On the day of his 28th birthday and on the eve of his most important event of his tennis season, Novak Djokovic was given some startling news: He would have to face 9-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals.
Djokovic, like Nadal did, took the draw in stride. And said he’ll also take it match-by-match, but much of the focus of his pre-tournament presser was on the looming match-up.
Djokovic, who has won his last 22 matches, needs only the French Open to complete the career Slam. After two runner-up finishes to Nadal, could this finally be the year?
He met the press today:
Q. Happy birthday.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you.
Q. I don’t want to give you any spoilers. Have you seen your draw?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. Is it difficult to focus on your first round when everybody is talking about the fact that you might get Rafa in the quarters?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think that even few weeks ago when Rafa dropped from the top 4, I think people already started talking the eventual quarterfinals with one of the top guys. So it’s not a surprise. It’s been something that was building up already for few weeks, for some time. But again, it’s a draw. You can’t affect it. There is always a chance that that’s gonna happen. But again, that’s probably like more than a week away of the potential quarterfinal, so I still need to win four matches to get there as much, as he does.
Q. Based on your match with Rafa in Monte-Carlo and also what you have seen from him elsewhere on clay, where would you say his level is right now? Does it matter since he’s the nine-time champ? Does it make a difference that he struggled by his high standards on clay this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he did struggle. He was not playing up to his standard this year comparing to, let’s say, last eight, nine years. Has always been a big title on clay coming into Roland Garros. It wasn’t the case this year, so it is probably a bit different approach for him. But regardless of that, I think he still is playing his best tennis on clay courts in Paris. He has lost only one match in his entire career here. I think that record speaks enough about his level of play. Maybe he doesn’t feel — I mean, he’s gonna answer better if he feels more or less confident coming into Roland Garros this year because of the results that he had, you know, in the last month and a half. But I still feel that he’s definitely right up there in top favorites to win.
Q. There is always pressure when you play him, but playing him in a quarterfinal compared to a final, would you rather play him earlier on in a tournament like a quarterfinal?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s hard to say, really. Honestly. I played him in semifinals and finals more than few times. Actually I think at the very beginning once in quarters, as well. Doesn’t really matter. I mean, I think we both are aiming to play our best, and as the tournament progresses, already by quarterfinals I think we already play at our high.
Q. Coming back to the only Grand Slam you haven’t won, is it really possible to have a different mental approach to kind of forget that, Okay, I never won this one, and delete like it was a usual tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there is always a little bit of extra motivation for me coming into Roland Garros. It is obviously very encouraging knowing that I have won all of the big events from last October, and playing some of my best tennis in the life, and coming into Roland Garros with that amount of confidence helps. Encourages me to step on the court and compete. I have had this particular situation before, and especially in the last two years where I was coming into Roland Garros and people speculating, is this the year or not? Thinking about how far I can go. Can I win the title or not. I was few times very close. Didn’t manage to do it, but that doesn’t discourage me to not keep on going. I’m here once again with a purpose, with a reason, and I will try to get myself in a position to win a trophy. But I can’t predict anything. I can’t guarantee I can go all the way. I just need to try to do what I do best, and that is taking one day at a time, having the proper positive mindset that doesn’t allow me to think too much in advance.
Q. I read your book, and I also took your two-week diet. Just wondering, do you know of a place here in Paris that serves gluten-free crepes?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know, but I know about the bakery that has gluten-free bread.
Q. How much has –
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: How did it affect you, this two-week diet?
Q. Well, I ate healthier. I ate less. I lost weight. But I don’t know that I felt much different.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: All right. Good. That’s enough.
Q. That’s enough? Losing weight is pretty good?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don’t know what you were looking for, but I’m just curious to hear.
Q. I did the arm test too and I had the same thing happen with me.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: With what? With dairy products or chocolate?
Q. With a slice of bread.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: But did you hold something in your stomach when you did that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Ah, bread. So you are gluten-intolerant as well?
Q. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: All right. I encourage you to keep on going.
Q. I don’t know if I’m going to go with the dairy. I think I will go gluten light, though. Just how important was it to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it changed my life back in 2010. But again, you mentioned the book. The book, the purpose of writing a book was sharing my personal experience and how it affected my life on and off the court. It wasn’t the way to preach to somebody or how they should live their life or change their nutrition or so forth. It was just sharing my own experience, and hopefully people that read it can find something useful for their own nutrition and health. Most of the comments that I have received from the people about the book were positive, and I’m glad. Yours I’m still trying to figure out if it’s positive or negative. (Smiling.)
Q. It was positive.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you. But it did change my life. I mean, ever since 2010 I have been very much evolving in terms of food, in terms of finding out new ways to improve my health. I think generally today’s society, you know, people tend to speak about how sick we can get and all the different illnesses that can cause us to feel bad. But nobody talks about how healthy can we really be. So I think that’s kind of a mindset that I have. I really want to push the borders, evolve, and find out new things, get the knowledge and experience. It’s been quite a ride, I would say, in that field of life for me. It’s kind of like my hobby and passion. I like it. Maybe soon another book will come out, as well.
Q. You mentioned how well you’re playing coming in; what a good season you have had. You came in here on that winning streak in 2011. Are you a better tennis player now? If so, in what particular ways?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I just feel more complete as a player in terms of ability to handle the emotions on the court, to find a way to win the tough matches. Physically just matured. Just mentally knowing what to do, how to approach big tournaments, big matches, and how to keep that consistency going, not to have many ups and downs. Just 2011 was results-wise the best year of my career, no doubt about it. But this year I’m just able to, I’d say, handle things that are on the court and also off the court present in my life in a much better and more mature way. So I like the player that I am today more than the one that I was in 2011, even though I have had the best season of my career. But I feel like every season is different. As the time goes on, naturally you have a tendency to improve and evolve and you are a different person and you have different circumstances in your private life that affect your professional life and performance, as well.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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