Novak Djokovic collected his 50th win in 2011 yesterday defeating Marin Cilic 75, 62. Djokovic spoke afterward about the the accolades he receives in Serbia, playing Croatians, the tour’s baseline game and he addressed all the upsets this week in Montreal.
Here’s what the former champion said yesterday:
Q. Always smiling.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. You got to keep smiling, I guess.
Q. Can you tell us what you feel today. It was a tough match at the start, and after you kept going.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Both of the matches that I’ve played here were against good players. But I didn’t get any rhythm I think out of both matches.
Against Davydenko, he started off the match incredibly hitting winners. Then hitting a lot of unforced errors today. Conditions were quite a bit different than yesterday. A lot of wind involved. It wasn’t really a beautiful match to play and to watch.
But I guess in the right moments I was trying to keep the ball into the court, make my opponent make an unforced error. I was just more patient and played well. So that’s the positive.
Q. I read a very interesting piece in Sports Illustrated. Serbia’s ambassador to the United States was quoted as saying you were the single biggest PR for Serbia in the recent history of the country. That is a big compliment. What do you make of this comment and how do you feel about that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Obviously it’s very flattering to receive, as you said, such a compliment. It is an honor to be able to represent your country. It’s on you how you will represent the country. Obviously I’m trying to do it in the best possible way.
Our country is small, but we do have lots of success in sports. We consider at this moment – and in last 10, 15 years – our athletes as I think biggest ambassadors of our country, which gives us, as you said, a lot of pressure and expectations. But still we try to enjoy that and we try to always make sure we make everybody see where we’re coming from.
It’s great to have the appreciation of the Serbian people for what we do.
Q. Regarding the Olympics next year, what does it mean to you personally to be in the Olympics and possibly win a gold medal in the Olympics?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, Olympics, it’s a competition that is not comparable to any other competition. It’s just the longest sport event. I think every athlete, professional athlete, wants to win a medal in the Olympics. It’s just something that stays forever. The whole world is watching that competition.
I had this pleasure and honor to be part of Olympics and to win a medal in Beijing. Let me tell you, it’s one of the best experience I had in my tennis career. So I’m really looking forward to the next Olympics. Hopefully I can be part of it.
Q. A question about the state of the men’s game. I’m 55 years old. When I was playing tennis, when somebody the size of Cilic played, he would serve and volley all the time. A player of that size would try to serve and volley, mix it up. Now he is on the baseline. Anderson is on the baseline. I know the game has changed and evolved. But as someone who plays a baseline game, when you see these huge guys, they don’t move in, what is your impression of that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, try to keep them on the baseline (smiling).
Q. I understand that.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you’re right. It has changed. It’s obvious that nowadays it’s more a baseline game. Maybe 15, 20 years ago, there were a lot more serve-and-volley players.
I think the surfaces have influenced that a bit because I think the surfaces nowadays are quite slower than they used to be. Even the grass itself is slower. The bounce of the ball is higher, which I think is more suitable to the baseline players.
And in the end, there’s technology. I think the racquets and everything has, you know, developed so much, improved so much, that players nowadays have much more control with the ball and can return so much better.
I mean, look at the top players in the game: incredible returners. It is not easy for somebody to just get onto the serve-and-volley mode because he knows from the opposite side he has a great returner. If he’s playing Nadal, Federer, Murray, myself, whatever, we’re all trying to get as many returns back.
So I guess having this variety in the game obviously helps. I think everybody should get more often to the net because you need to have that in your game.
Q. As you said, Serbia is a small country, but you have three players in the top 25. The three of you were playing today in Montréal. How do you explain Serbia’s success?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s individual, I think, because we didn’t have a long tradition of this sport in our country. We didn’t have the system that helped us to become professional tennis players. So we had to individually have a big desire to succeed and have big support of the families. Everybody had kind of a different way to the top.
But it’s really great to see that we have this many successful tennis players in the men’s and women’s part, and we are a very small country comparing to other countries who have much bigger tennis tradition.
Q. Playing on the hard court, Nadal was talking about it yesterday, he didn’t really have a chance to play on it enough. We’ve seen a couple of top seeds go at this tournament, and even at the women’s tournament. How important is it to get in that time on the hard courts before coming here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Again, it’s individual. I mean, everybody’s adjusting to their preparation the way they think is the best for them. So I cannot talk in the name of all the players. But the fact is, you know, for most of the top players who are not playing for a couple weeks, even in my case, I haven’t played a match or a tournament for four weeks, you know, since Wimbledon.
It’s normal I think to expect that the first opening matches of the tournament will be tricky because you’re still trying to find the rhythm, trying to get used to the conditions, get into the tournament mode. We had holidays, of course.
But, look, it’s normal to have those periods in a year. You have to have them. We had seven months of consistent competition week after week. The schedule is so, so demanding and so tough, even these couple weeks off is just like a dream come true for us. Great, we have two weeks off. What are we going to do? After the fifth day, you’re already confused. Where is my racquet, I need to play.
But I think the rest came in the right time. It’s always like this. Each year I think most of the top players don’t play anything between Wimbledon and Montréal. But, as I said, everybody has different ways.
Q. Novak, there are two matches today involving a Serbian and a Croatian. You won the first one. Janko is leading in the second set. How special is this for you guys? Is there some sort of rivalry between Croatian and Serbian players?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. I mean, there is no particular significance in those matches. I have approached this match as any other match really. I didn’t pay too much attention if my opponent is from Croatia or not.
Of course, we do speak the same language. We were the same country once. We are very good friends off the court, all of us. So we have a lot of respect for each other.
But I think there is always rivalry whoever you play against. Doesn’t matter from which country he comes from.
Q. On the court after the matches you’ve been saying how the Montréal crowd is knowledgeable. What are your overall impressions of the Canadian crowds?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said on the court, I’m really positively surprised by the Montréal and Toronto crowd. I mean, as far as I know for the men’s tournament in last five years that I’ve been playing in Canada, for the four or five top players, every single match is a packed stadium. That’s incredible. You don’t get to see that very often on every tournament, especially in the opening rounds. But here they all come regardless if it’s a day session or night session.
It’s really, really nice.
Q. Murray and Nadal are already out. Are you surprised by that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is a surprise. I mean, of course. It’s expected from them and from all of us top players to advance, you know, to the last stages of a tournament.
But it happens. You know, this is sport. This is tennis. Both of their opponents have played great matches, and that’s it. You move on. You have to forget about what you’ve done. There is already next week another tournament.
Q. You were speaking a little bit earlier about the support of your family. Can you talk about your company, what you want to accomplish with that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we have a company back in Serbia which does a lot of different businesses. But we do have a tournament that we own back in Serbia that we are organizing. It’s actually one of our priorities.
It’s played in a venue that, as well, belongs to us. It’s a beautiful location of the city. We’ve been organizing that tournament for the last three years. I think my family is really doing a great job, and the people that work there. It’s still a very small tournament but looking to improve.
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