Calling it his best win of the season, Novak Djokovic saved two matchpoints to beat Roger Federer in five sets to advance to the US Open finals on Monday.
Djokovic, who will appear in his third US Open final, will await the winner of the ongoing Andy Murray-Rafael Nadal match.
Djokovic has won nine titles this year and two of the three Grand Slams.
Q. This time last year you got to match point, you said you closed your eyes and went for it. Was that your mentality on that first match point today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I tend to do that on match points. It kinda works. (Smiling.) No, it was a very similar situation like last year. I had to take my chances. I was very close to being on my way back home. He was serving. He was 40-15 up. Yeah, I mean, I managed to hit that amazing forehand return which got me back. I got a little bit of energy from the crowd, and I fighted back. I needed to stay positive, and I definitely didn’t want French Open to happen again. It was incredible last two games.
Q. Talk about your belief in your shots, that you’d be able to go for something like that. Roger almost seemed baffled that you would take that much of a gamble.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, if you’re playing somebody like Roger, you have to take your chances when they’re presented; otherwise you’re losing a match. I don’t want to say, yeah, I’ve been in control of the fifth set, because that’s not true. He was serving for the match. He was match points, and I could easily lose. But this is what happens at this stage of a tournament when two top players meet each other. Just a couple of points decide the winner.
Q. While this match does not yield a trophy moment, can you say that it is perhaps one of the greatest victories of your career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It is, and it’s probably, under the circumstances, the greatest victory I had in 2011. I definitely think so.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Why? Because I was two sets down, and I haven’t won many matches in my life when I was two sets down. You said five, six years ago was the last one, so… Especially against Roger, who we all are aware of his quality. When he’s a set or two sets up, he doesn’t let you win. When he’s in control of the match he’s confident, and it’s really hard to get back into the match. But I managed to play better, to switch gears, and I managed to play two incredible sets: third and fourth. Then I felt it’s the moment. You know, it’s the moment when I should step in and show what I got, and it paid off.
Q. Back to a specific moment in the second set, it was one game apiece and you were ad out and you were second serving. I want to get a sense of how do you compose yourself in a situation like that? And then what kind of plan do you have on a second set serve in that moment?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t remember the moment. It’s 1 All second set, you said?
Q. 1 All and you were serving. It was ad out, and nobody had broken yet.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay. It was the first break points I think of the match.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, I have been serving great in the first set, winning quite comfortably my service games as well as he did. But we both knew that the chance will come sooner or later for me or for him. Unfortunately for me it came for him first, and he used it. He used it, you know. He’s definitely one of the best returners in the game. I needed to stay calm, stay positive, because it’s a best of five match. I knew I could come back.
Q. Just back to that first match point where you had just dropped your serve at love; the crowd is not really on your side; you are getting frustrated. In that shot, was there some anger and frustration? And then what was in your head when you reacted to the crowd after that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, I needed to get some energy from the crowd, you know. I mean, it’s kind of normal to expect that maybe they’re a little bit more on his side because he’s somebody that has won this tournament five years. He’s the greatest player ever results you know, I mean, you don’t need to spend words about him. Crowd loves him everywhere, especially here. So it was okay. It was no surprise. But, you know, I thought at that certain moment I needed to get a little bit of the crowd energy behind my back and try to get back into the match. And I did. That forehand return, I cannot explain you because I don’t know how it happened. You know, yeah, I read his serve and I was on the ball and I had to hit it hard, and it got in, luckily for me.
Q. But you seemed to say after that, you know, rocket winner, What do I have to do to get people behind me, no?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, no, I mean, look, you know, it’s semifinals of a major and two top guys are playing against each other. It’s so close. I mean, maybe it did seem, and it was maybe true that he had more crowd on his side, but I think I had fans on my side, as well. It was very exciting, very loud, and I was just trying to focus myself, to be positive, and trying to take one point at a time. It happened for me. He missed a forehand on 40 30 and I got back into the match; he makes a double fault. This is what happens, you know, under pressure. For these kind of moments you train every single day. You work hard on the court, off the court, because you want to be in this position.
