Novak Djokovic: That Forehand I Hit Against Federer Here Brings Me The Nicest Memories
Q. The sports press is saying that you got the perfect draw in the US Open; that you don’t have to face potentially Roger Federer or Andy Murray until the final. Do you think you got the perfect draw?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t think there is a perfect draw, to be honest with you. The draw is something that you cannot affect. It’s a question of luck, obviously. You know, there are 128 players here who have plenty of motivation to perform their best in the Grand Slam, the last major of the year, so I’m sure that they want to cause some upsets in the opening round. I’m truly taking one step at a time. You know, I had good and bad draws in the past, but as I said, it’s something I cannot affect, so I’m not calculating or predicting anything. I’m just trying to focus on my game, which is the most important thing.
Q. Early round upsets haven’t happened to the big four for a long time until Wimbledon this year when Rosol beat Nadal in the second round. Do you think that gave guys outside the top 20 or so a lot more belief they can actually get one of you four guys in the early rounds? Do you think it will change things in this tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: For sure. I mean, that upset from Lukas Rosol in Wimbledon against Nadal. And plenty more examples from a bit lowerranked players winning against the top players of the world proves tennis has improved, tennis is a very competitive sport. Everybody’s working very hard. I’m sure you all know that. You know, just the difference I guess between the top players and the rest is that ability to understand the pressure and accept the challenge and know what to play in the right moments. But other than that, there is not much difference. They’re fantastic players nowadays on the tour who can play equally well as the top guys.
Q. Do you think there has been some belief flattening in the rest of the ATP field?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Belief in what sense?
Q. That they could actually beat one of the top four guys.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think there are many players that can, especially the ones who are top 20. But you had an example, and you just said about it. Rosol beat Nadal. It was back in Wimbledon and was maybe 90, 100 in the world. On a given day, everything goes your way. Obviously when you’re playing bestoffive and playing in the Grand Slams it’s more difficult because you have to play consistently well throughout the whole match. But it can happen. I mean, anything is possible.
Q. You have this aura of great energy around you. The US Open has this tremendous energy. Can a tournament like this, do you think it brings the best in you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think so. I feel this energy, and I love playing in this tournament; last five years I have had lots of success. Twice I played finals, semifinals, and won eventually the title in 2011, which was, you know, the third major of the year. It’s incredible and very unique feeling to come back to New York as defending champion. It’s one of the most exciting cities in the world. So you definitely can feel that. You know, especially the night matches that you play as a player here and in front of the packed stadium. It’s a lot of entertainment, a lot of fun. Interactions with people, with fans, they get into every point, they play with you, so it’s quite different from all the other tournaments. Every Grand Slam obviously has something unique to offer.
Q. I believe your youth coach was quoted as saying there are issues you’re dealing with that you’re not speaking about. Can you give your reaction to what your coach said, former coach?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, Jelena is one of the first coaches. I mean, she taught me all the basic stuff about tennis. She helped me a lot in my life. She knows me well. We haven’t seen each other so often in the last five, six years. We are still in touch. It was great feeling to share our dream. I can say “ours” because it was her dream also to win a Wimbledon trophy and to be out there with her. Everybody has an opinion. I’m sure she didn’t mean any harm, and everybody can observe the situation around me, around, you know, a regular person on different kind of ways. I’m not gonna say anything about that, you know, because everybody has problems. I’m sure that you all agree. You know, my problems are much smaller than an average person’s problems. I cannot complain about my life.
Q. How would you describe your mindset right now and the level of your game? Do you feel the season has been emotionally draining?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s been a long season and a long summer, but my year has been really good. You know, it’s hard to compare obviously with 2011, even though I have got that question asked many times this year. You know, what has changed from 2011. But I actually try to always look from a positive side. I do feel physically stronger and very prepared than I did last year. Mentally I had some ups and downs throughout the season, but I think that was maybe expected in a way. It’s normal to have ups and downs. I mean, it’s really hard to expect that I can go, you know, five, six months every year without losing a match, so, I mean on this level. But as I said, I feel good. You know, I had exhausting fourandahalf weeks and also successful. I was very glad that I had a very successful Toronto and Cincinnati tournament. Coming into US Open, it was very important for me to get into some hard court matches. Hard court is my most preferred surface, so I really look forward to the start of this major.
Q. What appreciation do you have for the way Serena Williams has been dominating on the women’s side? In your estimation, what kind of statement is she making about her place in the history of the game?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s incredible. I mean, nobody knows where she’s going to stop and she keeps on going and keeps dominating and winning most of her matches. The big events, that’s what she aims for. Right now maybe she’s going to answer better, but I guess physically now at this stage of her career she cannot maybe travel full time on the tour and play all the tournaments, but she always is always performing her best in the majors. She won singlesdoubles Wimbledon and also Olympic Games. You know, she’s fantastic. I mean, a great role model for many kids who want to start playing tennis.
