Novak Djokovic is back in the Wimbledon final for a third time. The Serb outlasted a feisty Grigor Dimitrov in four sets yesterday to reach his 14th career Grand Slam final.
Djokovic, though, hasn’t won a Slam since the 2013 Australian Open, losing all three finals since. In the final he’ll meet Roger Federer who he has never beaten on grass (0-1) and never beaten in a Grand Slam final (0-1).
Novak, who will return to No. 1 with a title, talked to the press about the final.
Q. What do you think of facing Roger Federer here in a final, knowing that in all of your matches all through these years you’ve only faced him once on grass here two years ago?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, we only played once. It was a four-set win for him in semis of Wimbledon, so it’s a good chance for me to, you know, try to win against him on his favorite surface, on his favorite court.
This is where he has the most success in his career, winning many titles. He’s been looking very good throughout the whole tournament, very dominant with his matches. You know, I’m sure that he wants to win this title as much as I do.
Q. What’s the key?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we know each other’s games. We played many matches on different occasions. As you said, only once on grass court, but we played so many times in semifinals and finals of Grand Slams, different surfaces, big matches over the years. They were very exciting.
And, of course, most of the matches we play against each other went the distance. So I’m going to be, of course, physically ready and fit to go the distance this time. Of course, there is plenty of motivation from my side to win this Grand Slam final after losing last three out of four.
Of course, I want to try to, you know, get the title. It would mean a lot mentally for me. The key against him in the game, of course, is trying to not allow him to dictate too much because he likes to be very aggressive, he likes to come to the net.
I’m going to have to be able to get as many returns back in the court and try to also stay closer to the line, protect the baseline.
Q. You seemed to be slipping a fair bit today, as did Grigor. Are the courts more slippery at the back of the court? Wrong shoes, or what?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I feel like they’re a little bit more than last year. But maybe it’s because of the fact that we had some very warm days last five, six days or so.
Also, you know, if you sweat in your feet the shoes get wet, and that can also influence the sliding and slipping on the court.
That’s why I always take the extra shoes, and it helped.
Q. Were your occasional looks to your box triggered by frustration of the slipping or by the fact that he was hitting some incredible shots, just driving you crazy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, you’re going through different emotions during the match. Of course, at certain stage of the match I was frustrated because I, again, allowed my opponent to come back to the match. I was a set and a break up and, again, made some unforced errors and gave my opponent today a hope that he can win the match.
That’s something that I definitely cannot allow myself in the finals against Roger. They have a similar game, so it was, of course, good to play today a longer match and to understand also the way I need to prepare for Roger.
That’s it, you know. I have been going through some tough matches during this tournament. But there is a reason, of course, for me going through these experiences and fighting through it. I’m going to try to use that experience in a positive way and encourage myself to get a title.
Q. Can you remember exactly how many times you did have to change your shoes today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Once.
Q. Your matches throughout this Wimbledon, they sort of had a pattern. You start well and then hit a tricky period. It happened again today. Is there a reason for that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, there is a reason for that obviously. But, again, I’m working on it. I identified the problem. I know what’s going on. Sometimes it just happens. It happens not just because you play a bad game but sometimes your opponent plays well.
It’s important to, even though if you lose a set or two sets, you know, be able to bounce back and recover from that. I’ve done that, and that’s a positive that I’m taking from these matches.
Q. The more that you get into the last couple rounds of a slam year after year after year throughout your career as you get older, does that get more stressful or is it a little bit different type of stress when you were younger and doing it the first couple times?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s difficult to say because you always have these expectations and pressure. Of course, as a top player the last five, six, seven years, I’ve been facing these particular situations.
And stress, you know, comes from different factors obviously. But, again, pressure is part of what we do, it’s part of our lives and our sport, and you have to deal with it.
It’s exactly the same for you and your opponent. You know, you’re one and one. That’s what makes this sport so unique. It’s a fight on the court. It’s a team sport behind the stages as well because the team makes sure you’re at the best. But when you’re on the court, nobody can help you. You have to execute all the shots by yourself.
With the experience in some way you learn how to cope with the pressure in those moments and you understand better the particular phase that you’re in during the tournament.
But, again, it’s different, because when you are younger sometimes you’re careless and you go on the court and play the tennis without really thinking too much.
When you get older, you start to think a little bit more.
Q. A year and a half ago or so you had the big win in Melbourne. You’ve had this run deep into slam after slam. Many players might say that that’s great, but talk about your feelings about being close so many times but not quite getting there? Is it frustrating?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course it is. I mean, losing three out of four last Grand Slam finals, it cannot be satisfying. Of course. I don’t want to sound like I’m not appreciating to play finals of Grand Slam. It’s already a huge result. We cannot take that for granted.
But, again, I know that I can win the title. I should have won few matches that I lost in finals of Grand Slams in last couple years.
But it’s an experience. It’s a learning process. It’s understanding, identifying where the problem is, you know, pushing for it, working on it. It’s mental in the end of the day. You have to be able to be in the top of your game, mentally fresh and motivated, calm and composed.
