Novak Djokovic proved without a doubt that he’s the best player in the world Sunday night in Melbourne, winning a record 7th Australian Open title and a 15th overall Grand Slam title.
Djokovic moves to within two of Rafael Nadal’s 17 Slams and five from Roger Federer’s record of 20.
And he leaves Melbourne after two near perfect matches, crushing both Lucas Pouille and Nadal in punishing fasion.
Q. Mats Wilander described that performance as absolute perfection. Where does that rank in terms of your best Grand Slam final performances?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It ranks right at the top. Under the circumstances, playing against Nadal, such an important match, yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. Obviously back-to-back semifinals and finals, I think I made 15 unforced errors in total in two matches, it’s quite pleasantly surprising to myself, as well, even though I always believe I can play this way, visualise myself playing this way. At this level, as I said, under the circumstances, it was truly a perfect match.
Q. Both yourself and Rafa made comment this is the best tournament in the world. Can you expand on that for us.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As Rafa said on the court, there’s probably no other tournament in the world that strives to improve its facilities and service to the players and fans and media – I hope you guys would agree with that. It’s definitely a tournament that sets a bar quite high for the other slams and other tournaments, as well.
I would have to agree with Nadal on that. Without a doubt, this is the best slam, the most player-friendly slam that we have.
Q. You not only passed Roy Emerson, you passed Pete for overall major titles. What does that mean to you to pass your childhood idol? When you played doubles with him in 2013 at UCLA, could you have imagined that scenario?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’ve said it before, but he was someone that I look up to. When I was starting to play tennis actually, one of the first images of tennis in general was him playing Wimbledon, winning I think his first title back in ’92, I think. I was a small boy in Kopaonik, this mountain resort in the south of Serbia. Nobody has ever touched the tennis racquet before me. I did not have a tennis tradition in my family. I did have sports tradition.
So it was definitely a sign of destiny to start playing tennis, to aspire to be as good as Pete. To surpass him with Grand Slam titles, I’m speechless. I haven’t had too much time to contemplate on everything that has happened, but I’m planning to do that.
Q. You won the last three Grand Slams. Regarding your form right now, you are maybe on the best of your career. Many players are saying that it’s possible for you to reach the record of Roger, even to beat that. How do you live with that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: How do I live with that (laughter)?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Just fine (smiling).
I am aware that making history of the sport that I truly love is something special. Of course, it motivates me. Playing Grand Slams, biggest ATP events, is my utmost priority in this season and in seasons to come. How many seasons are to come? I don’t know. I’m not trying to think too much advance.
I do want to definitely focus myself on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall well-being that I have mental, physical, emotional, so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger’s record.
It’s still far.
Q. Seven Australian Opens, 15 slams.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not too bad (said with an Italian accent). (Laughter).
Q. Were you most surprised on the fact that the first set Nadal was not able to make one point for five service games?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That was definitely the key. When I say that, I mean starting off well in the match. Coming off from the blocks with the right intensity and trying to be aggressive and protect the line and make him feel pressure from my side, obviously that was the game plan. I managed to get a crucial break already in the second game, get 3-Love in under 10 minutes. That was really, really important because Nadal always brings huge intensity to the court, 100 per cent of his focus and determination.
The energy and power he puts into his shots is really intimidating from the first point in the match. But that makes you, I guess, be more alert. I was expecting that. So knowing that coming into the match made me even more, I guess, ready to start off well. It has proven to be, I guess, the crucial turning point of the match.
Q. If someone had told you last year that you’d be sitting here having won three slams in a row, what would you have thought?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not impossible, but highly unlikely. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I always believe in myself. I think that’s probably the biggest secret of my success, if I can say, or probably any other athlete, is self-belief, always digging deep in the moments when you’re facing adversity, digging those moments of complimenting yourself, visualizing yourself as a winner, trying to be in a positive state of mind. It’s much easier said than done obviously.
I’m a true believer in visualisation. I do that a lot. I think that I had to do that more than ever in my life 12 months ago after the surgery because I wasn’t playing well, I wasn’t feeling good on the court, I was questioning everything, I was doubting whether I will be able to play everyone on this level because I didn’t know to what extent the operation of my elbow would affect my game.
It was a huge learning curve for me, just the whole process was very special. I embraced the journey. I am very grateful to go through it. I would never change anything if I could turn back the time because things are just the way they should be.
