An Interview With Novak Djokovic (after his US Open semi-final victory over Roger Federer)
Q. First of all. That was an absolutely remarkable match.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you.
Q. You should be extremely proud of yourself. I imagine you are. The emotions on the court after the match, can you just talk about that moment and reflect?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said on the post?match interview, it’s one of those matches that you will remember for the rest of your life, not just because you won against one of the best players that ever played this game at that occasion, but as well, you know, coming back from match points down and under the circumstances playing good tennis and winning in the end, the thriller, you know.
So I am. I am very proud of myself. There are a lot of emotions involved. Of course I was too exhausted to show them in the end. But it’s been a fantastic semifinal.
Q. Do you have any gas in the tank?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have to, you know. It’s finals of the Grand Slam. I’ve been in this situation before in 2007, so I’m more experienced than Rafa. (Laughter.)
But it’s gonna be definitely a tough one. Rafa is just playing fantastic tennis. He’s gonna be very motivated to win this title because it’s the only title he hasn’t won in majors.
Q. No one’s ever gonna forget your victory in the Australian Open, but do you think this match today, the way you played, is almost as important to you as winning a Grand Slam?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I can compare. I think I can compare the feeling with winning a major after I have won this kind of match. Still one match to come. I have to try to stay stable and calm as much as I can.
After such a big win it’s hard, because you’re so happy. But, you know, you’re playing tomorrow finals of a major against the best player in the world. You want to give your best, and anything I have left I will leave to the court tomorrow. I hope luck will be on my side.
Q. You say you’re exhausted. How tired are you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I am. I am tired, you know. There’s no secret about that.
For four sets I’ve been quite okay. Fifth set was very intensive mentally and physically and took a lot out of me. But, you know, in the end it’s just a remarkable win, and I’m sure I will find the strength to give my best tomorrow in the court.
Q. You were beaten by Roger the last three years, semis and finals. What did you learn from those matches that you applied tonight?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I had to take the chances when I was down match points. I don’t know. To be honest, every match we have played was so close, and that’s why, you know, he’s best player that ever played this game, because he always plays his best tennis in the most important moments.
It was almost the case again today. I got a little bit nervous end of the first and third set, and that’s why I lost those sets. But anything except that, I think I played overall a great game, fighting really and being aggressive when I had chance, and defending well.
I just knew I have to be patient and not lose my emotions too much, because that was the case in the past where I was losing the momentum with him. He uses that nervousness of the opponent. He feels it.
Today, I kind of closed my eyes on the forehands in the match points and just went for the shots. I was lucky. This is the edge that you always have when you’re playing a top player. Two top guys are playing against each other, and there is not much difference, to be honest.
I knew that before the match very few points will decide the winner.
Q. The crowd seemed to bother you a bit I think in the third set when you were serving 5?6. How difficult was it to concentrate, keep your focus?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The crowd was okay, actually, throughout the whole match. They were enjoying. For me, being a part of such a great match is of course even more pleasing. Entertainment?wise I think they had a lot of fun, as well, aside great tennis.
You know, there are these moments when they support one guy and then support the other guy, so there were ups and downs. You know, you feel a ?? you feel stress when you’re 5?6 down and serving. You know, they wanted Roger to win this set. Then I got more support towards the end of the match.
So it’s normal, you know. You get some people on your side, some people on your opponent’s side.
Q. Can you just walk us through what you think you’ll do for the next few hours? I mean, do you have massage, ice bath, food?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. Popcorn, watching TV, relaxing. (Laughter.)
Yeah, I will do anything that comes up to your mind legally recovery?wise. (Laughter.) I will do it. You know, I cannot go to the details too much.
Emotional recovery with my girlfriend, and a couple of things that I cannot talk about. (Laughter.)
It’s not what you think. I know what you’re thinking.
Q. No, but seriously, I mean, is it your don’t want to talk about it because you don’t want to give away your training secrets or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. Well, you know, everyone has his own private things he does off the court. Just not for public, I guess. But definitely I will have to do a lot of recovery, because it’s been exhausting match. I have to be ready in less than 20 hours.
