Novak Djokovic Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic SF interview

Interviews

Q. What were your thoughts about going up against someone who you never played before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I had to do, I guess, extra homework and research on his game, on his patterns. Obviously speak to some of the players that played him before. Just get out there, try to focus on execution of the game plan.

Obviously today was a perfect match for me from the first to the last point. I executed everything that I intended to and even more than I have expected.

Q. We'll have another final between you and Rafa. You're both over 30. Rafa said he needs to adapt his game to his age. What do you adapt to your age? Recovery? Your game? You're still dominating the game over 30.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have a slightly different approach: I adapt the age to the game. I don't feel at the moment that my body has any significant wear and tear that would compromise my game. My game is pretty much the same.

Of course, looking to improve, as anybody else. But generally seeing and feeling the game is quite similar to what I have had throughout my career. I will not change anything for the moment.

Q. Did you watch Rafa's match? Did you go out with the intention of conceding fewer games than he did?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes (smiling). It was hard to do that, but somehow managed.

He has played impressively well throughout the entire tournament. He hasn't dropped a set. He looked as good as ever on the hard court throughout these few weeks. I haven't played bad myself last couple matches. I think that this finals comes at the right time for both of us. I'm sure we're going to have a blast on the court.

We can promise one thing, and that's knowing both of us that we're going to give absolutely everything out on the court. I think people will enjoy it. I will, of course, try to play as well as I have so far. Of course, playing Rafa requires a different approach tactically. I'm sure it's the same from his side towards me.

He's my biggest rival in my career. I've played so many matches against him, epic matches on this court. Of course, the one that stands out was the finals of six hours almost in 2012. Hopefully we don't go that long this time. But I'm sure we're going to have a good finals.

Q. Years from now when you're describing the 2012 match to your children or your grandchildren, how will you describe it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: 2012?

Q. Yes.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That's a good question. How would I describe it? I'll probably not have them sit down and watch it because I don't like my children to watch TV that long. But I would probably present it in more a general concept of our rivalry. That match would be icing on the cake.

As I said, Nadal has historically throughout my life and career been the greatest rival that I ever played against on all the surfaces. Some matches that we had against each other were a great turning point in my career. I feel they have made me rethink my game.

I had some disappointing moments where I lost to him. I think I lost to him nine times so far in the Grand Slams, and I lost some tough matches in finals and semis in French Open and US Open. I won also some great matches.

Those kind of encounters have also made me the player I am today, without a doubt. These are the kind of matches that you live for, finals of slams, playing the greatest rivals at their best. What more can you ask for? This is where you want to be.

Q. Rafa is really keeping points a lot shorter, keeping matches shorter for his body. Do you think it would be beneficial to make the match longer to test his body so soon back from injury?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Do not necessarily want to get into long exchanges with Nadal. But I think my 1-2 punches that worked pretty well throughout this tournament. The good thing is I'm feeling really comfortable on the court hitting the ball. I can get into the court, I can step back, I can defend. I'm comfortable doing whatever it takes.

I'm going to get out there and obviously try to dictate the play. But it's easier said than done against Nadal. Just depends how we both start. Throughout the match, I guess you're going to have to be present and get a feel of how it evolves. Sometimes it will require to be a little bit more patience with more construction of the point, sometimes maybe to attack more. We'll see.

I mean, he has improved his serve. I see he has a slightly different service motion that has worked very well. With everything he possesses, all the qualities in his game, adding to that also a lot of free points on the serve makes him much tougher to play against.

That's why I think he managed to have a lot of success with the shorter points, because of the serve. I think he's backing his first shot up with that great serve, saving energy, and then he can go for more in the return game.

At the same time it's quite different playing against me, me against him. I think it adds more maybe pressure on his serve and my serve, as well, because we return well. We've been playing well. Yeah, it's going to be interesting.

I can't take you through every point of that match obviously now. We can get a sense of what we are about to experience. Hopefully we're all going to have a good time.

