Following a somewhat surprisingly routine 61, 46, 61, 64 win over Tomas Berdych Tuesday night in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic was promptly peppered with questions from the press on just how he was able to recover so well from his marathon win over Stan Wawrinka Sunday night.
Many other players suffered after playing lengthy matches during the tournament. Gilles Simon admitted he was far less than 100% after his win over Gael Monfils. Blaz Kavcic, who nearly went five hours in a win over James Duckworth, hardly put up a fight in his next match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
But like he did last year after he edged Andy Murray in five sets then won that incredible six hour epic over Rafael Nadal in the final, Djokovic appeared to show no ill effects from the Wawrinka match.
So the press asked Djokovic how he can recover so well when other players cannot. Here’s the exchange:
Q. Tomas just said he thinks you’re the fittest player on the tour at the moment. Do you feel like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s flattering to hear that, definitely from Tomas.
Well, you know, I consider myself fit. I have a great team of people around me that are doing the best they can in their expertise to make me feel ready for physically, mentally, emotionally, every match, every challenge.
Obviously, it’s not easy to always be at your 100% fitness. But after a five hour match two days ago against Stan, I was quite convinced I could recover for this one.
The team did a great job.
Q. Gilles Simon played four hours and could barely move against Andy.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It all depends, of course, from the player and their respected routines that they do after the matches. We have certain kind of things that we do. It has been working in the past. It worked well this time also.
Q. What is that routine?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I can’t say that. Sorry. Have to keep it private.
Q. Do you know what other people do?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I know some. But most of the top players are keeping it private, and I think that’s the way it should be.
Q. Do you feel you do more recovery than other players do?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, I mean, I don’t know what they do so I can’t really compare myself to them. I just try to respect the same kind of program of preparations and post match recoveries that has been respected from our team in last few years and has been working well for us.
Q. You can’t go into specifics, but has there been a bit of trial and error in how you have come up with the routine?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Even though it’s individual sport, the importance of a team effort is essential in this case. Definitely in the situations where you play a Grand Slam where you have to be ready for five hour matches, and then of course if you go through those matches you have to be ready to recover in just a day and a half time.
As I said, it worked before. We use that necessary experience to implement in this particular situation, and it worked again.
Q. In the early part of your career you had a reputation for pulling out of matches because of injury. In retrospect, were we unfair to you or was there a point where you felt you had to be fitter?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: At the start of my career I went through a lot of different kinds of challenges physically, mentally. Everybody makes mistakes. I was aware of the fact that I need to improve because I wasn’t feeling well, especially in the heat. I had lots of health issues.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m being so cautious and so committed when recovery is in matter because I’ve had those experiences, bad experiences, before in my career and I know what it feels like.
I don’t want to go through it again. I am aware of the importance of an everyday practice and recovery basis. So as long as it’s like that I think I’ll be all right.
Q. As a sportsfan, could you understand how it could be surprising for people to see?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You can go through different kinds of discussions about these things. I mean, the people who don’t know tennis, who have never been in those kinds of situations would not truly understand what the player has to go through, not just when you prepare for a Grand Slam, but also during a Grand Slam. After five hours of match, you need to really put a lot of time into recovery, different kind of recoveries.
As I said, I understand that many people have many different views and opinions, and I respect that. But I’m doing everything that is legal, that is correct, that is natural that I can, possibly can in my power, and it’s working well.
Q. If you had not gone gluten free do you think you’d be able to do what you’re doing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, in the past few years people have been mentioning the gluten free diet as a secret of my fitness and the success that I’ve had. It’s just a part of it. I have so many different things that came together I believe for me and I understood what I need to do, together with my team, from being professional on the court, off the court, maturing, mentally, emotionally, having the right diet. So many things. It’s just a part of the puzzle.
Last week, Djokovic addressed the anti-doping program in tennis. A program he fully supports.
“From my perspective, it’s really good,” he said about the program. “Anti doping regulations a little bit maybe more strict in sense that you have to fill the whereabouts documents and you have to basically give an hour or two in every day of your life in a whole year, where you are. But on the other hand, it gives them an opportunity to test you. And you know it is the same for the other players. At least from that point of view it’s fair. And I have nothing against, you know, the anti doping federation, association, testing me 10, 20, 30 times a year.
And he has no qualms with the blood testing. “As I said, I mean, as long as it’s fair, it’s clean, we’re trying to protect the identity of this sport. I believe tennis players are one of the most cleanest athletes in the world and one of the most competitive sports. So as long as we keep it that way, I have no complaints about testing. So as long as we keep it that way, I have no complaints about testing.”
Next for Djokovic is a rematch with David Ferrer. Djokovic beat Ferrer a year ago in the quarterfinals in Melbourne.
The win also send Novak into his 11th straight Grand Slam semifinal and it guarantees him of the No. 1 ranking after the tournament.
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