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January 4, 2016

Novak Djokovic

Doha, Qatar


6-2, 6-2

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Commencing, starting in Doha, happy with your performance?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Is that a question? (Laughter.)

Yes, of course. It's been six weeks since I played the last match, so I was very excited to go back to the court and compete and see how I go. Obviously you never know how you're going to start from the blocks. You can do your best to prepare yourself well, which I did. I think I used the offseason very well to train to get my body in the right shape, and I think it was a very good start.

Q. Happy New Year.

Q. Can you talk about the conditions out there? It seems quite cold and windy. It's not necessarily the best preparation for the heat in Melbourne.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the first few days were really warm, not much wind a week ago when I arrived to train. And then the weather changed. But, you know, this is what you expect from this time of the year in Doha. It's not something unusual.

Most of the years the matches are played actually late afternoon/evening, and so because it's wintertime, it gets cold and it can get very windy, which is, you know, obviously posing a very big challenge for us, you know, to get some rhythm on the court.

These days wasn't really easy to practice, I would say. Many players were frustrated because, you know, you kind of have to be very focused and you don't get much rhythm in the practice sessions.

But considering the weather conditions and everything, I think it was a good performance from my side. Obviously I played a player who I never faced before and somebody that is, first of all, I think a very charismatic guy, very good for tennis, for sport, and somebody that is unpredictable. Comes up firing with the shots.

He hasn't served particularly well today, which I think helped me. But again, that's his style: a lot of dropshots, forehand slice, full lights-out forehands and backhands, as well.

But again, I knew what was expected in a way, so I think I prepared myself well.

Q. We saw you come to the net a bunch of times today. Is that something Boris has been stressing you to do more of in the offseason, and can we see more of that in the future?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not much. Obviously I know Boris was a more natural, you know, volley/net player than I am. We do try to work on certain transitions in the game, when I have a short ball to come in and be at the net, but not necessarily to come at all times.

You know, I'm a baseline player. That's my core of my game. But when I do have an opportunity I try to use it and come to the net.

So partly, yes, it has been an influence to more aggressive style, but again, you know, not as much as he used to do. I'm not diving and playing so well in the net so well as he did.

Q. What is the biggest challenge for 2016? After that year, 2015, what is the biggest challenge for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think the biggest challenge is, as it is in any of the previous years for me, is to really be consistent with my success throughout the year, try to stay healthy and try to maintain the high level of performance.

That's what I try to focus my mind on. You know, if I start thinking too much about certain tournaments, it can present a kind of a distraction to me so you try not to do that. I try to actually be as much as I can in the present and work my way through and effect whatever I can effect. That's really working on my game, training myself to be strong and to play confident tennis. And I know as a consequence to that, the results will be positive, I'm hoping, obviously.

So this year it's going to be especially congested because of Olympic Games. Davis Cup is there, as well, and obviously -- I'm playing first round of Davis Cup, yes. And depending on what we do, I'm not sure. There is going to be a lot of matches, hopefully. If there is a lot of matches, that means I'm doing well.

But it's still very early to talk about what can happen in Olympic games or Roland Garros or any other part of the season. Of course those tournaments are my priority, but, you know, I want to be here in Doha and do well and then take it from here.

Q. Obviously a pretty strong performance today. You lost one game. But is there any way that you were able to say, oh, this area or maybe these areas are things I'm definitely going to have to improve upon, or was it too quick?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Honestly, the match went very quick, so we didn't have many exchanges, many rallies. I thought what I have done, what I have done well was staying in the match each point, not really allowing myself to get distracted or to allow him to start maneuvering and playing the way he wants. I was getting a lot of returns back in play. I thought return was well. Serve was very efficient. And of course there were a few shots that I missed, but all in all, it was a straight-sets win, a comfortable win. That's what I take from today's performance.

Q. What's the importance of participating in ExxonMobil Qatar 2016, especially that it comes at the beginning of the season?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes, I have had a very long, very successful, as a matter of fact, the most successful season of my life in 2015, and then obviously had decisions to make whether or not I want to participate in IPTL or Abu Dhabi exhibition events where I can get more matches, more competitive play, but I decided to skip that and come straight to Doha, to rest, recuperate, and get myself here early and, you know, get in the right state of mind, I would say, to be fresh mentally, because last year not only physically was very demanding but also emotionally, mentally, you know, playing on the high level, many, many high quality matches against top 10 players.

It takes its toll, you know. It's tiring, obviously. And even though I have played so many times in my career in these big matches, but you need to -- I value recuperation and recovery as much as I value training. That's why I came in early, that's why I had a good rest.

I feel great at the moment. You know, I had a good performance the first round here in Doha where it's a relatively new tournament for me. It's the second time I'm playing it in my life. It's a beautiful center. I think people -- and it's a long tradition and history of this tournament. I mean, I think '92 was the first time it was being held, and I believe my coach won it. So we are hoping that I can repeat that success this year.

Q. Can you elaborate a little bit more about your offseason which has been particularly long? You were saying you're taking a holistic approach, anyway, in tennis and life overall. Now you had really the chance to work on your game after amazing season. Can you be a little bit more specific what you did on court, off court, in which spans?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, I find it very hard for me to actually do nothing, so to be on the sun bed in the whole day and do nothing. My body doesn't allow me to do that.

I kind of feel over the years, because of the lifestyle that I have, I manage to get in tune with my body and to kind of recognize the signals and things that I need to do. So I try to take care of my body on a daily basis. Even though when I have a complete rest of tennis and no major physical activity, I still do stretching, I still do, you know, yoga exercises, things to keep this elasticity, to keep the vitality in the body I think it's very important.

My body is my asset, and that's something that needs to serve the purpose if I want to compete in the high level. So after London, I obviously took a couple weeks off the tennis part, and then I started slowly building the substance, the energy supply, endurance. Started with, I'd say, more endurance exercises, you know, jogging, running swimming, and so forth, biking, and then slowly getting, you know, including tennis.

All in all, in the ideal world, you want to have a little bit more time. As an athlete, in order to really fully rest and recover, I would say mentally and physically you need at least around three, four weeks off, and then you need at least, you know, five, six weeks to get yourself in proper shape from that moment on, which means it's about two months which we don't have.

But again, it's not the first time that I had such offseason, and I know it's less than a month to get myself in a right state of mind and to get myself physically fit to compete. I have done it before even in a shorter span of time. I think it was very, very important for me, I think a good decision to skip all the exhibition matches and events, because in the end of the day, it's in my interest to actually be healthy and play well throughout the entire season.

So I look at it from the longevity kind of point of view, and I try to look at the big picture, not only get myself ready for Australian Open but the entire season.

As a matter of fact, this is the only time of the year in the offseason when you can actually build something, muscle or endurance. Other than that, it's like couple days here and there, not much really time to work on things.

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