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INTERVIEWS

March 18, 2007

R. NADAL/N. Djokovic

6-2, 7-5

An interview with:

NOVAK DJOKOVIC


THE MODERATOR: Novak Djokovic. Questions, please.

Q. At this tournament you had proven that you're one of the contenders among top 10. Nadal was too good today. I would like you to reflect on those past two weeks here and lay down the plans for this season, the agenda considering Miami and as well as the grand slams.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, first of all, about the match today, I certainly -- Nadal was the better player today. I have to congratulate him. And on the other hand, I didn't play my best tennis, and I know that. And maybe the physical preparation had a little bit of the effect. I didn't -- I was not 100 percent fit. But, again, that is not the reason for my game today.
But anyway, in general, generally looking, I'm really satisfied and happy with my tournament and with my start of the season. That's very important to play best tennis on the most important tournaments. And, well, in plans for the future, as I reach the top 10 right now, my goal for this year -- I'm planning to continue forward and I'm really looking forward to the other tournaments and challenges. And I have proven to myself, first of all, and to everybody that I have enough quality to play with the best players in the world.
And, of course, there are many things I need to improve on. And, of course, I'm really looking forward to a practice and improve more and try to remain in the top 10 to the end of the year and try to reach the Master's in Shanghai.

Q. Were you nervous at the start?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I was. As you all know, it's my first Master Series final, first final of the really bigger tournament, you know, Master Series tournament. And, you know, after a couple of games, the stadium was more or less packed. It was a lot of people, like 15,000 people. It was great atmosphere. And he started playing really well. I didn't -- I made a lot of mistakes, unforced errors. He played incredible forehand and he was in the control of the match in the first set.
I tried to come back. I started playing a little bit better, and then the end of the first set, I started playing a bit better. And second set, I played pretty well and I had big opportunities, big chances, you know, 3-all, three breakpoints. And then again, 4-All and 5-4, for me, again. He was Deuce, and he was long point again, and I made mistake.
Again I think my backhand was not working today. I played it -- I made most of the mistakes from the backhand and I made -- I didn't play -- I didn't, you know, work properly with the legs and just didn't move well, and he used it, you know. He's a really experienced player. Even though he's only 20 years old, he played many, many finals, about 20 finals and grand slams and Master Series.
So it's okay, you know. Again I have to say I'm not satisfied with my performance today. I could do better, I know that. But I have to be positive.

Q. You said that yesterday you wanted to play your game, in a question that was asked you.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Mm-hmm.

Q. One of the things I wanted to know, it looked like in the second set you were starting to play a little pit more your game. Can you talk about the first set and the second set.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I stepped it up in the second set. I start to be more aggressive and more myself, you know. I think the main problem with the backhand was that I was, in certain situations, especially during the first set, too defensive and that's why I couldn't play spins on his heavy spin from the forehand, and he knew that. He was -- he knew that today it was my more or less weakness. And he used his chances.
Well, it was big difference between the first and second set. Like I said before, I was pretty nervous on the start, you know, first time final, crowd, everything. But again, I tried not to think about it, but it didn't work out. You know, he played really good in the start of the match, two breaks, and then it's really difficult to come back.
Then second set it was -- I tried to start from the zero and worked out for me, you know. Like I said, I had chances. But turned out to be a loser in the end.

Q. In the fourth game of the second set, you pitched a broken ball out of play. Had you lost that point, you would have been behind 40-Love. You later won the point and it was from that point it seemed that you really started to battle it, it really became a fight from that point after you pitched the broken ball out of play. What was wrong with that ball?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't know what to answer on that question. I just -- it was broken ball, you know. It's normally it's a rule in the tennis if -- first of all, referee should stop the play and if he sees the broken ball. But I seen it first, so it looked kind of funny and sound funny. If we play, you know, so it's better to play with a normal ball.

Q. Why weren't you 100 percent today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Excuse me?

Q. You said you were not 100 percent today.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, because I -- you know, I finished probably a bit late yesterday. And, yeah, I didn't have a difficult match, but, you know, like I said, it's the first final and I've -- the first final on the bigger tournament playing a lot of, you know, matches with the good players. So, you know, I think I need more experience. It's just more of these tournaments, more of these matches.

Q. So it wasn't a physical thing; it was just more a mental thing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, kind of a little bit more -- a little bit physical thing, but more it was mental, you know. More it was me, and I know that I've -- I didn't play my best tennis.

Q. He's No. 2 in the world, but he's only a little more than a year older than you are. What's it gonna take for you to get to that level? Is it just experience or are there other things that you're targeting?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Oh practice. Practice. I have to work. Everybody works in today's tennis. It has changed a lot since 15, 20 years ago. You cannot compare tennis from the past and everything now is changing. The players have to work more and more, longer points, you know, playing under heat, and I know that. I'm aware of that.
I'm really looking forward to practice. I'm not kind of guy who is gonna just rely on his talent, maybe or, you know, just start of the game. I just want to improve and I know I need to work. I know what things I need to improve on, and I'll work on it in the future.

Q. Can you evaluate how far you've come to this point.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, in this point, I cannot say, I'm deserving top 5 or top 3, you know. It's just that in this moment, I'm really not trying to think about it too much, you know. I'm just trying to stay with -- focused with the practice, with tennis, and results will come sooner or later. I mean, I think I deserve this place where I am right now, top 10.