Things have to come together for you to win a Grand Slam. That’s why not so many players throughout the history have done that. So I appreciate all the results and respect all the opponents, Federer for example, for winning so many Grand Slams. It’s a remarkable achievement.
So I understand, you know, what you have to go through as a player in order to win a Grand Slam.
It’s a big task. In the end of the day that’s what you work for. Day in and day out, you are out there on practice courts and you’re dreaming big to win Grand Slams. This is your inspiration.
Q. You said you might have won a couple of them. Which ones?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. I don’t want to talk now about that.
Q. On a similar subject, do you just not think about those finals, or do you try and learn from them going on?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course I try to learn from those. Those are the big matches. I’m not by myself. I have the team of people around me that are experts in their own fields. They try to all help me out and analyze my game, as well as my mental approach and state in which I am.
So we will try to understand, you know, what I did wrong in French Open final from a mental perspective, and to make it better in two days.
Q. My question is fairly similar. You said something interesting. You said it would mean a lot to you mentally to win the title here. Is that because post 2011 when you were the man to beat and three out of four slams you won, you dipped by your very own high standards? Is that what you mean when you say mentally?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, I always had a high expectations for myself. You’re right, in a way. I set up high standards for myself, and ambition when I start a season is to, of course, win as many majors as possible.
I don’t downgrade any tournament really. I always try to give my maximum.
But we all know that Grand Slams are the four biggest events we have in this sport. This is where I want to win the title. Not winning a title, but being in several finals since, you know, two years or three years, this is something that I want to undo. I want to try to have a fresh start and have a title.
From that perspective, it definitely can help.
Q. Is it weighing on your mind that it’s ten slams and two titles, both at the Australian?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think I already answered the question.
But, you know, it can give me only motivation. I’m somebody that likes to overanalyze everything that I do well, that I do wrong. This is kind of an approach that I had from a very early childhood growing up as a tennis player. That’s something that brought me here.
So I want to always get better and improve. Hopefully I can get the title in two days and start a new nice series of winning Grand Slam titles.
Q. Your rivalry with Roger seems to have a bit more of an edge to it than with Andy or Rafa on court. Do you sense that when you’re out there? Why do you think that is?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Every rivalry that I have with these three guys is special and unique in its own way.
Of course, I respect Roger and everything he has achieved in his career as a player. To come back and play finals of Wimbledon again, it’s incredible what he’s doing.
But, again, when we come to the court, that ends. I’m there to win whoever is across the net.
Q. Boris must be a pleased and a relieved man. Pleased that you won, and relieved because had your match gone on much longer he might have missed Germany in the World Cup.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s why I haven’t seen him for last hour. I saw him after the match and he said, Let’s speak later. I didn’t realize, but then I saw the TV.
Q. So he made it clear he wanted to get straight off to watch the football?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, you could see he was a bit stressed after the match. I said, Well, the match is over. He said, See you later. I said, Okay.
Q. Against Cilic you started really well, and then you fell behind two sets to one. You rallied. In today’s match, you started off well. Up a break in the second and up a break in the fourth. Fighting yourself a little bit. Talk about what’s going on emotionally in these matches.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I’ve been maybe more self???critical in the last couple matches with myself than I should have been. You know, you cannot feel perfect every day. This is a challenge that you need to overcome.
Mentally, of course, as the final stages of the Grand Slam are coming to you, of course the tension and expectations and the pressure is rising.
Of course, I’m a perfectionist on the court. I want things to go a proper way from the first to the last point, so sometimes I get carried away with emotions.
I’m getting that necessary experience and understanding when is the time for me to, you know, do what and in what way.
So during the match even today, even though I dropped a set from being 3???1 up ??? I lost 6???3 ??? managed to bounce back and recover and win the next two. I was three set points down in the last tiebreaker but managed to win it.
These are particular moments of the match that I look into. Of course, I will analyze what I did wrong and what I did right, but I will try to take more from positives and use it to encourage myself for the finals.
Q. When you played Roger here two years ago, you said afterwards you weren’t at your best for reasons you didn’t want to go into at the time. Do you remember what they were? Can you share them with us now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Interesting. I can’t recall that I said that. I’m sure you heard me say that. I don’t know why. I don’t remember, to be honest.
But this is another year. I feel differently, of course, each year. This is going to be the third final of Wimbledon in the last four years, so this is a great achievement for me.
Just being part of the finals is, of course, a great success. But this time I want to go and try to win the title, as every time. You can never predict or guarantee what’s going to happen on the court results???wise, but you can always prepare yourself for the battle.
Q. How much have you seen Roger play this tournament? Are you sensing that his level has been good?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: His level has been very high, I have to say. I’ve been watching him in a few matches. You know, he didn’t have many tough matches up to quarterfinals. Against Stan he played well. He recovered from a set down.
I mean, with his immense experience of winning this title so many times and, of course, from being so dominant in men’s tennis for over a decade, of course that helps in the approach of the Grand Slam final.
Hopefully I can tactically prepare myself and execute well to not allow him to be at his top shape on Sunday.
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