Novak Djokovic: It Was A Cat-And-Mouse Fight With Andy, And This Was My First Slam As A Father And Husband
Novak Djokovic won his 8th career Grand Slam title outlasting rival and friend Andy Murray 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 in the final of the 2015 Australian Open. The title was also Djokovic 5th in Melbourne and the Serb remains a perfect 10-0 once he reaches the semifinal stage at the event.
Eight slams put Djokovic equal with legends like Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ken Rosewall. And since he’s only 27, he’ll have plenty of time to add to that haul if he so chooses.
In a tight first two sets, Djokovic shook off an early thumb injury which appeared to hamper his bid to serve out the first. He did eventually win it in a tense breaker, but Murray stormed back in the second, matching Djokovic shot-for-shot during extended rallies showing off his improved fitness and firepower.
Murray seemed to be wearing down Djokovic late in the second as he rolled through the breaker to even the match. It was the third straight Slam meeting the two split the first two sets in breakers.
Unfortunately for Murray, even as Djokovic began to have visible issues with his legs, the Serb fought on while Murray looked distracted. Once Murray leveled at 3-3 in the third, few would guess that would be the Scot’s last game he would win.
Djokovic ran off the last nine games to take the match, his 50th career Australian win. He also improves to 16-8 against Murray having now won four straight and eight of the last nine, including eight in a row on hardcourts.
But are they still friends, the two who first played at an under-12 event in France, where Djokovic could barely understand English requiring the two to use sign language to communicate.
Here’s what Novak said after:
Q. Talk us through that third set. Struggling with injury, then you went on to win 12 of the last 13 games.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. There were a lot of turning points in the match. As I think everybody predicted, it was going to be a big battle. Of course, Grand Slam finals for both of us, regardless of the record that I have here, and him playing also three times the final not winning a title, regardless of that, we both knew that, you know, we have equal chances to win it. Very similar match to the Australian Open final in 2013 when we played over two hours the first two sets. Tonight two and a half hours the first two sets. Very physical. Very exhausting. We both of course went through some tough moments physically. You could see that I had a crisis end of the second, beginning of the third. Just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track. That’s what I’ve done. I started hitting ball and trying to be a little bit more aggressive coming to the net, shortening the points. I got a very important break of serve at 2-Love for him in the third that got me back in the match mentally, as well. It was a cat-and-mouse fight. It always is. We always try to outplay the opponents with the groundstrokes, with the long rallies, a lot of variety in the games: spin, flat, slice, dropshots. I think both went out with the full repertoire of the shots we have. I hope everybody that watched it enjoyed the finals. From my side it was definitely very exhausting. Just glad that I believed it all the way through. Saved some breakpoints at 3-All in the third set and managed to make that break and win the third. After that I felt huge relief. I felt I could swing through the ball. I felt the momentum was on my side and I wanted to use that. At this level very few points can turn things around on the court as we could see tonight.
Q. Even if you know him since you are both 11 years old, he said he was distracted by you limping or having a problem to the hand or foot. Should it happen between two people who know each other so well?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I’m not going to talk bad things about him in the press or find any excuses or something like this. In the match like this a lot of emotions go through, a lot of tension. It’s not easy to keep the concentration 100% all the way through. There was this interruption with people coming into the court. It was a long delay. I was a set and a break up serving. I lost that serve. He started going through the ball more, being more aggressive, better player on the court. He was not the freshest player as well in the second and third set. But it’s normal to expect that after the amount and length of rallies that we had. It’s just all so physical.
Q. What does this fifth title here mean at this moment of your career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it has deeper meaning, more intrinsic value now to my life because I’m a father and a husband. It’s the first Grand Slam title I won as a father and a husband. Just feel very, very proud of it.
Q. In what way?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: In a way that I’m a father and a husband (smiling). Well, you know, I try to stay on the right path and committed to this sport in every possible way that I have had in the last couple of years and try to use this prime time of my career really where I’m playing and feeling the best at 27. This is why I play the sport, you know, to win big titles and to put myself in a position to, you know, play also for the people around me. I know how much sacrifice they put in in my own career, and I try to thank them and not take anything for granted. As my life progresses, there are circumstances, situations, events that define these beautiful moments. Getting married and becoming a father in the last six months was definitely something that gave me a new energy, something that I never felt before. And right now everything has been going in such a positive direction in my life. I’m so grateful for that. So I try to live these moments with, you know, all my heart.
Q. How do you explain looking as if you’re almost out of it physically and mentally and then within two games managing to switch round to running. He thought you were cramping.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I wasn’t cramping. I didn’t call a timeout because I had no reason to call it. I was just weak. I went through the physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes. And, honestly, didn’t feel that too many times in my career. But knowing in the back of my mind that it was a similar situation two years ago in Australian Open final, 2013, where two sets went over two hours, was a similar battle. Then I felt that I had some physical edge over him in that match. That was in back of my mind. That was something that kept me going. And obviously the importance of the moment, being in finals of Grand Slam. I didn’t want to give up. I try never to give up. Even though I went through this moment, I believed that I’m going to get that necessary strength. I’m going to have to earn it, and that’s what I did. I started hitting the ball more, covering the court better, shortening the points, and allowed myself to come back to the match.
Q. Was it a dehydration issue or energy issue?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I’m really professional in terms of hydrating myself and getting the necessary substance, food, you know, these energy gels and stuff that you need during the match. It’s just that the length of the rallies and the physicality that we had in the first two sets have taken an energy from me. It’s normal to expect that you can’t always be, you know, at your 100%. So you go through some particular moments that you can call crises during matches like these. This is what I had in these 15, 20 minutes. After that I felt better.
