Novak Djokovic Presser: All The Numbers Are On Rafa’s Side, But I Believe In Myself, I Think I Have A Chance
by Tom Gainey | June 8th, 2012, 3:42 pm

Novak Djokovic will have his chance at history Sunday. The Serb defeated Roger Federer 64, 75, 63 to reach his first career French Open final and stand on the brink of completing that historic “Djoker Slam”.

Djokovic will meet rival Rafael Nadal for in a fourth straight Slam final. Nadal has the head-to-head edge 18-14 winning two straight this clay season and all 8 sets against Novak at Roland Garros. But Djokovic has won seven of their last nine, importantly getting the victory in three straight Grand Slam finals.

Here’s what Djokovic said after his third straight win over Federer, avenging a semifinal loss from a year ago:

Q. Was it a little difficult to keep your concentration at a level where you wanted today, considering the ebbs and flows of the match?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s always an effort and it’s always a challenge, you know, to be focused and play, take the maximum amount of your abilities out of these matches.

That is the ask, you know. That is something that you need to do if you want to be a winner at the end of matches against one of your biggest rivals.

Q. The Australian Open final, what recollections do you have of that amazing final now, and what do you draw from that? And also wanted to ask you about the one shot which Rafa mentioned in his press conference, that easy backhand he missed in the final of the fifth set, if you have any recollections of that moment, if you know what I mean.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s definitely the most exciting match I ever had in my career, you know. The longest for sure. You know, considering the fact that it was a final, it was just incredible historic match to be part of.

Obviously we both wanted to win and win the trophy, and in the end it had to be only one winner. But I thought we played an incredible match. And, yes, he did have his chances. Obviously that backhand that you mentioned, I think it was 3­2 or 4­2 up and 30­15.

But that’s what happens at this level: couple of points and couple of mistakes decide the winner. It’s going to be quite different on Sunday because this is a different surface. It’s different circumstances.

You know, he plays always his best here in Roland Garros, and so I expect to do that as well on Sunday. I know that I have to be consistently playing consistently well on very high level in order to win best­of­five against Nadal here.

It’s an ultimate challenge. But, you know, I believe that today was the best match of 2012 Roland Garros for me, so I’ve raised my game when I needed to. I played really well when it was the most important, so that’s something that gives me confidence obviously before the finals.

Q. In the previous rounds you came out of some very difficult situations in this Roland Garros, and today especially in the second set again you have had a very tough second set. What happens in those moments? Like it’s as if you’re becoming a master in crisis management. What happens? Your concentration is like getting to its peak? What happens?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s up and down. I think I would really want myself not to have the downs that I had in the beginning of the second set, you know, losing two times the serve.

But I regrouped, you know, mentally, and I came back. That’s really a positive, you know, especially when you come back from double break down. Against a player like Federer it is a success. You know, it is a great achievement.

But look, you know, I cannot allow myself to have that many ups and downs, especially the next match. You know, I know, I am aware of the intensity that I needed to play today and on Sunday, as well.

I’m not for the first time in that position. I have let’s say the experience playing semifinals and finals against these two guys so many times in the last five years. But never against Nadal in the finals here in Roland Garros, so it’s going to be a challenge.

Both of us want this title. We’ll see who will prevail.

Q. Can we have an answer in French for French radios, please? (In French.)

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I understand.

Q. (In French.) This is your most important match in your career. What is your mindset? How did you feel?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: (In French) Well, I’m happy with my game today. I think that today this was a very important moment for me. I played even better. It’s very important before I play against Nadal. It’s the first time I’m going to be with him in the finals here in Paris. I hope I’m going to play a good match again, and that the level I’ll play will be high.

That’s the best can I do at this moment.

Q. (In English.) The last three times you played Nadal in the Grand Slam final you came in with a winning streak against him, and this time it’s different. Do you feel like even though it’s on clay that the dynamic between you two has changed? And how?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he won the last two encounters we had on clay in finals in Monte­Carlo and Rome. Everything counts. I did have a little strange circumstances in Monte­Carlo. But look, you know, I’m not looking for excuse. He was a better player.

You know, things change at this level, as I said. You know, I didn’t expect to win every match till the end of our careers against him, even though I won what, six, seven in a row?