Q. You mentioned that Federer is the greatest player ever. Nadal is going also for a career Grand Slam. He’s younger than Federer. He has a better head?to?head record than Federer. In your mind, what are the chances that some day Nadal will be the greatest player ever?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I give him a big chance. I think already he’s one of the best ever because he has won Olympic gold medal, he has won Davis Cup, he has won every major except this one, and so many tournaments. He has the records of 1000 events as well, and he’s still only 24 years old. So it’s just incredible what he has done so far in his career. He’s still a great champion and a great person off the court.
So, you know, it’s a big challenge for both of us, obviously, you know. There is a lot at stake for him to win a career slam and for me to win another Grand Slam title.
In finals, you know, it’s very unpredictable. You never know what’s gonna happen.
Q. Follow?up on the question about atmosphere here. How hard is it when people are screaming between the points and also after you missed your first serve?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s hard, you know, but you just have to adjust to it. You just have to accept it the way it is. It’s the semifinals of a Grand Slam. You’re playing, you know, a fan favorite here, and a player that has been so successful.
You know, if you are under pressure, obviously it’s not easy coping with all these things. But to be able to overcome that in the end, it’s thrilling.
Q. How do you think it will be tomorrow playing against Nadal on that subject?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I can expect a full stadium. It’s definitely gonna be fantastic feeling, you know, regardless who they support. Just being part of the final and the biggest stadium of the sport is amazing.
Q. Rain in the forecast for tomorrow.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Oh.
Q. Do you think that’s gonna help you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Really? (Laughter.)
I don’t know the rituals how to invite the rain, but… (Laughter.)
Yeah, I don’t know. An extra day would be great, actually.
Q. Were you surprised to see Federer losing the sets two and four so easily?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it was me playing well more, you know. I was making him play a lot of shots and making mistakes, but I was playing really well in those two sets.
Q. Late in the fifth you’re facing match points; you’re at the edge. Once again you survive and manage to go on. Take us through that game? And then did that somehow give you some kind of momentum or confidence deep into…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I just ?? after I saved the match points ?? which I explained to you already, just closing my eyes and hitting as hard as I can ?? I really tried to stay calm and not let my emotions take over and just hold. You know, hold the serve. That game, it was very important, you know.
Against a player like that, you know, you don’t want to give him another chance, another match point, because he’s gonna use it. So I managed to serve out well and play some good shots. When I held that game, then I felt big relief.
Even though it’s 5?All in the fifth, I still felt relief, because I was 15?40 down.
Q. You say that Federer is the best player ever, greatest player ever. I’d like to know what do you think about the fact that he lost match points many times with Safin in Australia, with Gasquet in Monte?Carlo, with Nadal in Rome, with you today, with Berdych.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: In juniors. (Laughter.) Come on. You know, really.
Q. No. I just want to know if you think that he’s playing a little too safe ??
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No.
Q. ?? in those moments?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, no, no, I don’t think so, because these are just only ?? it’s a minority of the matches that he has lost comparing to the matches that he has won, you know, in those situations.
I mean, he’s the player that is mentally very, very strong, and he plays aggressive tennis. He takes the risk. He risks a lot and he takes the chances.
Okay, maybe it hasn’t been the case today, but generally, I mean, come on. 16, 17, I don’t know how many majors. Definitely has been playing well when he needed to.
Q. You won over the crowd clearly by the end of the performance.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah.
Q. You’re going against the greatest player and against your own record with Roger here. Is there any way that you’re sort of fighting also this feeling from the crowd and everyone wanting Rafa and Fed in the final? Was that an extra opponent for you today? Did you have to fight against that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: To be honest with you, I haven’t thought about that too much, because my priority is to perform as best as I can and find a way to beat my opponent. And in that case, today I was really doing well tactics?wise and just holding my nerves.
I did have some emotional flaws here and there, but, you know, generally I was very stable and focused. Even though I was set down and two sets to one down, I was coming back and playing some good tennis.
So, you know, I’m sorry for all the ones who didn’t ?? who wanted to see Roger and Rafa in the final. But, you know, I really didn’t think about that too much. I’m sure we gonna have a great final tomorrow, as well.
Q. After you saved those two match points, you hit your heart with your racquet. Is that the best you’ve ever played when match point down?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Under the circumstances in that stage of the tournament, probably, yeah, one of the most memorable and best moments I had on match points, yeah.
