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January 3, 2016

Novak Djokovic

Doha, Qatar

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. We are happy to have Novak here for the second time at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Novak, back for the second time here. You have been here a couple of days. How are you feeling and how excited are you about the new season?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, very excited to come back to the tour and start the year here in Doha as I did last year.

The conditions for the players here in Doha are terrific. The tennis center is phenomenal. You can see that there is a history to this event, and the people who are running the tournament obviously share the passion and love for the sport. The attendance is very good, as well, especially in the later stages of the tournament.

I do look forward to competing, because I haven't done that for a month and a half. The last match that I played was in London, World Tour Finals, and I haven't played any leadup exhibition events to Doha, haven't played any IPTL, and the reason for that is because I felt like it was too many matches already in the entire season and that I needed some time to regroup, recuperate, spend time with the family, and do something else, as well, and just recharge for, you know, another long season. That of course includes the Olympic Games that is going to be very demanding, but I look forward to that.

THE MODERATOR: First question?

Q. Given the season you had last year, can you talk a little bit about your recovery, how you used the offseason, and how important that was for the year ahead?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, for me, recovery is as important as the work, as the training that I put in.

I think the right balance and understanding to put in the quality and intensity of working rather than quantity of hours spent on the court is something that was always part of our kind of approach and philosophy as a team, but also the fact that I have played so many matches, you know, has obviously got me very tired, you know, mentally and physically and emotionally. I needed to recharge on all of these aspects and part of my being.

I had a couple of weeks off, and as I said, time to spend with my family and try to keep my thoughts off the tennis. Tennis season is the longest season we have in sport, so there is not much time in those weeks where you can actually allow yourself this luxury of thinking something and doing something else.

That's what I had this time, and I tried to use it in the best possible way, because I know that once I start training and preparing myself that, you know, I get my thoughts and my mind back in tennis and back in what I should do.

Q. (Through translation.) Very happy to have you again here in Doha. Why do you prefer kicking off your season with 250 point ATP event? And the second question is do you think that Qatar is able to host a well-organized World Cup in 2022?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, it's the second time that I have been coming to Doha, and the reason is because also I like to have a leadup event and official matches before Australian Open.

And also, the second reason is because I really enjoyed the first year. I enjoyed last year that I was hosted and welcomed in a very kind and pleasant way. I felt that the people, as I said, were contributing to the organization of the event and just the overall feel is that tennis is respected in Qatar. That's why I came back.

I don't know if I can answer your question regarding football because that's not my field of expertise, but I sincerely hope they will organize the World Cup. I'm a fan of football, and that's all I can say. I can't say more.

Q. There is lots of talk at the beginning of the season about you potentially matching Rod Laver winning four Grand Slams in one single season. I wonder how possible you think that is. Secondly, referring to what you just said before, is it hard to motivate yourself again after you have had such a season? You have had a break. Is it one of the hard parts actually to then start this whole long season again and motivate yourself to the level to what you achieved last year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, concerning your first question, I understand that those speculations are in place because of the season I had in 2015. I had a similar experience after 2011. I managed to win three Grand Slams. I'm sure Roger and Rafa have experienced that, as well, a few times.

You know, it's Olympic year, as well. Of course Grand Slams and Olympic Games are the priority of the season, but it's a long season so I can't really predict what's going to happen or guarantee if I'm going to win any of the Grand Slams or all four Grand Slams. Of course I'm going to try to win every tournament and every Grand Slam that I play in, because that's the kind of mindset that I have. I try to be optimistic rather than pessimistic.

And regarding your second question, again, it's not the first time that I'm encountering this particular situation where I have to remotivate myself, start from scratch, start from beginning. The fact that we all have the same starting point, I think it does give me a certain kind of excitement because it's a long season ahead. You have to take the best out of the season that I have had in 2015 and try to use that as confidence or incentive for this one. You know, that's the kind of approach.

Q. How do you look back at your partnership with Boris Becker? Has he been able to improve your game the last two years? And how important is French Open this year for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Boris has obviously contributed a lot mostly from the mental perspective ever since he has joined the team. The results are showing that. There was a lot of skepticism whether or not he can help me or whether or not he's a good choice to be part of the team, but we have proven that, you know, it was the right choice that we both made.

He had a great relationship and communication with Marian and the rest of the team from day one he joined the team. He's a very wise man, he's very smart. He knows when to communicate, what to say. He is completely understanding of me and my life, and he's trying to help me as a person and a player as much as he can.

I'm very grateful to have him on board as everybody else on the team, and I think this kind of team has helped me to actually achieve such success in 2015.

Q. And about the French Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: French Open? Well, as I say, it's one of the four Grand Slams, so definitely it's one of the priorities.

Q. Speaking of coaches, Roger recently just hired Ivan Ljubicic as a coach, and obviously Ivan is a good friend of yours. Do you think it's going to be a little bit weird to see your good friend sitting in Roger's player box?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Honestly, yes. But, you know, again, it's normal. We are all professionals and Ivan was No. 3 of the world. He was a Davis Cup winner and somebody that has played in a few different generations. I played against him a few times. He knows my game. He knows the game of all Roger's opponents. I think that's one of the reasons why Roger has hired Ivan to be with him in the team.

Whether it's going to work or not, that's something that is left to see for all of us, but I wish them all the best. I think Ivan is a great guy, very calm, very composed, and I'm sure Roger knows why he hired him.

Q. (First question regarding Federer and prize money.) And last year you were here with your family. Are you here with your family again this year? In this competition, who do you consider to be your top opponent?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I'm with my family here again, fortunately.

Regarding prize money, that's definitely not my priority. Prize money is a consequence to good performances and good results. So I think it will come along as a consequence. Money is not the reason why I'm playing this sport.

I still consider Federer, Murray, and Nadal as my biggest competitors, but of course they are not the only ones who are going to challenge me and everybody else for the major titles.

Q. Outside of the organization and feeling welcome over here, is there a sense of unfinished business over here, given that you went out early as against how you did for the rest of the year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course I do feel very motivated to do well in Doha because it's a new tournament for me. It's only the second time that I'm playing it in my life, and, I mean, as you said, I went out early in quarterfinals last year to Karlovic. That actually motivates me even more to try to go as far as I can and compete for the trophy. Of course I want to do that.

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