But I won against him on clay last year two times back to back in eight days, and that’s something that is back of my mind. That’s something that can give me confidence, you know, I can think of when I step on the court with him on Sunday.

But obviously it is different because now it’s best­of­five. He has lost what, two matches in his career here? So that’s ­­ or one? (Laughter.)

That says enough, I mean, about his quality on this court. I lost to him I think here I think maybe three times. I haven’t won a set against him in this court. You know, all the facts are on his side.

But, look, you know, I feel different nowadays. I believe I’m at the peak of my career. I’m playing the best tennis of my life in last year and a half, and I should use that, you know. I should use that as a confidence boostance [sic] and try to get my hands on title. Why not?

I have won against a great player today. First time I find myself on Sunday in Paris. Let’s see what I can do.

Q. Roger Federer said that Rafa was clearly the favorite for the final. Do you agree?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I just mentioned all the facts, so you can say that he’s a favorite, definitely.

It’s a final, so, again, I think it’s unpredictable what’s going to happen because we are top two players, and we have played so many times last year and a half in so many finals.

He is a favorite because of all the facts that we just mentioned. But I believe in myself. I think I have a chance.

Q. What’s the difference between, say, controlling a match and points on grass and hard courts against Rafa than it would be on clay, which you’ve done a very good job with obviously on the other surfaces?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, because here you get an extra ball back. It’s a slower conditions, which obviously suits him better. The ball bounces a bit higher for his topspin that he plays, you know, on this surface. It works at his advantage.

But between, you know, I think the conditions on the center court here in Roland Garros maybe comparing to other clay court events that we have, like Monte­Carlo or maybe Rome, I think they are a little bit faster.

So that can maybe work in my favor. But you can always expect him to play on a very high level, you know. He doesn’t have much flaws in his game on this surface, so I need to step on the court believing I can win.

I mean, that’s the only way really I am aware of the differences in the surface. But I’ll try to make ­­ to have a right mindset and believe.

Q. I don’t want to insist so much on Rafa being the favorite and so on, but I would like you to give us a number, like the final is 50/50, 60% for him…

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have to disappoint you. I’m really not good with numbers. I’m not good with percentages. (Smiling.)

Q. Can you just talk about the historical importance of this match? I mean, for both of you there is a lot on the line.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there’s a lot on the line. It always is when you’re playing finals of a Grand Slam.

Obviously, you know, considering the matches that we played against each other in last 15 months, you know, we expect another emotional match, another big challenge for both of us, fighting for one of the four biggest titles in our sport.

So there’s always that on the line. And of course the other side, for me personally, is that I have this golden opportunity to, you know, make history. This motivates me, you know. It really inspires me.

You know, I’m really grateful to be in this position, obviously. And look, you know, I’ll try to prepare for that match and get my hands on that trophy if I can.

Q. Can I ask you how much your grandfather is still in your thoughts? If you don’t mind me asking. How much of a motivation and inspiration kind of his memory is during this run?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he’s always in my thoughts, you know, in a very positive way.

You know, I overcome the sadness that I had, you know, in that period during Monte­Carlo tournament and afterwards. Life goes on, and remember good moments. Yeah, it was nice to see most of my family today there, even my cousins from Geneva. They all came. It was really nice to have my box full with the closest ones.

Q. Just go back to the motivation. You were talking about being motivated to make history. When Roger was beating you in finals and Rafa was beating you in semifinals, did you ever think, One day I could actually eclipse them and do something that they haven’t done, which hasn’t been done in our sport?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s very hard to find anything they haven’t done and achieved, you know, both of these guys. But if there is one thing they haven’t done and I can do, I would be very happy.

But I’m not thinking about that, you know. It’s not about really, you know, okay, prestige or whatever, being better than one person. I’m thinking about myself, my career, and just trying to win every match that I play on.

And obviously I had a lot of doubts, you know, in last couple of years if I can really overcome the big challenge of the two strongest players in our sport, most dominant players in our sport.

I’ve matured, you know. I got stronger over the years. You know, it’s because of them, as well, you know. They made me a better player. This is I think the beauty of today’s tennis in this moment, is that we make each other better players and better persons on and off the court.

So it’s, you know, it’s nice to see that.

