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March 18, 2016

Novak Djokovic

Indian Wells, California


7-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. That was close. Are you happy about the way you kept your head cool when it was really...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was definitely very challenging to play in these kind of conditions with Jo that was in form this week.

I thought, you know, being a break up and couple of break points for double break in the first set, you know, I felt playing well, very solid; had the match under control; serving 5-4, 30-Love.

All of a sudden, not putting a first serve in. He started mixing up with a slice and decided to play a bit different tactically. That got me off a little bit, you know, the balance and the rhythm.

He started playing better. He started swinging more freely from the forehand corner, especially. Yeah, it was very close.

But, you know, I take positives out of today's match, the fact that I have played somebody that was feeling good throughout the week, somebody that serves very, very big and plays very, you know, quick and efficient, precise forehands, you know, that gave me a lot of trouble today to win in straight sets and to win in two tiebreaks, I think it's gonna help definitely my confidence and, you know, mentally I will take that.

Q. Rafa next. Last time you played him, one of the most lopsided matches ever. How do you think that result for you can carry over into this one? Now you have upper hand with head-to-head going into this match.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, completely different matchup against most of the players that I play against this week. He's a great competitor, a great fighter. He's been getting himself out of trouble a few times this week and showing why he's one of the best players in the history of the game.

You know, he never gives up. He always makes you play an extra shot. Always makes you earn the win. You know, I'm going into tomorrow's match knowing what's expecting me and I know how to get ready.

I won the last couple times we played against each other, so maybe that can give me a slight mental advantage coming into the court.

But, again, everything is open. It's semifinals. We both have won multiple times titles here, and hopefully we can come up with some good tennis.

Q. With how close your rivalry has been, what did that Doha final feel like for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that's definitely one of the best matches I have played against Rafa. I will try to take a close look at that match and what I have done right.

But, again, you know, we have to consider the different -- completely different conditions. We played in Doha on a bit quicker surface. The balls were not bouncing as high. It was night. It was colder than here.

Tomorrow is going to be very warm. Ball bounces very high, which he, you know, prefers, because the spin, rotation that he generates with his shots is, you know, really big.

The court is picking that rotation up here with the bounce. He likes the conditions, actually. We played against each other here several times and always close matches.

Well, I'm hoping I can deliver my best game tomorrow.

Q. Obviously you know what to expect when you go out there to play Rafa, but is one match different to the next or to the previous one? How do you approach them? Do you approach them in the same way or differently?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Every match is different. As I said for the reasons just mentioned, you know, obviously playing in different conditions, different years. You know, you have a different feel every time you get to go out on the court with one of your biggest rivals ever.

You know, there's always a lot at stake. You know, whether it's Doha or Indian Wells or finals of a Grand Slam, you always want to win against your biggest rival.

So that's kind of an optimistic approach I will have tomorrow, as well. As I said, I won last couple of times when we played against each other, so I will try to analyze what I have done well and carry that into tomorrow's match.

Q. 2007 when you played here, that was a big breakthrough year. In that final you played Rafa. Can you reflect on that experience of 2007, and also what you learned from that final against Rafa that maybe helped with your progress?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, that was a breakthrough year definitely in terms of winning big titles in my career. I remember it well. I lost in straight sets here, and then managed to win in straight sets in Miami against him in quarters on my way to the first Masters title.

So those two tournaments opened a lot of doors for me and have allowed me to believe that I can, you know, win big titles, win against top players. That was definitely a strong confidence boost and wind in the back, if I may say, for the rest of the career.

Almost 10 years later we are completely different players than we were back then, more experienced, and I think physically very prepared, both of us. But, you know, 48 matches later, as well, a lot has happened. You know, it keeps going.

So, I mean, I enjoy a rivalry against Rafa. It's probably the most exciting rivalry I have, you know, in my career. Hopefully we can play many more matches.

Q. With Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Rafa, I think it's fair to say one of your three great rivals. Each have quite different games. Could you just briefly talk about your mindset, what specifically is different about preparing against these three great rivals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as you said, they are three different players, so you have to prepare yourself in three different ways tactically.

Mentally, on the other hand, it's quite similar because you know you're playing -- when you're playing those three guys there is a lot of excitement, a lot of emotions going on prior to the match. When you step on to the court you feel that tension.

That's why it's important to use that strong emotion and intensity that you have and channel it in a positive way rather than a negative way.

It's a game of cat and mouse, in a way, mentally, who is going to be on top first, who is going to take over the control usually ends up as winner. So I know that very beginning of the match is very, very important. Gonna try to start well.

Q. Obviously a couple of months ago is the first time you edged ahead of the rivalries with Rafa and with Roger. What you think has the better psychological importance? Would it be you actually taking that edge or them -- I mean, how would you figure that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, certainly it is pleasing to know that I have managed to, for the first time in my career ever since I started playing professional tennis, that I'm leading in a head-to-head against Roger and Rafa.

I mean, that wasn't the case for ten years, and I worked very hard in order to have that positive head-to-head. It does matter. It does really matter, of course. To what extent, it really does depend. You know, I try not to make a big deal out of it, but I understand that being on the north side of head-to-head, it does contribute to my, I would say, preparations for the matches, matchups against them.

Q. Tsonga obviously has a huge forehand. Could you take a moment, and what do you feel are the two or three best forehands on the circuit now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, there is quite a difference between a powerful forehands and most efficient forehands. I think Federer has one of the most efficient forehands. The combination of power, finesse, and precision.

Then of course Nadal.

Tsonga, he can be one of the guys right up there.

Del Potro has a big, big forehand.


You know, forehand is one of the most, if not the most important shot in the game, you think about it. Serve and forehand, because statistically, you know, I think overall we play maybe two to three shots in average throughout the year. That's reality.

So very important is to have a good return, good serve, and first shot, take initiative. So if you have a good forehand, that definitely helps.

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