Q. Everyone now talks about the match point and that it’s easy, no? Before there was some different moment when everything changed. After the first two sets, Federer loses his second game in the third set, and he made a lot of mistakes then. Then everything changed. How do you explain what changed then and afterwards? You won all your serves so easily, and then suddenly in the fifth again you are in trouble.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, at this level, really couple of points, as I was saying, decide the winners. So when he was two sets up, I was trying to convince myself I can get back into the match. I was feeling good physically. There was no problem. Mentally I had the motivation. I mean, come on, it’s semifinals of the US Open, you know. What more you’re asking for, you know? Full stadium, very exciting match against a top player, so I needed to fight. That’s what I did. I think when I made that break early in the third set I relaxed a little bit. I started hitting the shots that I maybe didn’t hit in the opening two sets, and he started making more mistakes. But that’s a switch of the momentum. That’s what happens. You can’t always be on the same level. It’s normal. Somebody, you know, feels at a certain stage of the match that he has control, and then it’s very hard to get back. I think we both knew in the fifth that — in the fourth that when I made the second break that he was kind of maybe a little bit saving the energy for the fifth. He started very strong, so it was a great set.
Q. If you had been on the other side of the net watching what happened on that forehand winner that saved a match point and then your communication with the crowd, what do you think you would have been thinking at that point?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What do I think?
Q. If you had been watching that happen as the opponent, what do you think would have been going through your mind?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. Look, I don’t know, because at that stage you’re trying to get as much support as you can. You’re trying to get energy. I mean, I haven’t done anything against my opponent, you know. I was trying to get the crowd on my side, and, you know, I did. That’s what he does. It’s what everybody does. It’s normal. We are professional athletes. At this level you need that in order to win.
Q. How about, though, on the shot itself? If that had been done to you, saving a match point…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know, really. I just answered the question.
Q. Roger wasn’t real happy with what he did with that serve at double match points, but the next one he put it right into you and you fought it off. It ended up being almost just as clutch and almost as important, correct?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: On the second match point? Yeah, I mean, look, I was a little bit lucky in that moment, because he was playing tremendously well the inside out forehand throughout the whole match. It flicked off the net and went wide, and it got me back. It was deuce, and then I still, you know, believed that I could get back into the match. It was very close. I mean, this is what happens at this level. You know, couple of points can really decide the winner, and we are both aware of that.
Q. In the game he ended up breaking you in the fifth set, after he just won that first point to go to Love 15, you were talking to yourself there. Did you already let yourself get too negative even in that moment?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I talk to myself too much. (Laughter.) You don’t want to know what’s going on in my head at that moment.
Q. Was there any point in that match where you thought you were going to lose? Also, do you think your amazing run this season helped pull you through that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I would lie if I say, you know, I didn’t think I’m gonna lose. There was a couple of situations and moments in the match when I thought, you know, I’m losing or, you know, when he was match points up. It’s always important to be calm, to stay positive, and to believe, to believe that you can win. I mean, since you are already in the fifth set and he’s serving for the match, it’s only one break of difference. So if I make the break, I’m back in the match. That’s what happened.
Q. What did you exchange in conversation? What did you say to one another? I know it was quick, but what did you say to one another after the match when you were shaking hands?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, usually we say just, Bad luck or, Great match or, Well done. That’s all.
Q. There’s a saying that if you hold yourself through a disaster you will win. When you were coming into the fifth set, you get that feeling?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m sorry, it’s really hard to understand. Can you repeat, please?
Q. There’s a saying that says if you hold yourself through the disaster, you will win. My question is: Did you get that feeling when you’re coming into the fifth set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don’t think it was a disaster. Look, it’s a sport, you know, where one wins, one loses. But, you know, we have saying, What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So I guess since I didn’t lose that game, I managed to come back in the match and I got mentally stronger and it was easier for me to play from that moment on.
Q. Just considering the season you’re having and going into that match, the difference between having two majors or three majors, can you talk about how that affected you going into the match and maybe even during the match how that might have played out in your head?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s obvious that this is the best year of my career, by far. The confidence level that is very high at this moment for me helps me to get into this big matches and go for the shots that, you know, that I maybe in some situations wouldn’t, that I wasn’t going for those shots in the past couple years. But it’s all I think a process of learning and getting experience and maturing as a player, as a person. And, yeah, it might have been the case that it helped me in this match, knowing that I have such a great season and knowing that I have such great confidence. I really have nothing to lose, even though it’s semifinals of a Grand Slam and playing somebody that is a great rival of mine. But for these matches you’re working hard and you want to be there. You want to be there and you want to win against guys like Federer.
Q. Why are tennis crowds so different than crowds in other sporting events? I can’t imaging at Madison Square Garden and the Knicks winning by a million points and the crowd starts rooting for the team that’s losing.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I can only give you an answer that, you know, it’s just the difference in the sports, because I guess in tennis you’re not allowed well, you’re not allowed. You’re kind of not expected to talk, to scream, to chant, to shout during the points; where in the other team sports you’re able to do whatever you want whenever you want. I guess that’s the difference. The crowd really has to get into the match, has to understand the sport they’re in. But I think actually here in US Open we have the loudest crowd, you know, except the Davis Cup matches. I think here crowd really gets involved. It’s all about show. On the changeovers you see a lot of people dancing, the kiss camera, all these kind of things. It’s interesting. You know, it’s interesting. It’s not like any other event.