Q. Did he shock you with how well he played in the first set? Clearly he's a great player. You're a little bit nervous.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I was more shocked with my game, with the -- with my unforced errors. Of course, it doesn't make him worse player. He's great, you know, a great competitor, and his great forehand, he was in control. I felt I was making mistakes, you know.

Q. Did you play him as a junior and what is your record against him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I never played him as a junior. I lost two times right now in professional. I lost quarterfinals French Open and now.

Q. You had a nice line about Boris Becker. Had you met him before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I never met him before. It's really a nice thing because he was one of my idols. As I said on the speech, you know, I was really young when he was winning all the tournaments, and we -- he practiced with -- he was in the -- you know, in his stage of career, he was with Niki Pilic a lot. He was his basically coach and Davis Cup captain, and they spend a lot of time together. And he's the person I was practicing with for quite a long time, with Pilic and in his academy as well. And he helped me a lot. I just told him in the ceremony.
It was pretty interesting, because I always wanted to see Boris, you know, play, but I never seen him and he stopped his career, unfortunately. But again it's nice to meet him.

Q. I notice that Mark Woodforde was at some of your practice sessions and also on the bench with you this week. Is that just a temporary thing because he lives here now or is there some permanency in that arrangement?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I can't say it's just temporary thing. I'm really, you know, trying to get Mark -- you know, I know, I have my own coach and it's gonna stay that way, but I'm gonna try to get Mark on as many tournaments it is possible, you know, bigger ones, to help me, because he has a lot of experience. Especially with the volleys and with the serve, and I know these are the maybe most important things I need to improve on in my game, and we'll try to do it more in the future.

Q. With his counter-punching abilities, do you feel like you have to come more to the net against him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Against who, Rafael?

Q. Against Nadal?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes, yes. Still I can play. I think I can play with him even from the baseline, you know. I have powerful shots. I just need more to improve, to play better to backhand, and I think I can. You know, you saw the second set, it was pretty much equal.
But still there are some points, like, for example on the breakpoint, I shouldn't go to the net, I should use my opportunities. Of course, it's mental, mental preparation, as well.

Q. Do you like the instant replays? Last match you were three for three, and this one you were one for one and you caught it today by just a hair. It seems like you've got a pretty good eye out there. How do you feel about the instant replay?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it was two for two today or even more.

Q. Oh was it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's a good thing. I like it. I support it, really, because, okay, there is a lot of different opinions, depending on the player, but I think there is more positive opinions about the Hawkeye than the negative. It gives something interesting to the game, something new, and the players like it because they can overrule the decision of the line umpire or the chair umpire if they're wrong. So you always have opportunity to do it.

Q. You gave such a boost to the national pride, you mentioned the other day that you would like to train and practice more in Serbia. There were some flags from your country here, which is kind of a rare occurrence. Can you talk about your love for your country and what does this mean for them, too.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It means -- it means a lot, really. Especially, first of all, it means to me, of course, as a player, but second of all, it means a lot for our country. Because I bet a lot of people, basically 90 percent of the people didn't hear for our country until, you know, maybe this moment when they saw where I'm from. So it's always I think that the sport is from our country. Professional sport is we're representing our country on the international tournaments are really great ambassadors of the game. The ambassadors of the game of their own country.
And I think just showing up and playing and smiling and giving a positive energy, it gives a lot of advantage for you in the future and for your country, as well. So I think after, not just this success, after all, you know, my results, what I've made in the last year, year and a half, and as well the girls, you know, Anna Ivanovic, Jankovic and Tipsarevic, they're all success, I think the tennis will grow a lot, you know, popularity-wise. And, you know, people will start to play tennis and get more interested in the game.
And you know, I hope to build up much more tennis courts, because we have a lot of potential and talents for this sport.

Q. You talked about Boris and also Niki --
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Mm-hmm.

Q. Did Monica Seles have much of an impact in Serbia, and have you ever met her?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, a lot of people, she's very popular in our country. And when you mention tennis, you know, mostly about Monica Seles, you know, Boba Zivojinovic, these are the players that are born in Serbia, play for certain time. Okay. Monica came to this United States when she was, I don't know, about 20. I'm not sure what age. But she was playing for Yugoslavia then and she was really successful. She was No. 1, I think, in the world when she was playing under our flag.
And I think you know, people are very emotional in our country and they support you all the way, and it's really nice to see, even today, you know, a lot of -- a lot of support, not just from Serbia, you know. When I see my flag on such a big stadium, it's really something special because it doesn't happen so often, you know. I hope it will happen much often in the future. And again, I'm really glad to see that even the people from United States are supporting me, so it's something new. It's a good promotion for myself.

Q. Can you describe how you felt right before you came out onto the court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Excited. Just excited, and the other hand, a bit stiff, I can say. I was really -- I was not relaxed, you know. I was not -- I tried to enjoy it, one hand. But on the other hand, you know, he was really focused and he was much more focused and ready on the start of the match, and he just used the chances. And right away 4-0. So it shouldn't happen.

Q. When was the last time you had a set go badly like that, the first set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sorry?

Q. You only had 12 points that first set. When is the last time you had a set go that badly for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't know. I cannot remember.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

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