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QATAR EXXONMOBIL OPEN


January 8, 2016


Novak Djokovic


Doha, Qatar

N. DJOKOVIC/T. Berdych

6-3, 7-6

An interview with:

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. This is your 16th consecutive ATP final. Can you just tell me at this state, if you don't make a final, is it a shock to the system?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I mean, of course I'm very proud of the achievements and this particular stat, as well. But, you know, I try not to think about what would happen if I would lose or not get to the finals. I try to keep the optimistic kind of mindset and approach to every match, to every tournament.

I think that helps me to get to where I want to be, to fight for a trophy. I just try to keep that run. I mean, this is exactly how I want to start the year, playing in the finals of the first tournament against one of my biggest rivals and I'm looking forward to that.

Q. You are 23-23 in your head with Rafa. Is it important tomorrow you could go ahead with him? Is it important for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course it's important. Every match I play against anybody, but especially guys that I have played with so many times like Roger, Andy, and Rafa, that's of particular importance regardless of where you play against each other.

So I'm going to accept the challenge, go out on the court hoping I can perform my best, because that's what's going to be needed from my side to win the trophy.

You know, I hope that the crowd will enjoy the match.

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the hit you had before the match, it looked like you stopped the hit with Malek because you had pain in your neck or something. Is there something wrong with you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I have been struggling a little bit. Not with leg. With the arm, you know, with the serve.

But, you know, once I warm it up and physio has got to do a lot of work in the day to make me feel prepared so I can actually serve and play a match.

I don't think it's a major concern. Obviously knowing that I can play a match, you know, makes me feel relief a little bit, but, you know, it's a little issue that it's there for most of this week. So hopefully till Australian Open it's going to fade away.

Q. Is it more special for you that you're playing Nadal in the final? Beyond the hype, does it actually mean more to you that you're playing him or just that when you get out on the court it will be "another game"?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I have said before, it always represents a great challenge to play Nadal because of the fact that we have played so many times for the trophies in more or less all the tournaments.

Yeah, it's final so you fight for the trophy. And knowing that across the net you have the player that you played against the most ever in your career adds more importance to that final.

But having said that, I have been in these particular situations before, and what gives me confidence before tomorrow's final is the fact that I have won against him in our previous several matches, especially the one in Beijing and London Masters where I thought I played very well against Rafa.

I'm just going to try to approach the match as well as I did in those kind of occasions and try to, you know, try to impose my own game and game plan. It's easier said than done, obviously, but I know that I need to be aggressive, and I know that I need to beat Rafa that has been playing well this week.

So, you know, of course we both want to start with the title here in the season, and tomorrow's match will show who is in better form.

Q. In the long term, is there any possibility to see Djokovic as a coach? And if Coach Nole was in this generation, who will choose the player?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there is always a possibility. You know, I definitely see myself being part of this sport all my life, you know, in one way or another, just playing it for fun or helping this game officially or unofficially. It's my love. It's my passion.

I don't think it would be fair to the sport if, when I finish the career, just say I don't want to play it anymore or I don't want to be involved. It's all about give and take. You know, I got so much from tennis. I live a phenomenal life that I'm very grateful for and it's because of tennis.

I do see myself in, you know, staying as part of the sport. In which way? I don't know. It can happen that I come back -- you know, it's still far away. I really can't see myself right now as a coach because I'm still a player. But it's possible. It's also possible that I never coach, as well, anybody on the tour because of so many years spent traveling. So I keep all the possibilities open.

Today if I can coach somebody, that would be either Dustin Brown or Gaƫl Monfils for obvious reasons.

Q. Earlier in your career you got a lot of attention for your ball bouncing. I think 39 happens to be a record. I get the impression that number has gone down considerably in recent years. Is there a reason behind that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I worked very hard on that to decrease the number of bounces and decrease also the discontent and disturbance that I caused in my opponents and fans (smiling).

As I was explaining back then, it was just something that occurred because I changed my technique, and then it kind of became very mental and very automatic. I was not even aware that I'm bouncing the ball so much, especially in important moments. But again, I worked mentally on myself, you know, to kind of release that kind of pressure.

I think I improved my serve, as well, which helped. So all in all, I think it's fine now. It's within the limits. They become very strict now with the rules between the points, and I haven't had too many of the warnings so it's a good sign.

Q. I will split the question in two parts. The first one is with such a run, does it feel that you have the upper hand in the matches even if the rival is Rafa or Roger? Does it feel like if you have the control, then it's fine? That's the first part. And the second one: If you kind of see any kind of changes in Rafa's play nowadays.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, obviously as a professional tennis player, when you compete on such a high level against biggest rivals, you know, it sometimes feels like a game of cat and mouse, you know, who is going to conquer the baseline first, so who is going to protect it better, who will be the one controlling the pace of the game.

Very few moments actually in the match decide, you know, the winner. So in the end of the day, it's very mental, as well. It is a lot of different influences that in those circumstances that can really make a difference in the match.

So of course, you know, I try to be the one, you know, in majority of the points to be the one that actually feels like it has control over the exchange from the baseline.

But, you know, it's not always the case. Depends who you play against. And tactically you have to approach every match different.

And Rafa, I have noticed that he's been very aggressive on second-serve returns this week. So he's been trying to, of course, you know, change something, improve, and it's no surprise to me, honestly. I know him. I know his character and what a fighter and a hard worker he is. So he's one of the best players in the history of the game for a reason, and I'm sure that after last year's season that was not up to his standards, he's willing to do something else and, you know, improve his game. He's in the finals, so that's already, you know, proof that he's been playing well.

And I expect him actually to take his chances and try to, you know, shorten up the rallies, as well. Maybe from the first ball I expect him to be more aggressive. I know that that's going to happen, but again, one thing is to prepare yourself mentally and the second thing is actually to execute what you want.

So hopefully I will be able to play at my best.

Q. This is your second time here in Doha. You seem to enjoy it a lot. ATP has chosen the Qatar ExxonMobil Open as the best tournament 250 points of the year. How do you see the evolution of this tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it's only the second time I have been coming back to Doha, and I have only nice things to say about the tournament and organization. I think Karim, Mr. Nasser, and anybody who is in charge of the organization of this tournament is doing a great job and is making players feel very comfortable.

So the fact that you have so many top players since 1993, this is the first year the tournament was organized to today, you always have top players playing in the draw, you know, that means that there is something that the tournament is doing well.

I actually see the evolution of this tournament in the upcoming years of getting a different, a higher category of the event, definitely. I think they deserve it. I'll support the tournament. Obviously schedule of the ATP events is not easy. It is not easy to make some changes because it's different entities, different, you know, groups and organizations, different owners, and ATP doesn't own all the tournaments, so it's not easy to change and so forth, but this tournament is, you know, is showing to the world of tennis that, you know, we are here to improve, we want to get higher level or category of the event. And they deserve it.

I'm hoping for the sake of this tournament and all the players that enjoy coming back here that that's going to happen. So we will see.

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