THE MODERATOR: Before we begin, we’ll have a word from Gordon Smith, the USTA executive director and chief executive officer.
GORDON SMITH: Novak, to one of the greatest performances in the history of Grand Slam finals, to the US Open 2011, a toast.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you very much. I’ll skip the champagne.
THE MODERATOR: First question.
Q. Congratulations. Last year at this time it was obviously a different result. Was there something that triggered in your mind that moment that made you believe that a year like this was possible? And what was it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, last year I played finals of US Open and I played another great match against Rafa. I had a tournament that could easily end already in the first round when I was two sets to one down and very close to losing to my countryman Troicki.
When I won that match, I overcame the challenge and I managed to come to the finals and win a great match against Roger. So I guess at this level you need those matches, those tough matches against top guys to win in order to get confidence, get self‑belief on the court that you can really win majors and win the big matches. So I guess it just clicked in my head. I think that throughout last couple of years I didn’t change my game in any major way. I think most of the strokes are the same that they were in last two, three years. It’s just that I’m hitting the shots that I maybe wasn’t hitting in last two, three years now. I’m going for it, I’m more aggressive, and I have just a different approach to the semifinals and finals of major events, especially when I’m playing two great champions, Rafa and Roger. In last couple of years that wasn’t the case. I was always kind of trying to wait for their mistakes or being out there and playing my best tennis and not really having the positive attitude and kind of believing that I can win. So this has changed, I guess, and the US Open 2010 was one of the turning points in my career, definitely.
Q. Was that Tylenol? What did you take when you were having the back problems?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it was some painkiller. I don’t know. They gave me ‑‑ yeah, and I had the rib problem and they had to mobilize my back as well, and some cramps in the leg. So it was more than one thing. But it wasn’t a surprise, to be honest. You know, luckily for me I had the ability to ask for medical timeout, and it helped me in the fourth set. I was going more ‑‑ I felt the most discomfort and pain with my serve, so I tried to go more for the precision rather than for speed. I think that actually helped me to get into the rally better, because he was expecting maybe a bit stronger serve so he was returning short and I was taking my chances. I had to make the points very short, because it’s obvious that he is the one that’s physically fitter than me on the court today after the third set was done. nI knew that and I had to go for my shots, and I did.
Q. How would you describe your physical and mental accomplishments in beating Federer and Nadal back‑to‑back to win this championship?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, the result ‑ results ‑ that I had this year are amazing, and definitely something that I haven’t expected. But it keeps coming because I think I have a great scheduling this year. I know when to have a little break, when to rest my body, when to get ready and prepare well for, you know, US Open swing, you know, the clay swing, now the Asian swing. So now I learned to get my scheduling right. And with the great team that I have, I guess that helps me to perform my best tennis in the most important events. This is, in the end ‑‑ the bottom line is that that’s the whole point, to win Grand Slams, because these are the tournaments most important and most valuable in our sport, four Grand Slams. So this is where you want to win. Yeah, this has changed in comparison with last couple of years definitely. Right now I feel drained emotionally and physically and mentally, but it’s normal, you know, after such a long year, so many matches. But I have this trophy here, and this is what I was fighting for. I’m going to take some time off, I guess.
Q. The Grand Slam year is obviously over now. No matter what happens, from here on, this is one of, if not the greatest, year a single man has ever had. What does that mean to you considering what your family went through, the bombing? This personally is a great achievement. How does it hit you emotionally?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I guess it takes some time too realize the success that I had this year, especially now, I mean, winning another major. It’s going to probably all settle down towards the end of the year when I take some time off and analyze the year. But right now I’m all over positive emotions. It’s really hard to find the words that can describe the feeling that I had and that I have still. But I know this couldn’t come overnight. It’s a long process, as you mentioned. Throughout all my life I’ve been working, being committed to this sport 100%. That’s the only the way you can really succeed: the right balance between private life and life on tour, which is very requiring, demanding. But this is something that I love to do, and it brings me joy every single time I step on the court and make a win. Nothing can replace that feeling.