Q. When we look at the results you had last year, the Nadal match at Wimbledon seems to be sort of the breakthrough in your comeback. Is that how you see it? If so, what actually worked for you that made it that breakthrough?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean, that was the match that has mentally turned things around for me mostly, I feel like. I started the grass court season well. I played finals of Queen's, got to semis of Wimbledon. Winning against Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set, that has catapulted me I think mentally to a different, more confident self. It has allowed me to then excel in the months to come after that.

Q. On a personal level, what would it mean to win a seventh Australian Open title, which would be a record? What is it about this particular place that you excel more so than the other Grand Slams?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, there's so much at stake, it's hard to pick one thing. Obviously making history of the sport that I love is an honor and is a privilege. It's a huge motivation. At the same time Nadal is across the net. We're playing finals of Grand Slam for the record seventh title here. If you don't get motivated by all these things, then something is wrong.

Q. Why this place?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think I've said many times before that it's a combination of several things:

First of all, I mean, I'm not the only one that feels really comfortable in Australia, in Melbourne. There's a lot of players that really feel like at home, feel very welcomed here.

It's the beginning of the season. Everyone is fresh and ready to jump-start their year.

There's a great tennis buzz and fever going around in the month of January throughout the whole Australia.

I think conditions of play. Obviously the court, the balls, everything is quite suitable to my style of the game.

All these things combined probably allow me to excel here.

Q. How often do you have a match like tonight where, as you said, from the first point to the last you did everything you wanted and then some? How rare are those nights?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I hope that they can become more frequent. Yeah, I mean, in the past I've played some tournaments, specifically here in Australia, I've had some terrific matches, couple matches in a row where I would win comfortably in straight sets. Considering the occasion and circumstances and playing semifinals here, this is definitely one of the best matches I've played on Rod Laver Arena in my career.

Yeah, you just happen to be in that zone that we all strive for. Every professional athlete wants to be in the zone, where everything flows so effortlessly and you are executing automatically everything you are intending to execute. You don't need to think too much. I guess you're driven by some force that takes over you and you feel divine, you feel like in a different dimension. It's quite an awesome feeling that we all try to reach and stay in.

It's probably the biggest challenge, I think, is how to repeat that, how to stay there for as long as you possibly can. Again, it depends on how you feel that day, who is across the net, various things.

It's an individual sport, so everything really depends on you, how you emotionally cope with all these things. Sometimes you feel more anxious, nervous because who is across the net, occasion, or maybe something tenses up in your body and you're not striking the ball as smoothly.

It really takes a long time to get to that stage or phase where you have so much confidence and everything flows, but it takes such little time to lose it. That's why we all are very committed and very aware that professionalism really gets you to that state of mind and play where everything flows.

Q. You've gotten to so many finals. Is it game plan, fitness, or the mental side that's so important? Talk about feeling the intensity that Rafa gives his foes.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the intensity that he brings on the court is immense. Without a doubt, probably the most intense tennis player that I have witnessed and played against. It makes you be alert, so to say, from the very first point. That's why I think the quality of tennis is 100% right away. I mean, it needs to be because he makes you play that kind of tennis. He doesn't allow you to kind of ease your way into the match.

I think physically definitely you need to be fit, ready to battle, ready to run for hours. It definitely helps if you have not spent too much time prior to the finals on the court. I think we both have not spent too much time, so we both are going to be physically fine.

But mentally obviously and emotionally what I think will do it for both of us, that will allow us to cross the finish line as a winner, who is able to kind of stay more focused, more determined, is going to cope with the pressure moments better. It's no secret. That's something that we have experienced against each other and everybody else for that matter for the last 15 years so many times. I think that experience that we both have will play an important role, as well.

Q. You clearly relish the challenge of playing Rafa. Can you enjoy it the battle while you're in the middle of it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sure, if I'm winning, of course.

Yes, I mean, look, the Wimbledon semifinals this year, finals of Australian Open 2012, those are the matches that just come to my mind right now where feels like it's unfair if you have one winner. Those kind of matches where you go the distance and you push each other to the very limit.

Of course, you want to come out as a winner out of those matches, but the same time understanding that you really took everything you have out on the court and you left your heart, you can be content with that. That's what makes you, I guess, enjoy it more, because you're not regretting or you're not feeling like you're leaving something out in your tank. When you go full out emotionally, physically, mentally, you might as well enjoy it.