Q. Is it a lingering result of the virus that you picked up in Doha?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s hard to say because that was now two and a half weeks ago. Maybe. Maybe now it came up, the consequences of that, the consequences of not being able to really get myself 100% fit and ready for this tournament. This practice week here was more of a recovery week, not a practice week. As the tournament progressed, I felt better and better. But, you know, I think the end of the day the willpower that I had on the court today took me to where I am now.
Q. Early in the second set you fell over and seemed to have a few points where you were struggling with your ankle.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, no, no, no. I wasn’t. Again, same reason that I mentioned before. You know, just the length of the rallies. That’s what has taken this physical toll on my body.
Q. Given the toll that you talk about and the willpower to overcome that, given all of that and that this eighth Grand Slam tonight is your biggest achievement? Would you say this is your greatest achievement on court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’ve had thankfully many great moments on the court in Grand Slams. I think every Grand Slam win is special in its own way. I can’t really compare. But this tournament by far has been my most successful tournament in my life, in my career. I enjoy playing here, enjoy coming back. Australia is a sports nation. They love the Australian Open. Another record-breaking year. The tournament sets up a standard for all the other tournaments and Grand Slams. It’s just such an enjoyable time to be out here. Andy was saying on the court, he listened to the comments of the other players and they all love this tournament. That’s one of the big reasons for this, is the facts that Craig Tiley and all the people from behind the stage, and sponsors of course, all the people who lead this tournament, are trying to improve facilities and accommodate players and make them feel good. Also going back to Australia as a sports nation, everywhere you go people are doing sport. They’re all fit. It’s kind of a very stimulative environment for sports. I love my time being here, and winning the eighth Grand Slam title and being mentioned in the elite group of legends in our sport is a huge privilege and honor. You know, I can’t say how proud I am. That’s going to serve definitely only as a great deal of inspiration for the rest of my career.
Q. You’ve won five now, which is a lot. Would you perhaps trade one, even two, for a win in Paris?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Ha! Don’t ask me this here, please (smiling). No, I strongly believe everything happens for a reason in life. I try not to waste my energy thinking, What if, what if, so forth. For a reason I’ve been playing so well here and winning five titles, and for a reason I haven’t won French Open yet. I’ll keep pushing and keep working and keep believing I can make it, at least once, until my career ends.
Q. When you lift the trophy, do you always think about the lady who has done so much for you, Jelena Gencic?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, of course. Of course. She’s not there only when I lift the trophy. She’s there very often in my mind. Next to my parents, my family, closest people in my life, she has done the most with them for my career, for my life in general. You know, this trophy, as much as it’s mine, it’s her’s.
Q. Did you sense in the court that Andy was distracted by your physical problems and that could work in your favor?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I haven’t noticed that, no. I haven’t noticed that.
Q. Do you see any difference between this match of tonight and the one with Wawrinka? You were in trouble sometimes both matches.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: They are both different players. Of course, both of the matches were very tough from every aspect. But different matches. With Stan everything happens very fast. You know, he hits the ball very strong and the points are pretty short. Not many rallies. Not at least as much as I had tonight.
Q. Which one did you play better?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think tonight I played better. Tonight I had my ups and downs, of course. But I think consistently looking from the first to last point, tonight.
Q. Do you think you’re paying a price physically for all the tennis you played the last couple years and the end of the season last year being pretty tough? And just to understand the situation, I saw you get drinks against Stan from the stands and also today in the match. Is that just electrolytes? What are you getting from your camp?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the first question was about paying a price. You know, look, I’m not injured and I have no major concerns for my body, so I don’t think I’m paying the price for a lot of tennis. As a matter of fact, I think out of all the top players I’m playing the least tournaments. I can’t really use that as an excuse. Of course, I try to set up my own form for the biggest events because that’s where I want to shine. That’s where I want to perform my best. So in terms of scheduling, I try to pay a lot of attention on how I organize my scheduling in advance. I try to stick with it as much as I can. Obviously this year I’ll have Davis Cup. That’s an additional couple weeks. But the schedule is more or less the same. I actually feel physically very, very good. I don’t think that this 20, 30 minutes tonight can cause a major concern for me for the future. In contrary, I think that being able to bounce back from that period of 20 minutes and finish the match the way I finished it can only serve as an encouraging fact. And drinks, electrolytes, energy drinks, the stuff that every athlete drinks. I, of course, am very disciplined, very thorough with what I drink, with what I eat. I think when all the small details that you think are small, you pay attention to them, in the end it turns out to be very decisive, especially for these kind of matches. I believe the healthy lifestyle that I had in the last couple years for which I had to make a lot of sacrifice – trust me; even this nice champagne here – you know, a lot of sacrifice in terms of my free time, in terms of some delicious meals. But still I enjoy what I eat; I enjoy what I drink; I enjoy the life that I have. It’s my choice. So I can’t sit here and complain about my life where I’m actually saying it’s the best life I can have. As everybody else, I’m trying to be the best that I can be. That’s why I pay so much attention to it.
Q. What is your fundamental mental strengths?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Mental strengths? In these particular matches and circumstances mental strength probably plays the most important role. In winning those matches, you need to be able to find that inner strength, mental, physical, emotional, especially when you’re down in the finals and when you’re playing a top rival. There’s a lot of things that can influence your state of mind. Of course, as I was mentioning before, it’s not always possible to be 100% concentrated for three and a half hours. But it’s important to keep going because you fall many times, but mental strength allows you to keep going.
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