Q. Similar question: You started off a skinny kid from a little village…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Still skinny kid.
Q. Yeah. You come up in this era with Federer and Nadal and then have had this incredible run. In your private moments when you have time to reflect, what do you say to yourself about this achievement?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I go back in my thoughts in my childhood, all these memories growing up, playing tennis, spending time in Serbia experiencing a lot of different kinds of situations and experiences in the life. That helped actually to become a better person, to appreciate things in life more. You know, I owe my parents a lot, because I think they have done a great job in bringing me up and helping me and supporting me throughout all my career. And couple of other people that have always been there for me. This is individual sport, but it’s not an effort of myself. I may be on the court by myself winning or losing, I maybe take the whole credit or all the blame, but it’s actually the team, the family, the support, everybody around you that spends their energy as well. They sacrifice their private life as well. I mean, all my team members, they have their own families, they have their own kids, and, you know they go through this with me and they put their energy and effort into my success. That’s why it’s all team effort.
Q. We know you have changed your diet from the end of last year. I was wondering what you ate last night and what you ate this morning right before the match, and what are you going to do tonight?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ll give you a simple answer: last night I didn’t have any gluten, and tonight I will have a bunch of gluten ‑ and alcohol.
Q. Could you tell me what you ate last night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know, rice. Nothing really exciting, you know. Carbohydrates, protein. That’s it.
Q. Tennis on this level is played with very thin margins. Andy Murray had you down on clay; Roger had you down. What do you think makes the difference to make those margin fall on your side and not your opponent’s side?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, work, I think self‑belief on the court. As you said, we’re all working very hard in our off seasons. We’re all dedicated, especially the top players to this sport. We all want to improve. You see what Federer and Nadal have been doing the past couple of years. They’ve been so dominate it’s incredible. It’s true, especially in the big events and matches, winner is decided by small margins, couple of points. I guess the winner is the one that believes in victory more than the other. That’s all there is.
Q. For you, is the next big goal a career Grand Slam?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sure. Why not? There is still a lot of things to prove, you know, to myself, to the tennis world. I still want to win many more events, many more major events. That’s something ‑‑ as I said, you know, it’s not just habit of standing up every morning and being focused on what you do. It’s just that love for the sport that keeps me going. And winning on the court, that feeling, as along as it stays with me, I will keep fighting for more trophies. Yeah, so it would be unbelievable to be able to complete the Grand Slam, to win the French Open. It’s something that is definitely an ambition, but it’s going to take time.
Q. After winning Wimbledon, you said you had a lot of fun with that match. We know how much you like to have fun.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Everybody does.
Q. How much fun you had today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think I’ve played a great match really from the start to the end. Even though I lost the third set, I was three times break up in that set. Maybe I should not drop my serve in those moments. Look, when you play that well you must enjoy. You must bring your smile on your face. It’s all going well, all going on your side, so… But you’re focused and trying to take one point at a time and win in the end. So, yeah, I’m going to have more fun now when I know the match is over.
Q. Specific to Rafa, at the moment, how much do you enjoy facing him and the challenge of breaking down what he does best?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s really hard to say that I enjoy playing Rafa or Roger. It’s a challenge. You know, it is on one side an incredible feeling if you win against them; on the other side, it’s very disappointing if you lose because they’re your greatest rivals. But I definitely enjoy when I’m playing my best tennis, regardless who is across the net. The way I look at it, it takes a lot of mental energy and physical energy to win against these guys, especially Rafa. He never gives up. You could see that today. Two sets and a break down and serving for the match and he’s coming back. That’s why he’s a great champion. So when I lost this third set it wasn’t fun, definitely. I knew that I am not physically there. I’m not as fit as I was in the start of the match, so I needed to do take chances, and I did. It was an incredible set for me.
