Playing in his first French Open final and facing the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic did amirably well in a four-set in a 64, 63, 26, 75 loss this morning.
Djokovic had won 27 straight Grand Slam matches to reach his first final and Paris and at stake for the Serb was the historic “Djoker Slam”. Nadal, who also denied Roger Federer a similar feat, was too strong in the end breaking Djokovic’s serve twice today.
Djokovic will gain ranking points from last year when he reached the semifinals. He is not entered at any Wimbledon grass warm-up events. He will defending his Wimbledon title two weeks from today when he opens first round play.
Here’s Novak after the match:
Q. I guess of course you’re disappointed. What maybe are you regretting the most about this final in two days? How have you lived with this tension?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, this has been a strange final with delays and conditions and two days’ length of match. I’m just happy to be in this position, you know, to be playing finals at Roland Garros.
I could easily have lost the match in fourth round or even more against Tsonga, but I managed to come to the finals for the first time in my career. I should be happy about that, of course. I will be and I am, but in this moment I am disappointed about this loss because I thought I started to play better in the third set and felt like I could take this match to a fifth set, and then, you know, everything could be possible, but, yeah, unfortunately there has been a rain delay yesterday when I started to feel really good on the court.
But look, you know, I don’t want to find an excuse in that, because the first rain delay maybe helped me a little bit; the second helped him.
So that’s the way it goes, and the better player won today. So congratulations for that.
Q. Just to take you back to last night, did you think that the conditions, when you went off, were any worse than the conditions when you actually resumed?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, they were really bad, the conditions yesterday, because it was raining for a while, but, you know, going back now, it’s really hard to say and to put a you know, there are decision makers, and there are people who know what is good for players and what is not good for players.
Of course we were all communicating in the locker rooms with the ITF and ATP officials and tournament organizers in order to come up with the best decision, and I was ready to continue on and play last night. I thought around 8:00 the rain stopped, but they decided to stop because the weather conditions were not good and the court was not in a good condition.
So I was okay with that. You know, I am not putting a blame on anybody. No, no, look, you know, I’m not going back and saying, Okay, it’s your fault, your fault, because I lost.
It’s unfortunate, because I think I was playing better and I was feeling really well on the court. Today he started off really strong. I started a bit slower. It was a little bit unfortunate in that first game, and things turned around.
Q. Regardless of the outcome, what could you say about the quality of tennis you played the last two days? Is it probably some of the best you played this tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Oh, for sure, you know. First two sets I was serving really bad, and I think I allowed him to put a lot of pressure on my serves and made a lot of breaks.
After that, I started serving better and I was in the court, and, you know, I was playing really aggressive. Finally I felt, you know, great on the court.
You know, we almost played four hours. I thought we played a fantastic match where people hopefully enjoyed yesterday and today, and I was even surprised with the number of people who attended this match today. It was a working day, but it was still a full stadium.
It’s beautiful, you know. These matches make you feel like all the work that you put into it is worth you know, you’re living for this moment to play finals of any Grand Slam, and sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.
I lost this time. But I believe that there are still many years to come, and hopefully I can come back stronger.
Q. You have been chasing the dream of the Novak Slam, and I know that you said that it’s been in your mind but not in the front of your mind all year. Do you think that the disappointment that’s now gone for a little while will affect you now for the next few days?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Disappointment is there because I lost the match. You know, I lost the finals. Yes, there was obviously opportunity to make a history, as well.
But it was not a primary thought in my mind, so right now I am still under impression of the match, so I have now a week off. Then I’m going to go to practice on grass before Wimbledon.
Q. I have two questions. First one is you played much better always in this tournament in like the second half of the match against Seppi, Tsonga and even the final. So starting from zero today, how long did you make your warmup before, and was it a problem for you, the fact that the second half was that now the beginning of the match? And the second question is do you think that you won the hearts of the French crowd with this final more than ever?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I understood the first question, you are questioning my warmup, if it’s good enough or…
Q. You always play better…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I understand what you’re saying. You are saying that I’m not warming up well? I warm up very long, trust me. I’m warming up very long, and we are taking care of the routine that I have, so maybe it happened now, but usually I am always aware and ready for the start of the match, okay.
Maybe it happened that a couple of matches I started worse than I’ve played in the second part, but okay, you know, I cannot get into the details now.
But regarding the French crowd, I hope I did, you know. I thought I had lots of support, and I’m very thankful for that. You know, in these matches, when you’re playing top player, somebody that is recognized all over the world, you know, a true champion, Nadal and Federer and all these guys have so much fans and so much support, and to be able to have, when I play against them, this much support, is really something, you know. I appreciate that.
Q. I know it’s very early to look back on stuff, but it’s the only chance we’ve got to ask you. How much of a factor going through this tournament was the four Grand Slams in a row, and did that affect you moving through the rounds?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It didn’t. It really didn’t. I mean, I was excited about this opportunity. Nothing more than that, really.
Q. Were you at all distracted by what appeared to be a noise from the crowd before that last serve?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There was a lot of noises between the serves throughout the whole match, so I can’t really no, I wasn’t.
Q. What can you say about Rafa? Still you feel like the best clay court player in the history of tennis? Do you recognize him like still is big, big rivalry between him and you in the coming years?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he’s definitely best player in history, I mean, on this surface, and results are showing that he’s one of the best ever players that played this game. I mean, he’s only 26 years old.
We are very young, and we played over 30 times against each other, and hopefully we can have many more battles in the next years.
Q. This is obviously the fourth Grand Slam that you have played against him in the final. Do you think it’s good for tennis that you two are so dominant at the biggest tournaments?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think so. I believe so. I mean, obviously Federer and Nadal have still, I think, the biggest rivalry in the sport, I mean, because they have been at the top for so many years, they have been so dominant. I mean, I just joined that rivalry, I think, you know, just recently, couple years ago.
You know, I think the sport is experiencing some really good times now. We’re attracting a lot of attention to men’s tennis because we have, you know, these two great players, and Murray, myself, and we really have some great players, some charismatic players, a lot of personalities. This is good for tennis.
Q. This season on clay, Nadal was the most consistent player while you were less consistent than him. Do you think the final reflected the season on clay? If you could look back on the clay court season, is there anything you would change?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don’t think I was not consistent enough. I mean, I was less consistent than him, if you want to say that. Yeah, I played three finals. He has won three finals against me. It’s tough to be more consistent than that, you know, on this surface.
Okay. Last year I lost only one match on clay, French Open semifinals. But look, you know, things happen for a reason, you know. As I said, I could have lost in this tournament earlier. I managed to get to the finals for the first time, so I wouldn’t change anything, you know. I don’t like going back and saying, Okay, maybe this could have gone better.
Everything in life is a lesson, and that’s the way it goes. I hope I can come out stronger and better from this experience.
Q. How difficult is it to win eight games in a row against Nadal on clay?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Very difficult. Very difficult.
His on-court speech:
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