Novak Djokovic’s quest to win a fourth straight Grand Slam, “Djoker Slam”, nearly was derailed today. Djokovic had to save four matchpoints in a 61, 57, 57, 76, 61 victory over home hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Djokovic has now won 26 straight Grand Slam matches since losing to Roger Federer in the semifinals last year at the French Open, a match that will be played against on Friday.
Here’s what Novak said following his second straight five-set victory in Paris:
Q. It has been confirmed that you are going to do an exhibition match in Brazil in November. Are you excited about it? Have you ever come to Brazil? Would you like if the opponent could be Guga?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes, it’s the first time now that I talk about it. It’s confirmed. I’m really excited because I never been in Brazil.
I heard all the best things about your country. Of course, Guga is the biggest tennis legend there. I would like to play with him. It’s still not decided. Even if I play with Thomaz will be great.
Just the experience of being in Brazil makes me very happy.
Q. You actually played a little bit like Pele out there today. On those match points, how is it you’re able to raise your game and play such astonishing tennis when it’s such a big pressure occasion?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There is really not any rational explanation or a word that can describe what you’re supposed to do when you’re match points down or when you’re losing and you’re very close to lose the match.
It’s, I guess, trying to be mentally tough and believing in your shots. Obviously a little bit of experience that I had playing on this level for last five, six years. I did have some matches similar to this one when I was match points down and managing to come back.
So I don’t want to be wise now and say, Okay, I know you how to play when I’m match points down. Because as I said, there is no explanation. I’m just going for the shots. I’m glad I was aggressive in these moments and, you know, it paid back for me.
Q. It felt as if being so close to being out unlocked something in you, because you seemed to produce from then the best level that you’ve played in the tournament by the look of it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, this level, this level of tennis is very mental, you know, lots of emotions. If you’re playing top player and home favorite and you have a crowd that is supporting him incredibly so, you have to face all these things.
Physically, we are all ready, we are all fit, and we are all hitting the ball well. But it’s a matter of, you know, just couple of points here and there will decide winner. That was the case.
I mean, if he would win he would deserve the win, no doubt. But, you know, that’s sport. The one that mentally, I think, pushes more maybe in some moments and obviously gets also a bit lucky and gets the win, you know, that’s how it goes.
You know, ones you win, ones you lose, but the more important thing is to try to take the best out of these matches and enjoy them, you know, because as a tennis player, this is what you live for. This is what you practice for all these years, you know, to be part of incredible performance, incredible match encounter here in Roland Garros, you know, with the home players.
I’m really glad that I could win today.
Q. In today’s match, Tsonga’s level, did it kind of surprise you? Because at some points you opened your hands in disbelief to some unbelievable shots he was doing. Was it more the winner’s spirit than anything else?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, for the set and a half I played great. Jo was making a lot of unforced errors. He wasn’t serving the way he was serving after that.
So, you know, I think I felt good on the court. Then I played one bad service game, and that’s when the momentum changed, you know. He got crowd on his side, big support. He started serving whenever he was in trouble.
Break balls second, third, fourth set, he always served it out, and really big, which is not something that happened for the first time. He tends to play always his best when you know, when the pressure, he comes to the net and hits the ball. That’s why he’s one of the top players.
Yeah, it was incredible. I mean, at some stages, even though I thought I was returning really well and I was in the point, he just went for everything. He was playing, in my opinion, incredibly well.
But in the end, I managed to breakthrough.
Q. Last time I guess you said just the serve was working well. What about your performance today? Was it any better? Did you feel the ball better?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, yeah, I felt much better. I really think that even though I was very close to lose this match I still played really well. Because my opponent as well, I have to give him credit for his performance, as I said.
But we played a very good quality match, I think.
Q. The moment when you sort of came up awkwardly after a backhand shot, looked as though perhaps you may have injured yourself. I was wondering what exactly you did there and how worried you may have been in that very moment.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, at that very moment I didn’t know what to expect and how the leg would react. But it was the hamstring full stretch, you know, and it was a very quick, very sharp move.
So luckily for me there was no consequences.
Q. You’ve talked many times about the experience you’ve gotten in big matches. Could you talk a little bit about how that helps you at these moments? Is it just knowing how to play or getting used to the emotions? What is it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, it’s a very small part of today’s case, you know, that experience of playing on a big stage. It does have its own part and role of today’s win and comeback that I had, but the bigger part is just staying composed, you know, and believing in your shots, really.
I mean, Jo has equal amount of experience playing in the big matches. He played finals of Grand Slams and he’s top 5, top 10 player for the last couple of years. I didn’t play anyone who is unexperienced at these moments, at this stage.
I mean, as you could see, whenever he was very close in important moment he went for the shot, so that’s what I did, as well.
You know, one of us had to win.
Q. Today was quite a match. If I could ask you to look ahead for a moment special semifinal coming up I’m wondering, first of all, if, to you, there is a special meaning in facing Federer again here in the semifinals after last year, and what maybe sticks out in particular from last year’s match for you.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, another great semifinal. I don’t want to talk too much about Roger. We all know his quality and can always expect him to perform his best at this stage of the tournament.
He came back from two sets down today. We both played tough matches in last two rounds. Now we’re going to have two days off and expect exciting semifinal.
You know, last year we were part of a great match that went the distance, and he played incredibly well. I thought I played on a very high level. I just hope we can have another good match for us and for the crowd to be a part of.
I think for me it’s crucial to be very focused and aggressive from the first moment, because that’s something that you can always expect Roger to have, you know, that control over the opponent from the start. I will try to be out there believing I can win.
Now there is no really favorite for that match. It’s semifinals, so everything is open.
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