But, yes, 12 months ago it was highly unlikely I would be holding three slams. I just have to be conscious of that and understand that I’m blessed.
Q. We all remember the press conference at the French Open last year in that small room.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. You seemed very fired up for this particular match tonight. You come out with a performance like that. Do you think you’re hungrier for success in the later years of your career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, to be honest, I was always hungry for success. If I am not, then I would probably not need to be competing in this level and traveling because then I wouldn’t be true to myself. Then it would be probably a waste of time. It’s not only about success. For me, this is a school of life or a learning journey of life for me.
I’ve said it before: the tennis court is a place where I’m naked, where I’m exposed to my both extremes in terms of emotions and character. That’s where I probably learn the most about myself, or have the opportunity to learn about myself.
What was your question again (smiling)?
Q. You don’t know how many years you have left. Looks like you’ve got quite a few years left at this rate.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You said, Fired up.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sorry, I went astray.
Hunger is always there, but nowadays it’s just more relevant for me to organize myself in life better, to manage to be very concise and concrete with what I do and what I plan to do because I am a father and a husband. Right now it’s not only about tennis. That’s why I think professionalism is at its peak, at least that’s what I feel, probably more than ever in my career.
Q. You had a nice moment with four Australian legends. Did you say something specifically to the man whose record you broke? How does it feel to be woven into this country’s tennis history?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Mr. Emerson said he’s pissed with me because I broke his record (smiling).
It was the most beautiful, most expensive photo of the night, without a doubt, standing with those four legends. Yeah, I mean, I’ll definitely cherish that forever.
Q. How incredible would it be if you could win the French Open and hold all four slams at one time? Do you think a calendar Grand Slam is out of the question? Rod Laver thinks you’ve got the game to do that.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I got to get Rod Laver in my team in order to achieve that. He’s the only one that has managed to do the impossible challenge, probably the ultimate challenge of the tennis.
We’ll see. Obviously it’s just the beginning of the season. I know there’s a lot of tournaments to play before the Roland Garros, so I have plenty of time to build my form slowly, obviously staying on a hard court first with big tournaments, Indian Wells and Miami, then starting the clay.
Obviously I have to work on my game, my clay court game, a bit more, more specifically than I have in the last season. I need to play better than I have last season. I am already playing better. But, I mean, clay specifically in order to have a chance and shot at the title.
The ultimate challenge there is to win against Nadal. Then you have Thiem and Zverev, Roger is probably going to play. You have a lot of great players that on clay can challenge me or anybody else.
Yeah, there is still a lot of time. I’m obviously first going to enjoy this victory and share it with my family and friends, then take it from there.
Q. After your last match you described yourself as being in the zone, again tonight. Can you tell us what that bit of perfection was like tonight, this particular night, the way you were anticipating the ball?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we were both playing really well prior to this match, coming into the finals. We were both quite confident. I think we both liked our chances. As I have said a few minutes ago, I think for me one of the most important objectives for the match was to start off well and to bring in the right mindset and intensity and make sure that he also feels my presence, as well. He always makes sure that the opponent across the net, crowd and everyone, feels his presence, because that’s how who he is. That’s how he plays. That’s how he behaves. He’s so focused, he brings in so much energy, jumping around, sprinting.
You know that from the very first point he’s going to make you work very hard. I’ve seen his matches. I’ve seen that he improved his serve, which was of course his new weapon or strength during these few weeks, aside of course everything else that he has in his arsenal.
Yeah, it was very crucial to start off with an early break, which was ideal scenario for me. Having a set under my belt just made me kind of relax a bit more, not really worry too much. After that, it was really smooth.
Q. You are probably the only person who solved the Nadal issue like this tactically. Do you feel like you figured him out? What kind of tactical discipline does it require?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t want to say I figured him out because I don’t want that to bounce back at me in any way in the future. I might have figured him out for the match, but not for life. I mean, I’m sure we’re still going to have a lot of matches against each other on different surfaces. I look forward to it. I really hope we will because this rivalry has been the most significant rivalry, the one that impacted me on a personal and professional level than most in my life.
Yeah, his serve is improved. The same time, I also worked on my serve. I think it has served me well, especially in the last couple matches. One thing is for sure: we both are going to strive for improvement in the future regardless of what’s happening.
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