Q. On court you said that the return of the shot was lucky. Could you talk about that? And secondly, you probably hit millions of shots. Was that the best shot Novak Djokovic has ever hit?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Under the circumstances, maybe, yes. I mean, match points down and I read his serve. I read his serve. I anticipated well, and I hit it, so I don’t know if it was lucky or not. It was just maybe it was lucky because it was in the right moment, but I took my chances. I took my chances, and I hit it very clean.
Q. There’s another exciting match coming up later tonight, a friend you’re close with, Caroline Wozniacki. How do you see her game against Serena Williams?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, Caroline is No. 1 player of the world but someone who hasn’t still won a Grand Slam, so I’m sure she’s very much motivated to have a shot at the Grand Slam this year. Why not? She’s been in a couple of finals, semifinals. She’s much stronger, I think, than she was in the past couple years, and Serena is someone that is most successful in the WTA. So it’s going to be interesting.
Q. You had a high profile fan rooting you on today in Sean “Diddy” Combs. How did that come about?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: (Smiling.) Well, it was great to have him there. We met at one party that I cannot talk about details. (Laughter.) It was fun, you know. He’s a huge star obviously in show business, and he’s a character and a very successful man. So it was great to have him there. I think it was very interesting the way he supported me.
Q. You’re having a great season. Andy Murray is having a good season, already four semifinals in 2011. He could be your opponent in the final.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He could. We’re still waiting to see, because he’s playing defending champion. Both of them are great players. I mean, we are top four players in the semifinals once again. I cannot say that I’m a favorite in the finals because you really don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s very unpredictable at this stage. I’m expecting another tough match, another match that will be decided by small margins. Andy is somebody that is definitely looking for his first Grand Slam, you know. Motivation is there. He has the potential.
Q. Considering that you’re amidst a historic season, on Monday do you think you’ll have the crowd support wanting to see you complete this incredible year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I wish. You know, I don’t know. You never know what’s gonna happen. You know, I’m really looking forward just to get to the finals and be out there on the court and compete with the best. I’m sure that we gonna have a full stadium, 23,000 people, and I’m sure I’m gonna have a lot of supporters there.
Q. When you lost to Federer at Roland Garros, everyone said it was the best Federer of the season. Today you lost the first two sets. Were you thinking that he was playing even better? I saw you were looking at your corner a lot, like, What can I do?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I definitely didn’t want Paris to repeat. You know, I was trying to stay focused and then push myself to stay out there, to fight, because physically I’m ready, I’m fit. I didn’t feel tired after two sets. Mentally I needed to get a little momentum going on my side. I mentally needed to get myself in the match, and tried to be a little bit more aggressive. That’s what happened. You know, it changed when I broke him in the third set, yeah. But, you know, it’s really hard to compare those two matches because it’s two different surfaces. But definitely the Roland Garros loss that I had against him was painful.
Q. But my question was if Federer was playing better or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sorry. I mean, he’s always playing in such a high level that it’s really hard to say if he’s not playing good. You know, he’s always, I think, lifting his level of performance towards the end of the Grand Slam. That’s how he has been playing throughout all his career.
Q. You addressed the possibility of facing Andy Murray. If it is Rafa, what sort of challenge is that for you, knowing your history, knowing that you met in the finals last year, finals at Wimbledon, everything else? What is the key for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Just try to play my game. You know, I know that I have a game that is good enough to win against him. I proved that this year in three different surfaces, so I believe that I have a good chance. I need to go out on the court believing I can win. But, you know, we’re talking about a player who has won 10 majors already in his career and he’s only 25. He’s defending his title. I think last year in 2010 throughout the whole tournament and in the finals I never seen him serve better than that tournament. So I think, you know, again, depends from my serve and his serve, as well. But, yeah, it’s gonna be a tough match.
Q. You have been in such an incredible zone this year. At the level that you’re playing, are you past the point of being surprised by anything that you do on the court? What I mean is, when you launched that forehand on match point and it sticks, are you like, Well, that’s the level I’m at now, or are you stunned by what you’re able to do every once in a while still?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: When you are match points in the fifth set after four hours of play and you hit that forehand winner, you must be a little bit amazed under the circumstances that you hit that shot. You definitely don’t expect yourself to come up with it. It’s all mental I think in the end. It’s all mental to be able to handle the pressure well, to be able to step in, and take the chances that are presented.
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