Q. You just said the winner is the one who believes most in victory than the others. Do you believe at this point that you can’t lose?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I don’t believe anybody is invincible. You know the amount of matches that I lost this year is just incredible. As I was saying, I think that positive attitude is actually something that keeps you on top of your game. Because when you go out on the court, when I had the run that I had in the opening two, three months of the year, everybody was wondering when the streak will end. I was trying not to pay attention on that. I was trying to really take one match at a time, keep things very simple, and, you know, believe that this streak can go forever. But I knew it’s not going to go forever. It’s logical. You change surfaces, sooner or later you will lose matches. I mean, Roger had years when he was winning three Grand Slams in a year, when he was invincible, 40, 50 matches; Rafa as well last year. So this is you can say my year, or the year where I performed my best tennis at major events. It’s something that makes me incredibly happy. It’s definitely going to take a lot of effort to try to repeat even half of what I have done this year for next year. Look, I’m trying to enjoy the present, enjoy this moment, and then I will think about future later.
Q. Even though you are the most charismatic player of the tour…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you.
Q. And perhaps best‑liked, why would you say that the last couple matches the crowd was not with you really? How are you going to prepare for Davis Cup?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn’t say that.
Q. I felt most of the crowd was rooting…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think today the crowd was half/half actually. I think in many moments I had the crowd chanting my name, and it was great support. I think, you know, you always try to have crowd support on your side. You cannot influence the people, who they will support. Everybody has their own favorite tennis player. I’m still new in this business.
Q. How will you prepare for the Davis Cup?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, listen, I’m going to go to Serbia now, but I have many commitments now, tomorrow. I will think about recovering the most and enjoying the victory and what I have done so far; Davis Cup comes in couple of days.
Q. Since becoming an ambassador of the game, everybody is getting to know you. What are you mostly excited for them to get to know that they didn’t know before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Um, well, it’s very hard to keep the private life quiet and private, keep it away from media and from public, because as a successful athlete, you’re followed. It’s normal. You’re getting attention and people get to know you as a player first of all. This is something that I do for life, and people come to watch me play tennis. Then they get to know you as a person as well. Now with the role that I have, the No. 1 of the world, I know that there is huge amount of responsibility on my back as well to represent the sport in the best way. I’m still learning. Every day I’m learning. I make mistakes. Everybody does. But I try to keep my same personality and enjoy every single moment of my life that I have.
Q. Could Serbia beat Argentina in the Davis Cup without you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I think so, but I’m going to be on the team anyway. So we’ll see. We’ll talk about Davis Cup when I come in Serbia.
Q. You seem to have a smaller margin over Federer than over Nadal, even watching the match tonight, because as a baseliner you can make winners from both sides, forehand and backhand, while he can do it mostly with the forehand.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You’re talking about who can do it with forehand mostly? Nadal?
Q. Yes. You have a smaller margin with Federer because he has more variety, where Nadal can hit winners just with the forehand.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I lost many matches in a row against Roger and Rafa last year, 2009, and now I won ‑‑ of the maybe five matches I won four against Roger, and against Rafa I won sixes in a row or whatever. It keeps changing all the time. Obviously when you start winning more often against your opponent, whoever is across the net, you feel that you have ‑‑ in next match that’s coming you have a mental advantage. Maybe I just know what to play, and I get into the court knowing what to do and just, you know, playing my game. Against Rafa you have to be aggressive. You know, you have to try to go for winners, because he’s the fittest player around. He’s an incredible defender.
Q. May I also ask you if your endorsement Tacchini goes on for a long time. When Sampras, McEnroe all won, after one year they were not anymore with Tacchini.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m still with them. I’m happy. I don’t know how long. It’s going to go for long, but let’s see. I don’t know.
Q. How much it affected you when you won in the seventh game of the second set and this fan of your shouted? You remember? You opened your hands after you lost the point.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sorry. I’m really sorry. I don’t remember. So many things happened today.
Q. What do you think was the key factor winning the complete Grand Slam in one year? Do you feel capable?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: But I didn’t win…
Q. What do you think is the key factor to win the complete Grand Slam in one year? Do you feel you are capable?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: How many players have done that?
