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May 13, 2016

Novak Djokovic

Rome, Italy


7-5, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. That was an amazing match to watch. Was it feeling like a classic to play on the court today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, it felt definitely special to be on the court today playing against Rafa for several hours, two sets, very long. Thankfully we didn't play Grand Slams, best of five. Who knows when this match would finish.

But I thought towards the end of both sets I managed to find an extra gear and come up with some important play, aggressive play. You know, I think I won maybe a couple points more than him in the match, so that says enough about how even, you know, this encounter was.

I think the last 20 minutes of the match was a very high quality of tennis, entertaining, of course, for the crowd, for us players, as well.

Q. At the end of the match you send your hat to the stand?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. That's what I feel. I started doing it now for the first time in my career, so maybe this is a celebration, a new way of celebration for me that starts from Rome, a place where I get so much support and love in the past, and this year, as well.

Q. You have won 15 straight sets against Rafa now. Wondering what you think it is that gets you over the line consistently when there are set points against and very close sets. What is it that's the extra something that has made the difference so many times? Not all the sets have been close, but when it was it's always gone your way.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think towards the end of both sets I started to return and play with a little more purpose, you know, where midway both sets, you know, I didn't take the initiative first. I wanted to be more aggressive, you know, whenever the ball was shorter to take advantage of it.

It's easier said than done, considering the conditions in which we played. It was tornado on the court. It was really hard to control the ball and find the right balance. But in these kind of conditions, playing against Rafa, it's an additional, I think, obstacle and challenge.

But having said that, I still managed to find aggressivity and purpose, kind of like purpose playing tennis towards the end that allowed me to dictate the play, which you need to do, you know, if you want to win against Rafa on any surface, especially on clay.

Q. Patrick Mouratoglou said in 2009 Federer and Nadal era, there was only a player who believed was possible to beat Roger and Rafa, and this player was Novak Djokovic. Is the reason why you are so dominant now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn't understand the question. What do you mean? What is the reason why I'm so dominant now?

Q. Because you believed it seems impossible?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I mean, look, in order to get in the mix between these two guys that are great champions and were so dominant when I was starting to play, the self-belief was key. A confident approach, mental strength and, you know, importance in relying on my abilities and really believing that I can one day reach the No. 1 and start winning against these top guys and winning Grand Slams.

So certainly it has been one of the key parts psychologically looking to have that kind of self-belief and strength with something that was necessary, because these two guys were and still are such complete players and personalities that it was the only way to break through.

Q. Your win was incredible, the tennis you played, you and Rafa. In the first set and second set he had advantage. He breaked twice. So what do you mean in those moments and your opinion the crucial moments in both sets? The first question. Second question, next match you will play either Nishikori or Thiem who pulled out of Federer, so it's one of the players of next generation. What do you mean?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I didn't start both sets with I think the intensity that I managed to find in the end of those sets, and that's the reason why I think Rafa took over control and had a break of advantage, but in both sets towards the end I just managed to make that crucial break. That gave me also, you know, that extra edge and strength to prevail in both sets.

Regarding my next opponent, I don't know who it's going to be. I'm going to watch the match tonight and then prepare myself.

They are both young players. They are promising -- well, Nishikori has already established top-5, top-10 player of the world. Thiem is somebody that is on the rise and somebody that is now proving, you know, to be one of the leaders of next generation because he won against Nadal earlier this year, Federer now, on clay. I think that's his most preferred surface because he plays with a lot of power, with a lot of spin.

So, yeah, it's going to be interesting to see who wins, comes out on top. For me it's important to focus on the recovery time and get myself ready for tomorrow.

Q. As you know, Rafa is fighting very tough to get back to his level. How close do you see him to you? How important it is victory for thinking of Roland Garros?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, certainly winning against Nadal on clay doesn't happen often, doesn't happen every day, so it is one of the ultimate challenges if not the ultimate challenge we have in sports. So I'm going to take this as a boost of confidence, no doubt, for the rest of this tournament and then of course for French Open.

And also take into consideration Nadal is in form, you know. I think he's been playing much better than he did in clay court season last year, which, you know, you can see by the results that he had. He won Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, he won many matches on clay courts, start to feel more comfortable on the court. He misses less and he's more aggressive, so I think I won against a Nadal that played on a high level today, and that's definitely giving me satisfaction.

Q. Of course you have played Rafa many times, and if you're going to play Nishikori in the next round, which means you're going to play him two weeks in a row. So I was wondering when you are going to play someone, some player who you have played quite often, do you still try to analyze what happened in the previous match and prepare for the strategies on what happened in the previous match?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course. I think the fact that we are playing against one player week before on the same surface actually helps preparation, because you get to remember well. You still have a fresh memory of what has happened a week ago, and you can -- today, technology allows you to see the highlights of the match, certain points, and do video analysis and get yourself ready. That's what I'm going to do if I get to play Kei, but obviously he has to win his match tonight.

Q. You had a bit of a discussion with Carlos midway through the first set over one particular mark. Do these moments unsettle you, and how quickly do you regain composure?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I don't want to sound like eccentric now, but I have seen he has made a wrong decision. After the match they told me the ball was out, which I'd seen. He didn't. But it's okay. Everybody makes a mistake.

The only thing I minded with Carlos is he was actually touching the mark, and he was touching the line. So I don't know. He was kind of creating his own mark (laughter).

That's why I told him, Please don't touch the mark. I mean, let's talk about the existing mark.

So that's the whole thing. But, you know, look, everybody makes a mistake. I understand it was difficult to see, was so close.

But it appeared that he loved the clay with his finger (drawing a circle on table with index finger).

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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