport.
Of course, Roger and Rafa are still, you know, best two players in the world and still the most dominant players, and we are all trying to challenge them. That’s the whole thing.
Q. Could you go just a little bit more into the growth of your confidence, your increased confidence.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. Just take us through it in a little more depth. The US Open was a great run, and the fabulous, fabulous experience on your home court.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. How do you think it kicked in?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I was just saying in the question before, the bottom line is this is more or less a mental game in the end. Everybody’s physically strong, prepared, hitting the ball clean and well, and working, you know, couple hours a day.
If you go out there and watch the matches of the players who are 60, 50, 60, 70 in the world, they are striking the ball as well as top 5, but the difference is the mental strength and the ability to, you know, cope with pressure and just be stable and consistently dedicated and professional in every sense of that word.
I have been always really dedicated to the sport and working really hard with my team. I’m lucky enough to have a great team of people who is surrounding me and supporting me in every way on and off the court. I think they are doing their jobs great.
It was just a matter of time for me to feel good again on the court, to really have a self-belief that I can, you know, win Grand Slams and that I can, you know, push it to the last limit.
It just clicked right now. I knew it’s a long process and I knew it took time. It’s not easy, because you have to deal with the different kinds of things, you know, in your professional life, in your private life. It’s really hard to separate those things if you are emotional. And of course we are all humans, and there are some things that are affecting your professional life.
But it all came up well, and right now it’s all good. So hopefully it’s going to stay like that.
Q. Why would you say that Roger and Rafa are clearly the two best players, because you haven’t lost a match since London?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Because results are showing everything they have done in the last five years proves enough.
Q. But the last three months.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, I am still No. 3 of the world. I know that I have won Grand Slam and I haven’t lost this year, but, you know, they’re still No. 1 and 2, and they have many, many more majors than I have or any other player on the tour. So you’ve got to give them credit for that. That’s why they are the two best.
But as I said, you know, maybe the dominance of Roger and Rafa on the tour is not as high as it was maybe, you know, up to two years ago.
Q. So if you hear people say, Novak is the player to beat now, would you disagree with that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: (Smiling .)
I like to hear that.
Q. Can you talk about this tournament, your feelings about it, and also any thoughts on last night’s player party?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: First question was? Because I heard just player party. (Laughter.)
Q. Your thoughts about this tournament.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The tournament. I think this tournament is improving here, to be honest. It’s good to see that the people who are in the organization are willing to hear out the players and their needs, and, you know, things they care about. It’s good.
I mean, players’ party is one of the events that we really look forward to because it’s great. It’s different. You know, most of the players’ parties around the tour, you know, maybe sometimes a little bit formal, sometimes, you know, a little bit too loud, nightclubs.
This one is really great, you know. You have a lot of things to offer, you know. It’s great. It’s one of the best parties I have attended in tennis.
Q. Do you do impersonations?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, no. I think there was many other interesting things last night than my impersonations.
Q. You just recently got Twitter. Do you like having Twitter? Who do you follow on Twitter?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I went crazy about Twitter and Facebook. I don’t know.
To be honest, I always wanted to have my privacy, you know, saved, and some things in my private life I don’t like to talk about too much.
So, you know, I wasn’t — I was never kind of against – but never for, as well – the social networks. But right now there is no choice. (Laughter.)
But I am — I like tweeting and updating my Facebook page. I do it quite regularly now, but more with some unusual, nontennis things, you know. Just something funny.
Q. Do you follow anybody else on Twitter?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I’m quite new on Twitter, so just a week’s time, so I just communicate with fans and updating and some funny stuff.
Q. In terms of your overall career goals, how important is that No. 1 ranking some day compared to winning more Grand Slams?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s my lifetime goal, and I have been dreaming about it all my life. Maybe one day I will have an opportunity to have a shot at No. 1 of the world. I’m still quite young, you know. I’m still 24 this year. I hope many more years to come playing on the tour.
I’m definitely motivated to have more success on the Grand Slams. In order to have a shot at the No. 1 of the world, I will have to win Grand Slams, and especially if I have Roger and Rafa and Murray as my main rivals. Yeah.
