For the third time in four years Novak Djokovic came up short in the US Open final. Tonight in a four-set thriller Djokovic was denied by rival Rafael Nadal 62, 36, 64, 61 as the Spaniard won his 13th career Grand Slam.
After dropping the first set Djokovic regained his footing in the second then held a break lead in the third before stumbling. Nadal went on to win 12 of the last 15 games.
Djokovic addressed the press afterward:
Q. I can’t remember seeing a player play as well as you did in the third set and yet not win the set. How hard was that to take?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it was disappointing that I dropped the third set, even though I felt like especially in first four, five games I was the one who was, you know, dictating the play. But it’s all my fault, you know. I made some unforced errors in the crucial moments with forehands and dropped the serve twice when I should not have. You know, next thing you know, all of a sudden it’s two sets to one for him. Then he started playing much, much better after that, and, you know, I obviously could not recover after that loss.
Q. How disappointing is that loss?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is. It’s US Open final, and Grand Slam finals are I mean, in the end of the day I have to be satisfied with the final, even though I would have loved to win this match tonight. But it was obvious that in the important moments he played better tennis, and that’s why he deserved to win. I congratulate him, and I move on.
Q. The three break points you had at 4-all, was it just hard kind of mentally and emotionally to get past that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, it’s like it was a momentum change out there from Love 40, 4 All third set, he started playing really good. He served well few points. I didn’t do anything I felt wrong in these few points. He didn’t make a mistake. He served well. He came to the net. As I said, you know, all the credit to him. I had my momentum from midway second set to end of the third where I was supposed to, you know, use and realize the opportunities that were presented to me, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t deserve to win in the end.
Q. Obviously you’re disappointed in losing. Just wonder if you could appreciate the high level of tennis that was played out there. Obviously the fans loved it. Just some great shots. Can you grasp that, or is the loss too much right now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I just right now I just came from the court, so it’s of course I do appreciate the occasion playing against Nadal in the finals of one of the best tournaments and most important tournaments in the world. So I’m aware of that. But obviously I just feel disappointed for losing. It’s all sport. You know, tomorrow is a new day.
Q. Is it right to think you may be missing just a little bit of confidence?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. I mean, I was playing well throughout the whole two weeks, and I can be happy because it was different from the hard court tournaments prior to US Open. I felt more mentally present and was going for my shots, so at least that’s a positive that I can take from this tournament.
Q. You just came off the court, as you said. You won six slams yourself. When you think about 13 for Rafa, can you kind of give me an assessment of what you feel like that stands for in the history of the game and maybe appreciation as an opponent?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, 13 Grand Slams for a guy who is 27 years old is incredible. I mean, whatever he achieved so far in his career is something that everybody should respect, no question about it. I mean, I was saying before, he’s definitely one of the best tennis players ever to play the game, I mean, looking at his achievements and his age, at this moment, you know. He still has a lot of years to play, so that’s all I can say.
Q. We could all see how physically demanding this match was for both of you. But could you describe the mental challenge of staying focused and staying positive against a player like Nadal and in a match with so many swings of momentum?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Difficult conditions. Obviously there was one side where you had wind in the back and it was easier to play. But still, it was the same for both me and my opponent today. It’s a physical match, and we both knew coming into this final that we are gonna have to be fresh and ready to play long rallies. On the other hand, it’s finals of a Grand Slam, so I think just that fact tells you enough of how mental this match is in the end of the day, you know, because it’s a huge challenge but also motivation for both me and him.
Q. Did you feel focused from the first ball today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was trying to. I mean, I wasn’t playing at a top of the level that I know how to play throughout the whole match, because credit to my opponent, he was making me run. You know, I had my ups and downs, but this is all sport. It’s something that is expected, you know, because it’s a huge occasion. There is a lot of tension, a lot of expectations, and it’s normal to have ups and downs. But, you know, you use this as experience. You know, it’s another match, another tournament for me, and hopefully I can take the best out of it.
Q. Rafa was asked after the semifinal if he looked forward to the prospect of facing you in the final, and he said no. He elaborated, frankly, I wish I would play a player who would be easier. He said, let’s be honest. Do you feel the same way when you are presented with that opportunity to play him on that stage, or do you feel this is an opportunity to play one of the best players of all time at the height of his game and see where it takes you in your game?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It is a challenge you have to accept, like it or not. That’s my view. I mean, I try always to take one match at a time with that positive kind of mindset, you know, keep myself in the present moment, and, you know, of course I follow all the top players, how they do throughout the tournament. But, you know, my main focus is on my next opponent. That’s what I prepare for. It was likely that I’m going to play him in the finals because he was a favorite in the opposite side of the draw. But still you never know. It’s a Grand Slam. All the players, not just me and him, are very much motivated and inspired to play their best here. In the end of the day, we played against each other, and, you know, the better player won. That’s all it is.
Q. Could you tell me about just the experience, incredibly long rallies in the second set, and if you have memories of it in relation to other points in your career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, I played especially against Rafa on different surfaces and different occasions points like this where you just feel that there is the last drop of energy that you need to use in order to win the point. Sometimes I was winning those points; sometimes him. It’s what we do when we play against each other, always pushing each other to the limit. That’s the beauty of our matches and our rivalry, I guess, in the end.
Q. If you look back at your Grand Slam season, what is the dominating feeling?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I wish I won at least one title more, considering the fact I played two finals. All the matches I lost, even the French Open. I had that match. I lost it again in semis. Overall, it was again very successful Grand Slam year for me. That’s something that I always try to have in the back of my mind, you know, to set my own shape for the biggest ones, for major tournaments. That’s where I want to play my best in. As I said, I wish there was another title, but it is what it is.
Q. Three years ago you sit here and you lost last time against Nadal Grand Slam on a hard court. I will cite your words. This was so frustrating a little bit. He’s getting better each time you play him. He’s mentally so strong and dedicated to the sport. After you achieved one of the amazing year in the tennis history, you move to No. 1. How do you think this time you can turn around again this frustration to extra motivation for next year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have to (smiling). It’s part of my life. I mean, many times you fall as an athlete, and, you know, you have to learn the lesson and keep on going, keep on fighting, keep on improving. That’s what we are here for. I’m still 26, and I believe best time for my career is about to come. I feel that. I believe that. As long as I believe it, the fire of the love towards the game is inside of me. And as long as that’s present, as long as I feel it, I’m going to play this sport with all my heart, as I did in last 10 years.
Q. Could you say anything at all about the No. 1 ranking, which is going to be pretty difficult, number of points you’re defending and the number of points isn’t.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What can I say? He won so much this year. I’m still No. 1 of the world in the rankings, but year to year he’s far, far ahead, and he has much more chances to end up as No. 1. Look, you know, there is still tournaments to go. So we’ll see. I just try to prepare myself for China.
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