Q. What’s the difference between the Novak Djokovic of the Wimbledon semifinal and the one today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Djokovic at Wimbledon was too defensive and stupid on the court, and the one today was just playing the way he should: aggressive and serving well and taking the chances.
In Wimbledon I wasn’t taking the chances, you know. Of course, credit to my opponent, Berdych. He has played remarkably well the whole tournament. But I just ?? when I had the chances I had I was too passive, and that’s why lost the match.
Q. Your coach couldn’t be here. Strangely, a lot of players have won tournaments without coach. Does it change anything for you, the state of mind on the court not having a coach watching you from the stands?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s unfortunate, to be honest, because I always want him to be a part of my team regardless which tournament I play. His support is great. We been not just player/coach relations. We didn’t have the relationship of player/coach. We had father/son relationship in years that we worked together.
Because of the private problems he had to go back. But still, you know, we are in touch every day, and he’s so happy to see me doing well.
Q. Can you describe the combination of facing Roger Federer in the semifinal and then Rafa Nadal in the final and what winning those two matches would signify to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, it’s still far for me to say that, you know, I can put myself in a thought as a champion here, because I have Nadal across my net who is extremely motivated and playing great tennis this year and serving really well.
Just hasn’t, I think, lost the set all tournament. So definitely he’s gonna give his best, and we are gonna have a lot of long rallies. Physically it’s gonna, you know, be very requiring for me to be on the court, to be fit in order to have some chances.
I mean, it would be such a big success and achievement beating Roger in semis and then Nadal in finals. I cannot even describe it. You know, still not thinking about victory. I want to, you know, take one point at a time and see how it goes.
Q. In all your head?to?head with Nadal, you’re down 14 to 7, but all your 7 wins came on hard courts. Do you consider yourself normally favorite when you play Nadal on hard court if you are more tired? Is this going to be the first final for the Barbadillo Giorgio Di Palermo company?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, it’s true that on hard court I do have my best chances against Rafa. But still, he’s No. 1 of the world, and he is the one that is playing great tennis. So definitely rankings?wise or any other way looking at it, he is the favorite?
So I cannot put myself in that spot even though I have won many matches against him on hard courts. That is going to give me maybe some mental advantage a little bit, you know, to be able to play as well as I did against him when we played on hard courts.
Q. Roger obviously has the 16 slams and 23 straight semis, and is widely accepted as the best of all time. Yet Rafa has a 14?7 record, great wins in finals, and great wins recently. Where do you think the head?to?head rivalry plays into the discussion of who is the greatest of all time?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s a very complicated question for me, to be honest, at this time. Sorry if I cannot answer really well. But, you know, stats and results tell you everything, you know. I can say in one hand, as I told you, Roger results?wise is the best ever.
Then you have Rafa who has won Davis Cup and Olympic gold medal and all these things and still very young and still having a lot of time to come. He has a big chance to overcome any of the best?ever players that play this game.
Q. When you were asked earlier about Rafa possibly becoming the greatest ever, and spoke quite reverently about his accomplishments and so forth. It’s occurring to me that at 23 years of age, you yourself are somebody that ?? there’s a lot of great championships to be played. With a victory tomorrow, your name belongs in there, you know, in this conversation about Roger and Rafa. Roger himself said in the press conference that people that overlook you just don’t know that much about tennis. Your thoughts on sort of all these questions.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, it’s normal. There are two best players in the world at this moment. They are the two most dominant players in last five, six years, so it’s logical that people talk about them mostly and they want to see them playing in the finals and everybody talks about their rivalry, their, you know, matchups, the greatness of each player.
It’s normal. For me, I don’t think I’ve done bad last three or four years. I don’t think I’ve done bad with my achievements. But I am not, you know, kind of disappointed that people are not talking about me more. It’s just waiting for my moment to come.
You know, I mean, I’m competing in an era of two, you know, great?greats, two players winning most of the majors. It’s not easy, if you know what I mean.
Q. It’s true. But you’re not 28, 29, you know, in the twilight of your career. You’re 23. There’s still so much tennis to be played.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Definitely, yeah, many, many more years to come. I look forward to it. I’m working hard on my game. I’m getting some things together, and hopefully on the court it’s gonna pay off.
(Source: US Open)