Novak Djokovic earned a hard-four three set 64, 76, 61 victory over David Ferrer Wednesday night in Melbourne to advance to the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Of most concern, Djokovic appeared to have injured his hamstring early in the match but says it’s nothing to worry about. His nose was closed.
Djokovic has now won 12 straight matches in Melbourne and with his win the Top 4 seeds have advanced to their second straight Grand Slam semifinal where he’ll meet Andy Murray,
Here’s Novak’s presser after the match:
Q. You clutched your hamstring and seemed to be in real pain for a moment. Was it a pulled hamstring? What was the problem?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, luckily for me it wasn’t something that stayed there for long time. It was just a, you know, sudden pain.
But, look, you could expect before coming to this match that it’s going to be very physical. David makes you run, makes you play an extra shot, makes you earn your points.
You know, I think I was hitting the ball really well from the baseline. He had his times in the match where he was playing really well. I think, you know, my serve could have been a little bit better. But overall it was a great performance.
Q. Do you have any physical issues that are worrying you ahead of the next match? The breathing seemed to be a bit of a problem.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I don’t have any physical issues. I feel very fit and I feel mentally, as well, very fresh.
It’s just today I found it very difficult after a long time to breathe because I felt the whole day my nose was closed a little bit. I just wasn’t able to get enough oxygen.
I needed more time, which I didn’t have. But, look, you know, in these conditions, at this stage of the tournament, when you’re playing somebody like David, somebody that has great shots from both sides from the baseline, makes you always play over five to ten shots in the rally, your physical strength and endurance comes into question.
I think actually I’m not concerned about that at all. I’m really fit and I have no concerns of recovering for the next match. It’s just a matter of breathing better through the nose.
Q. It’s now Andy again, which is probably the most familiar opponent to you. How much of a psychological edge will you have after last year’s final? Do you think that still counts?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s a new year, you know, new challenges for all of us. He’s got Ivan Lendl now on his side. He’s made some changes.
But, you know, he looks fit. He’s been playing well. He’s definitely, you know, I think very motivated to win his first Grand Slam. He’s been playing last two years finals here. He’s been proving to himself and to the rest of the people that the Australian Open is probably his best Grand Slam.
But on the other hand I have been playing quite well here in last couple years. You know, we have to expect a great match. You know, a tournament cannot ask for better matchups in semifinals. I hope that I can step out on the court trying to repeat the same thing I did last year.
But it’s definitely going to take a lot of effort to be a winner from that match.
Q. Andy is going to want to get you into some long rallies, as well. Are you confident over the next two days you’ll be able to get your breathing back right?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, we had last year in the finals, the first set went over an hour and was lot of long rallies. But that’s what you have to expect. You know, this court, these conditions here are a little bit slower than comparing to some other tournaments.
We both are players whose games are, you know, based on the baseline. We both like to, you know, feel comfortable in the rally, kind of get slowly into the point.
But I’m sure that is going to be, you know, a tactical challenge for both of us, you know, how we gonna perform. In the end I think it’s very important mentally for both of us to start off well in that match.
Q. You have a slightly shorter break heading into Friday’s match. Also, if you win that, you’ll have a shorter break ahead of your opponent in the final.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s the way it is. Last year was different. Last year I had two days between semifinals and finals.
Look, in this moment I’m not concerned about eventually not having enough time to recover physically and be ready and fit to perform my best in semifinals. That’s the only match I look forward to right now. I don’t see myself in the finals yet.
Q. Before the really big matches, what strategies do you employ, breathing through the nose like Yoga, something like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, definitely, different kinds. I’ll have to keep that for myself (smiling).
But I always try.
Q. Three out of the last four Grand Slams have been yourself, Roger, Rafa, and Andy. Maybe the next Grand Slam you can play a round robin. I know you talked about the issue, but it’s becoming more and more clear the top four are playing at a slightly higher level than the rest of the guys. We’ve seen it here again.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It became more common nowadays, as you mentioned, whatever, last four or five Grand Slams is us playing in semifinals. People don’t realize how difficult that is. It’s not easy to get to the semifinals, even though we’re expected to. There’s a lot of competitive players out there, a lot of players who are very motivated to win against all of us.
So I guess that makes us a success even bigger. We have this probably mental strength and advantage. You know, we have that selfbelief on the court, playing in the finals of the majors for several times, winning some majors, especially Roger and Rafa.
It’s just a different approach, a different feel about being on the center stage when you’re playing somebody that hasn’t had that experience. So that counts, let’s say, as your advantage.
Q. Last year before the final Andy talked about you playing football with each other in Perth and here. Has there been much of that? Do you sense he’s different with Lendl now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Lendl took him to golf. They’re playing more golf than football (smiling). I’ve been waiting for him.
We haven’t had a chance because there’s a lot going on. But, look, we’ve been friends for a long time, always had lots of respect for him. I think it’s mutual. I think our teams are getting along really well. We practice whenever we can.
I mean, our friendship and rivalry, you can call it, goes long time back. You know, goes to when we were 12 in France, first tournament. We played a lot of junior events together.
It’s great to see that somebody who you grow up next to is doing well. This is going to be another great challenge for both of us.
Q. You knew Andy was looking for a coach. Were you surprised Ivan turned up in his box? How do you think it changes the dynamic for this meeting between the two of you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I guess it’s a question for them, for him, for Andy especially, because, I mean, I don’t know how much it affected him. I mean, they didn’t have that much time to work on things. I am not sure how long they have a cooperation already.
But, you know, I guess him winning a title in Brisbane and reaching semifinals here says enough, you know, says that that matchup is good. You know, from my perspective it’s good to see a legend, one of the greatest players ever to play the game, you know, being around the tour again.
I’ve been trying to convince him to play my coach a set or two. My coach hasn’t been practicing a lot, so he needs to work more (smiling).
Q. You’ve changed coaches. Can there be a strong shortterm effect, do you think, if you change?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Again, it depends. That’s why I can’t really answer in his place. I have a cooperation with Murray and for last six years, and I’ve tried to be, you know, more creative, get some more experience from the tennis legends, from Todd Martin, from Mark Woodforde, tried to work on some specific shots in my game: serve, volley, and all.
It didn’t turn out to be the best possible solution for me. I guess in my case, you know, it was important, and I realized in the end that the only way is to be very simple, to have the same team of people that I’ve had over the years. I have lots of trust in them. For me, they are the best, best in what they do. They’re very suitable to me, to my career, my personality. That’s what matters the most.
Q. From outside, what do you see that’s different about Andy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, I don’t notice any significant difference. Obviously, he’s always been very successful in Australia at the start of the year. He has always been very fit and very committed. He’s always been one of the best players in the world. He’s been proving that year over and year over and again.
So here we are again playing semifinals of a Grand Slam. That’s not a big change. But I’m saying I guess the effect of Lendl being a part of his team can be felt probably in some time to come.
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