Q. When you prepare for a very important match, either with your entourage or yourself, do you sometimes watch videos of another match you’ve done with this player and analyze the situation and say, I should have done this or I should have done that? Do you sometimes use video?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, sure. We do have a different ways of preparation. That’s one of the ways to prepare the strategy, yeah.

Q. Do you intend to do this for the final?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I will keep my own routine, yes. Yes.

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28 Comments for Novak Djokovic Presser: All The Numbers Are On Rafa’s Side, But I Believe In Myself, I Think I Have A Chance

Nina Says:

That’s the right attitude! As extraordinarily difficult as it will be, Nole has his chances and he knows he beat Rafa last year in straights twice. He just needs to play at that level again.

Nole Slam Says:

I love the attitude!!!! Win or loose it is the right attitude to have….. I hope he raises the level of play and gives RAFA challenge, because as tennis fans, we love a good game and what makes a good game is challenge… When it comes to clay/RG RAFA is in a league by itself…. Very hard to challenge him on clay in general, but especially in RG Center Court….. but you never know and as Nole said there is nothing wrong with believing that it can go, differently? In Nole I trust to make it a challenging match and may the best win…….. and I hope deep down in my heart that this time we will have a different winner….

“Dream big Nole! There is a chance that your dreams may come true!!!!!!……..

jane Says:

“The Serb is the fifth man in the professional era to reach four consecutive grand slam finals – following Nadal, Federer, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi.”

Well, he’s put himself in nice company!

I am so proud of his. And it’s true that he has a great attitude in this interview and shows his usual sense of humour.

Bonne Chance Nole!

sar Says:


I Like what he said here.

sar Says:

He is a favorite because of all the facts that we just mentioned. But I believe in myself. I think I have a chance.

I like what he said here

Dan Martin Says:

I have a poll up – I think Rafa is the favorite, but I also think this is the one thing Nole has been thinking about since the Australian Open ended. The prelude is over, and he does have a chance. Could be a classic. As for Roger, age is relentless and impacts nerves as much as legs (ask Serena).

madmax Says:

Hey Sar.

Good Luck to you, Jane, Duro and everyone!

Skorocel Says:

Will Nadal once again win the title without losing a set or not? That’s about the only question which remains to be answered on Sunday…

Atom Says:

@skorcel Mate some times over confidence can be fatal :)

Nole Slam Says:

I was thinking about Rome 2011!!!!! If Nole can play like that and sustain it for 4 sets…..

Oh well, it may just be a dream, but we are allowed to dream…….

skeezer Says:

Agree, great attitude here;

“But I believe in myself. I think I have a chance.”

You read it here first, if The match gets tight, look for Rafa to fall apart. This is a guy who has owned Rafa mentally. Novak is in Rafa’s head. He has to play patient an keep balls in play, Rafa will crack. If Rafa wins, it won’t be close. If Novak wins, the Rafa era is over.

A lot at stake here for Rafa.

Steve 27 Says:

If Novak wins, the Rafa era is over.
skeezer why so pessimistic? I now you are Federer fan, but what do you prefer: Nadal will reach his 11 major and close the gap to the swiss or Nole reach a sensational feet since 1969: the grand slam (certainlt non calendar grand slam) from rod Laver. Sampras, Federer (twice), Nadal failed and he we are, Nole has a chance. I choose obviously Rafa, but I expect two tough sets and then is over for Nole. This is my assumption. This is no harcourt This is clay. Nadal would cement his legacy here with Nole tying Borg and Laver with 11 majors, tying Sampras with 7 majors in a specif slam, prevent to Djokoic what he did in 2006 and 2007 with the Swiss grand slam, defeat him in the final after losing three consecutive finals. If he wins in straight sets or 5 sets, no matter, what matters is to overcome the difficulties, having learned from mistakes and to recapture his own to celebrate later. That is really important to know that this experience may be different from the others.

metan Says:

Congratulation to nole, you have a good attitude. That’s nice but rafa is my idol.

This time is his turn to bite the trophy, good luck rafa.

Lisa Says:

Congrets to Nole, he won that match fair and square…..Fed had his chances to get back….but blew it….

simba Says:

I love to see Nole wipe the smirk of Federer’s face after last year win, raising his finger like he was still No.1 or has won the tournament. Federer, your TIME is up; go home and coach your three girls. You can beat the TOP 2 any more, even if you were up two match points. Forget about winning another GS.

