It was one of the most trying weeks for Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo. The world No. 1 learned of the death of his grandfather just before his third round match Thursday against Alexandr Dolgopolov.
After considering withdrawing from the tournament, Djokovic persevered reaching the final yesterday. But the Serb admitted that he had little energy left in a 63, 61 loss to Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic spoke about the long week and the match with Rafa:
Q. It’s been a tricky week for you in every respect. Was there a sense perhaps today, as we felt, that everything caught up with you a little bit, and perhaps that reflected a little bit in your performance today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I definitely don’t want to take away anything from Rafa’s win. I mean, he deserved to win today. He was a better player. But it’s a fact that I just didn’t have any, I think, emotional energy left in me. So I was there physically, you know, game wise I was playing okay throughout the week. But, yeah, it was a bad day. If I wanted to have any chance of winning against Rafa on clay, you know, I needed that extra gear, which I didn’t have.
Q. Did you feel that he played at a higher level than when you beat him on clay last year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He always plays well on clay. He rarely, rarely plays worse than he usually does. It’s been like that throughout the years. Actually, he has been improving. I think today he played just enough to win. I made a lot of unforced errors. I just wasn’t there. You know, I didn’t play well. He took his opportunities first set and made a break, and that’s it. I didn’t make him play at all, you know. I just was out there trying to put the ball in the court.
Q. After you lost the first set 6 3, normally you are a fighter, second set you were down 4 0, didn’t seem that there was a way to change the game.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it’s a strange feeling really. What can I say? You know, I never been caught up in this kind of emotional situation before. I’m just happy to reach the finals really under the circumstances. It’s been a very difficult week for me to go through mentally. I won three matches since the news that I got. I mean, I think I did pretty well. Obviously today I faced a better player. I didn’t have enough to win against him. That’s all I can say really. I just hope to have enough time now to regroup and to rest and to recharge the batteries and move on.
Q. Would you say this final shouldn’t count as a trend for the rest of the season, that it’s an exception?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, every win is a win. Look, as I said on the start, I don’t want to take anything away from his win. He won the tournament. It’s the finals. Definitely everything counts, you know. It’s not an exhibition event.
So, you know, I will try to come back. I will try to come back and play my best. I feel good on the court game wise. I just need to get my things straight in the head.
Q. Everyone could see that you were not the real Djokovic today. What was going through your mind when you were playing and you realized also that you were in trouble? You lost five times your serve without ever reaching deuce. What is your feeling?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I just explained. It’s just that feeling that I didn’t experience before. Yeah, you know, it’s a very mental game. That’s the bottom line. You can feel physically well, you can feel well the whole tournament, and then the day of the finals, whatever, if something goes wrong, if you don’t feel as confident on the court or as clear in your mind, as focused, the game falls apart. That’s what happened to me.
Q. Given the circumstances, you’ve done very well to be here. Do you think somewhere down the line maybe you’ll look back on this and feel a great sense of pride about what you’ve done this week?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I definitely should. I’m encouraged by a lot of people. I’m very grateful for that, especially the support of the close ones, the team, the girlfriend, my brothers were here, friends. You know, every day I’m in touch with my family back in Serbia. It’s been a tough week, not just for me but for everybody in my family. We’re going through this together. You know, in the end I’ve played finals and I’m really happy for that. So I need to move on and try to look better and feel better on the next one.
Q. There have been many outstanding achievements in this sport. Winning a title eight times in a row, what do you make of that as an individual achievement?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: My head’s down. There’s not many words you can normally say. Fantastic, impressive. The way he’s been treating this sport is a real example of a champion, you know. He’s one of my biggest rivals, but I only have nice things to say about him. He’s been achieving so much. Every year he comes back and he looks like he’s the first time in this place. I have to give him credit.
Q. Do you think due to the tragic loss you will make some change in the next couple of weeks in your tournament schedule to get a little bit more rest?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we are about to see really because it’s still just half an our from the end of the match, so I need to talk with my people and see what is the best solution for me to feel better, to get better. Right now, you know, I’m here and I obviously have to go to visit my grandfather’s grave and see, because I wasn’t there on funeral yesterday. So I’ll be there.
Q. Do you think finally the last word about this tournament is the unique situation here technically, not because of the ball, the surface, the wind, your personal problems, or is it a unique situation which doesn’t count too much?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, again, you know, I got the same question. I don’t want to say it doesn’t count. Everything counts, look. Is it a unique situation for me this week? Yes, it is. Well, look, you know, me playing the five, six times I played in Monte Carlo, honestly I never felt such a strong wind and change of directions. But it was the same for every player. It’s the same for all of us. Rafa just has a better way of playing in these conditions. So he uses that to his advantage over the opponents.
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