Q. You could be the first.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: One guy or two. (Laughter.) Look, if I make half what I’ve done this year next year I’ll be happy. Look, I do have always a huge desire to win every Grand Slam that I’m playing on. I player equally well for each Grand Slam throughout the year. It’s a task that you really ‑‑ I don’t want to say that’s not possible. It’s possible. Everything is possible. But still, it’s such a tough task to ask to win all four Grand Slams in a year. How many players did it in all history?
Q. You played two great matches in a row. Which opponent are you more proud of beating, Federer or Nadal?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m proud of winning US Open. I don’t really rate my wins against Roger or Rafa more than ‑‑ more one than the other. I just try to win a tournament. That’s what is different. So this is something that makes me proud.
Q. Rafa talked about the difference in the match. Talk about the third game of the second, that really, really long, long game.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, he was 2‑0 up in both opening sets, and I managed to break back. Yeah, that one side was very ‑‑ on one side end you feel that you had very strong backwind. You could play easier on that side than the other side. We both knew that. If you look at the statistics, most of the breaks that came in the match happened from the side where you had the wind in your back. It affects the whole match.
Q. He said he didn’t get enough free points on his serve.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was so windy it was hard to find the rhythm and be consistent with serving. I would say definitely that he served better last year in US Open than he did now. But, you know, I tried every time that I had second serve to step in and take my chances.
Q. How would you compare the level of play it took to win versus all of the matches you had to win to get to this point and the satisfaction of achieving this?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you obviously prepare differently for each opponent that you play against. I can’t really compare the last two matches with the opening couple of matches, because it’s obvious that when you’re playing the top players you feel more stressed on the court and your approach is different. It’s normal to have, you know, the longer matches, the more difficult encounters where you have to step in and step up and play better than you do in opening rounds of a Grand Slam. If that’s what you want to…
Q. What I wanted to get at is, when you were out there today, how did you feel about the way you were playing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I felt great. As I was saying before, maybe it is the best match I played in the US Open so far this year. I stepped on the court believing I can win, and I was hitting the balls from the baseline really strong and flat. You know, I didn’t give him any comfort, any rhythm. I was kind of trying to keep the control of the match; it was working well.
Q. About your public profile, earlier this summer you went out and did the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, you went on the Conan O’Brien show. Do you like those kinds of opportunities? Are they something you feel is important for yourself or the sport?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I think it’s fun for myself to be a part of the great shows. Those shows, Jay Leno, Conan O’ Brien, they had the shows for many years already, and I was flattered and happy to be invited to be on those shows. I was spending some time in L.A. before the US Open series tournaments started. I was practicing there, so it was fun. I like it. I like the fun TV shows, you know, something that ‑‑ somewhere where I can laugh, where I can reveal my personality. Those shows offered me that. I think it’s as well very important for my career, for my PR.
Q. Similar question: No one in our game likes the stage more than you. What’s it like to perform on the New York stage? Are you proud how in just three years you’ve advanced from that tough moment a while back to so much acceptance now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, when you go down the road and when you’re on the tour for so long, you experience different situations. You make mistakes in your career, but you learn from those mistakes. It’s normal. You cannot be always on top of your game. You cannot be always in the right mood. You play so many matches, and it’s always ‑‑ as a top player, it’s always under radar. Many people watch when you’re playing. This is the biggest court, biggest center court we have in our sport, so every time you step out there, it’s not only about playing tennis, it’s about representing yourself in the best possible way.
Q. You the new world No. 1, and you talk about learning from the other two, Roger and Rafa. You are quite different from those two. How did you manage to learn something from the person who’s so different from you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think everybody is different. I don’t compare myself to Rafa or Roger or anybody else, but I do take a look on their careers, the way they are handling everything, and I learn. I definitely learn from both of them how to represent myself in public, how to carry the responsibility. I’m open for everything.
Q. Give us an example.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Too many things.
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