Q. You’ve played all over the earth. Now there is word out that you may play up in the sky. What’s the story about that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Oh, yes. You wait and see. We have interesting video coming up for Miami. It’s something that I think no tennis player has done it still.
Q. Did you get inspired by that one famous photo of…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. I gotten inspired by that photo, and was talking with a team of people my sponsor had. So we came up to this idea of playing some tennis in the air. You will see.
Q. Have you lost your sanity?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You will see. I can’t talk more than this, otherwise I will get fined. (Laughter.)
Q. How’s your football going?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Football is great. Football is great. Actually, my voice, I’m too tired playing football.
Kidding. It’s cool, you know. We have this grass area around behind the practice courts which we use. A lot of players use to stretch out, to do running and things like that. We played a lot of football, European and American in the past. This year we got goals, so when we saw goals there, we were so happy.
Q. How many goals have you scored?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: How many? I haven’t — I think I haven’t scored one goal, but I have assisted a couple, a couple of winning goals.
Q. Just talk about how important this stretch, Indian Wells and Miami, means to you, doing this tournament and Miami? None of you, Rafa, yourself, Roger, don’t have too many points to defend here or the next tournament.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Uh-huh. Well, it’s extremely important, definitely. And for the reason you have just brought up. There’s no points, no real major points to defend in this couple of weeks.
So I’m definitely in the momentum and definitely playing the best tennis of my life, and I’ll be trying to use that on the courts.
Q. When you have had any time to reflect on the Australian Open again, Novak, what is the single most important element of satisfaction? Is there one single element that gives you the greatest satisfaction?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s a Grand Slam, you know, even though I won it before. But any Grand Slam you win, every time you win it, it’s very special. I mean, it’s the greatest feeling that a tennis player can experience, I think, because there is only four Grand Slams a year, four most prestigious tournaments in our sport. The whole sport world is watching, and all the best players are competing there, best of five.
To be able to win a trophy after two very exhausting and hard weeks against the best players in the world is a dream come true, yeah.
Q. Winning the Davis Cup, what has that done for Serbia and for you and for young people? You would say football is a bigger game in your country and basketball probably. But what did winning the Davis Cup do?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, well, we are a nation of team sports, and tennis is a new sport in our country. Well, when I say new and young, I mean just couple of years, and already in these couple of years, we managed to win a couple of Grand Slams in the men’s and women’s tennis, and a Davis Cup trophy, which I think is the highlight of tennis in Serbia, and I think one of the most important achievements of Serbian sport ever.
It was very historical, very emotional. I don’t know how to describe it more, because in the individual tournaments when you’re winning trophies, you’re winning trophies for yourself mostly, you know, and then you’re celebrating with your team of people that are working with you.
But here you are playing for your country, and you have the teammates supporting you all the way through every point. It’s a very special competition where you get to feel the team spirit, and it’s the only competition where we get to feel the team spirit, to be honest, throughout the whole year in tennis.
That’s why we always give our best, and that’s why this achievement that we had last year in December has special places in our hearts. For me and for all my colleagues from the national team, it’s the biggest achievement we had in our careers.
Q. With the public, too, people?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. The arena we played in, we still didn’t lose matches there. We played last three years there. We didn’t lose. Every time we play, especially on the last day, on Sunday, we have from 18 to 20,000 people watching. You know, it’s a great atmosphere, and especially for Davis Cup final, which was, you know, obviously a great occasion, and people felt that.
You know, we grew up watching basketball players, volleyball players, and water polo, these great legends of our support twinging European and World Championships and Olympic medals, and then the whole city and even ourselves, we went on the streets celebrating with the people when they won as kids.
And having to see the same situation, that somebody is celebrating for you, is just remarkable. It’s the best feeling you can experience.
Q. More kids starting to play tennis now in Serbia?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Yeah, it’s amazing, you know. As I said, the nation, the team sports, mostly you can see around the city, basketball, basketball courts, football fields. Now you can see a lot of tennis courts. You can see kids improvising with the tennis, you know, courts and racquets and playing up against the wall. You know, with their dreams and imaginations, it’s incredible to see.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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