Q. What goes through your mind when you watch her play?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m happy I’m in men’s tennis, you know. (Laughter.) Not needing to face her.
Q. On the men’s side there has not been too much U.S. in the US Open in the last decade. Is that a concern for the industry? There has been an absence of American men’s tennis here. Andy Roddick was probably the last favorite, but is it a concern of the industry?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: USA is a huge country, one of the most influential countries in the world, and I’m sure that tennis tradition is something that is nurtured over the years. Andy Roddick is the last Grand Slam winner and No. 1 of the world and comes from America, but I’m sure that the new wave of success in tennis, men’s tennis, for United States is coming, because, you know, it’s just impossible not to expect to not have any success from a system like this, having obviously USTA, organization that invests a lot in the young talents. I’m sure that they are coming up. I mean, it’s normal to have, as I said, ups and downs in the life.
Q. When you think back about that forehand on match point against Federer, a year later, what do you think about that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It brings me the nicest memories, that’s for sure. That point, you know, saved me from losing the semifinals and giving me the opportunity to win the title. I have done it. I mean, this is another example that on this highest level in men’s tennis, few maybe one point, one shot can decide a winner. Yeah, it was a great shot, and, you know, it’s something that I will remember forever.
Q. Does it feel strange to be at a slam and not have Rafa around?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is strange because he hasn’t missed a slam for a long time. I think neither of us top four have really missed a slam for a long time, which can only work in favor of the sport. I think that’s why it’s one of the reasons why we are experiencing a great era of men’s tennis, because all the top players are really committed in their performing and all the top events and, you know, reaching the final stages of those events. So Rafa is a great competitor and somebody I know really well on and off the court. I’m sure that there is something serious going on, you know, because otherwise he would come here and play. So I know it’s in a way a loss for the tournament and, you know, for tennis itself, because he’s greatly appreciated, successful, and very popular athlete around the world. But, you know, I wish him a speedy recovery, obviously.
Q. What does Kim Clijsters mean to tennis? What are your thoughts on her retiring after this major?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: She’s retiring after US Open? Okay. I mean, another great. I mean, great, very successful player. She won three times US Open, if I’m not mistaken. She comes from a country that also has a long successful tennis tradition. Her and Justine Henin obviously driving Belgium into the top of the tennis world. She’s gonna be missed. That’s for sure. She’s very popular around here, especially in states where she had a lot of success. Hopefully she can make a great last US Open.
Q. When you first emerged and got to the top of the game, there were Serbian women along with you making the rise. Now Jankovic is out of the top 30 and Ivanovic hasn’t made a Grand Slam quarterfinal since she won the French Open. What do you think each of them needs to do to get back to where they were?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the bottom line is this is a mental game in the end. As I said before, everybody’s practicing really hard, both men’s and women’s, and, you know, the tennis world has changed so much, I mean, since I have started playing professionally. It’s much more professional, much more challenging for all the players to be at the top and to win Grand Slams. There’s a lot of competition out there, so I think in the end mentally they need to overcome, you know, the pressure, the issues, and start believing on the court that they can actually do it. Because Jankovic was No. 1 of the world. Ivanovic, too; she won a Grand Slam. That means they have the quality and ability to do so. I sincerely hope they will again.
Q. I have to bring up the unfortunate subject due to ongoing stories of the last couple of days. Not just only the Lance Armstrong story, but for example a journalist accused Derek Jeter on a live TV show. A lot of issue and rumor in last couple of weeks, months, doping, drugs. I think the world is waiting for an answer. Is sport in crisis? You are an excellent ambassador of the sport. What is your reaction of this? Is sport in crisis, and what is your personal opinion about these things?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, obviously when I heard that story and many others I’m disappointed, as an athlete, you know, because I know how much it takes to get to where we are and on the top of our own sport, how much sacrifice, commitment, hard work. So, you know, I’m not really trying to make, you know, statement here of whose fault is it or not. I leave that to authorities and obviously the authorized organizations to claim who’s positive or not. In the end we are all seeking to have pure sport, you know, in every sense of that word. I’m happy that in tennis we do not have that many cases, and we are trying to keep that going, you know, to keep tradition and to protect the integrity of the sport. Obviously that’s something that sends a strong message about our sport also to young kids that you mentioned, because they look up for heros and they look for role models that are going to motivate them to become professionals.
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