Kimberly Says:

Vegas is calling nadal in 3. Found that a little surprising.

Kimberly Says:

Skeezer, there is one difference between this and the other three slams, I don’t care what you say Rafa is a better clay court player than Djokovic. I thought it will be a close match because djokovic will refuse to lose with this being his opportuntiy to hold all four slams but Kaiser thinks based on the form rafa is in it will be anti climactic

conty Says:

Tend to agree with Kaiser about the anti climactic Rafa in 3 scenario, Kimberly.

But on the off chance, Nole really can come out strong, maybe he could take the first set, like Almagro almost did. Then Rafa would need to win the next three sets, because in a 5th set, I’m inclined to go with the Serb. I don’t know, that is just a feeling based on nothing but Nole’s wily abilities when thinking of a 5th set. But the anti-climactic Nadal 3 set win stands out more.

Steve 27 Says:

Yes Kimberly and better grass courter than Nole, but Nadal played by far his worst match of the tournament against Djokovic the last year in Wimbledon.
as federer’s fans say, “It’s in my head”.
Brave for Djoko, but RG and Wimbledon are for Nadal.
Us Open is certainly his best chance of winning another major to Nole. We have to wait IMO

conty Says:

Okay, the seemingly obvious outcome, based on how each has played through clay season, is Rafa for the win; also add in the pressure on Nole, and it feels and looks like a 3 set anti-climactic affair.

But in a multiverse or parallel universe, there are more than one outcomes in these situations. If Djokovic can somehow shed the pressure and tap into something, or who knows, perhaps the usually rock solid Nadal mind wanders at some point. I can see the crowd getting behind Nole; something Rafa will be expecting, but Nole could respond to it, in a way that is surprising. Maybe. I have an imagination.

My dollar would be on Nadal in three but there could be a different outcome, beating the odds.

Swiss Maestro Says:

rafa and nole have played 4 best of 5 matches on clay. nole won 0 sets in those matches. it would be a monumental achievement if nole wins his 1st set in a best of 5 clay match against rafa.

i like how people try to delude themselves every year that someone else will win FO and rafa promptly wins it everytime. nole has used up all his luck at the australian open. rafa will win in 3.

Wog boy Says:

There is one thing that gives me hope and that is:

Nadal cannot play much better than he is doing now, no?
Nole can play only better than he was playing until now, no?

I am happy with him making final for the first time at FO. Nadal stoped twice Federer from making it four in the row, maybe Nole will be third time lucky, win or lose he did it one better this year at FO. I do not agree there is mor pressure on Nole, they are both under big pressure for different reasons.

Michael Says:

It is difficult to gauge the level of Novak based on this match against Roger where the latter played a very poor match in my opinion shanking shots at will. But, if Novak has to have any chance, he has to reproduce his 2011 form. That is easier said than done. On the other side, Nadal too had it very easy because Ferrer displayed one of the most lacklustre display in my opinion. He is a good Clay court player and I expected more. However, Nadal did play well, but Ferrer could have atleast given a fight if he had played to his potential. He did not and lost.

Michael Says:

I like the positive attitude of Novak. When players like Ferrer give up even before the match against Nadal, he is sounding confident. That is the first thing you need against Nadal in Clay. The mental will to conquer which Novak has. He can ofcourse win and create history but that will require a monumental effort on the Super Sunday with the way Nadal is playing. Well it may be that Nadal peaked too early and his form might dip in the final. If it does, then Novak has real chance in my opinion if he plays well.

WTF Says:

Can someone tell me how he overcame asthma?

I know he used to have problems with fitness and getting tired during matches especially in high heat and humidity. He supposedly fixed that with his gluten free diet and a better fitness training regimen.

But how did he fix the asthma problem that made it difficult for him to breathe?

Mark Says:

@WTF. It’s all in the EGG man. Apparently media and journos are not allowed to talk about it. I wonder why!!

jatt Says:

It seems that the FO final is going to move to Monday based on rain forecast on Sunday.

skeezer Says:


Probably the same secret method that fixed Rafa’s chronic knee issues, eh? Hehe…

Look be thankful we have 2 healthy fantastic athletes in the final of the FO. Debating injuries or past health issues at the moment is fruitless. No excuses please.

Hope they put on good show( please guys under 3 hours ! )

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