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January 18, 2015

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Do you think you had a good off-season because you became a dad and played IPTL, busy schedule?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it was a different off-season from the previous ones. Obviously I entered a new chapter in my life, becoming a father, forming my own family with my wife. Of course, it's something that happens for the first time in my life. Obviously brought a lot of joy to me and fulfillment in my life. The other hand, it was important for me to understand how I'm going to, you know, organize my life obviously. But I think my team made sure that I'm on my schedule, that I'm still staying disciplined and kind of committed to this sport. In terms of my approach to tennis, nothing has changed. I did have a good off-season, practiced pretty good. I followed the practice schedule that was determined by my team. After that I played one match in Abu Dhabi, a couple matches in Doha, which I thought were good enough for me to prepare myself well for Australian Open as the first Grand Slam.

Q. What happened yesterday with your practice and how are you feeling now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I had tough couple days. But it's all behind me now. I'm ready for the Open.

Q. What are you suffering with? A cold?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, little bit with the flu and stomach. But I carried that already from the Middle East a little bit. But now it's good. It's passed.

Q. What do you think about the courts? Are they faster compared to last season?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I thought already last year that they were a bit faster from the previous years. That was my subjective feeling. Talked to some other players. They confirmed that feeling, as well, on the court. But the court is the same for everybody, so that's why we come here week before and we try to spend as much practice time on the court to get used to the conditions. The weather was actually very good. So far we didn't have any extreme heat days. Couple days also raining, which was also quite refreshing for Australian summer. Obviously Melbourne weather is very unpredictable. But I feel like if it stays this way, it's great for tennis.

Q. How do you feel your prospects are? Do you think you can win the tournament this year? You've obviously had great success. Who are the tournament favorites?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don't think it's nice to talk about the title already now when the tournament hasn't started yet. There are so many players who are contenders to win the title. Considering the success that I had in my career in this tournament gives me enough reason and confidence to believe I can go far. But again, you know, I have to start the tournament well. It's the beginning of the season. We already have one of the four biggest tournaments in sport. 120 players want to prove that they deserve to be in this tournament, and they have, of course, huge motivation to win against the top players. It's something that is obviously keeping us all cautious, and we have to have a right and humble approach to the tournament. So I'll take it one match at a time.

Q. What do you know about your first-round opponent?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't know much. Honestly I know he's from Slovenia. I watched him play a little bit in Chennai, I think semifinals. I've seen he's a baseline player. Good, solid, two-handed backhand. Obviously he's going to be very motivated to perform well. If we get to play on center court, I'm sure it's going to be a unique experience for him. He's got nothing to lose. Referring to the previous question, lower-ranked players, younger players, have nothing to lose. That's what makes them really dangerous in the opening rounds. That's why I hope I can start with the right intensity, the way I was starting this tournament in previous years. If I do so, I have a good chance to win.

Q. It's quite ironic that 10 years ago the LTA made an offer to you and your family. He, Bedene, is trying to become a British player?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Really? I didn't know that. So how do you feel about that (smiling)?

Q. I don't think it's going to happen, but he's trying anyway.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay. I wish him all the best. If he thinks it's proper way for him to continue his tennis career, then I support him in this intention. Obviously at that stage of my life things weren't easy, obviously trying to find proper conditions and proper support for my career. So, yeah, at that time the country was going through a lot of troubles, Serbia, economical troubles. They had better things to do than support financially a 15-year-old tennis player. Tennis was not a big sport with a long tradition in our country. So I know how it feels, if he feels maybe something similar. But he's already an established professional player. I don't know what's the motive behind it. In my case, in the end, there was no doubt that I want to stay playing for my country because that was just a few years of struggle, but more or less I've had a clear vision of what I want to do, under which flag I want to play.

Q. Do you think players should be able to change their countries as they want?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's a good question. I was thinking actually about it. Honestly, I think it's a bit too strict, the rule of playing only for one country. In some particular cases, like Bedene, whoever, who he wants to change for some personal reasons, private reasons, financial reasons, you know, many different reasons why you want to switch your nationality, I think the ITF, the ATP, all the governing bodies of tennis should allow these players and give them an opportunity to play for another country if that's the case. I think the previous rule was waiting five years if you get to play for one country, then you have to wait five years in order to play for another, and if you didn't you had to wait for three years. I haven't followed the rule change right now. But I think it should stay the same. I think players should be allowed to play for another country if they want.

Q. DelPo has withdrawn. How much does the game miss him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was very unfortunate. I was looking forward to see him. I haven't seen him here actually yet. Right now I don't think I'll see him. He's withdrawn from the tournament. It's definitely a big loss for the tournament, for tennis, not having him around. He's first of all a great guy, great person, great tennis player, very powerful, very attractive game for fans. He's a Grand Slam winner. He's somebody that has been at the top of the men's game for many years. Unfortunately he has missed now probably two of the crucial years during his active career because of the injuries. I just wish him all the best. I am very good friends with him, great relationship off the court. I'm sad to see this happen. The injuries are the greatest enemy of any professional athlete. As I understand, his wrist is something that bothers him, and you can't do much about it. I had a wrist injury this last season, 2014, a bit milder version, not to that extent of seriousness as his, but I know how tricky it is because you can't do much about it. It's either undergoing the surgery or waiting for it to heal. You can't do much stretching. You can do some physical therapies and so forth. The short-term solution is obviously cortisol or injections, which can only help if you are playing a match in a day or two. In the long-term, it cannot help. So I sincerely hope to see him very soon.

Q. He came back once. How hard is it a second time?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I've seen some of his matches in Sydney. He played well considering the circumstances he was in, the absence on the tour for basically the entire 2014. So I'm sure he's also glad that he at least played a tournament. I'm sure he's disappointed that he's not able to play in a Grand Slam because, you know, that's where he wants to perform his best. But I hope he can be positive about it and be persistent in the intention of coming back.

Q. Did you have a chance to talk to him here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I haven't seen him at all, no, unfortunately.

Q. It's 10 years since you played your first Grand Slam match here against Safin. Can you compare the motivation you have coming back as a past champion?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it's quite different circumstances, 10 years ago and right now. I love this sport. Playing tennis gives me a great pleasure. So as long as it's like that, I have plenty of motivation to play it, and to play on the biggest stage. This is one of the biggest stages you can have in the sport. I remember back in 2005 I qualified for the first time in my career for the Grand Slam, playing Marat Safin that later on was a champion, was quite an experience. I didn't stay long on the court, but still I was enjoying it very much.
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