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January 17, 2017

Novak Djokovic

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

N. DJOKOVIC/F. Verdasco

6-1, 7-6, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Fernando said the court was playing like indoor carpet of the '80s and he wasn't really happy about it. What did you think about the conditions?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, '80s carpet I'm not familiar with, indoor.

Q. He said it was too fast and the balls are not the same everywhere on the court.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, obviously I respect his views and opinion. Of course, everybody I guess experiences differently, the match and the conditions.

I didn't find it, you know, too bad. Last probably three, four years the court, center court and also the outside courts, have played quicker than the years before that. That's what I feel.

But in terms of even and uneven bounces, I didn't see any significant difference.

In terms of performance, I started really well. Great first set. Great third set, as well. Second set was a long set with a lot of unforced errors from both sides. It was a gamble, really. He had two or three times a break up.

I had my chances, 4-All, 5-All, many breakpoints. But in the end of the day, I knew that winning second set would be crucial, 'cause I definitely didn't want to give him wings, you know. I didn't want to have him start swinging at the ball, as he knows.

I'm very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form, how well he played in Doha. Just overall I'm feeling good about my performance.

Q. When you go out there, are you just able to put that five match points that you saved in Doha totally out of your mind? At the beginning is it somewhat there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, obviously it was very recent. It was about 10 days ago, the match that we played. So, of course, you still have traces of, I guess, that match, emotions and everything that has happened.

I use it in a way to just analyze and to get myself prepared for what's coming up, to just be able to do things better than I've done that day in Doha. Even though I won the match, I thought I hadn't played as well as I did tonight. Starting off a match as I did out of my blocks was obviously very satisfying to experience.

Q. When you were getting frustrated in the second set, what was going through your mind?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, I was not happy with losing two, three times in a set my serve. Of course, credit to him for playing very aggressively on his return games. But I just started to play too passive, just slightly lost my rhythm on the first serve.

He was on top of it. I mean, you know, that's why I just didn't want to give him too much of a chance to step in and kind of dictate the play. In second set, it was very close.

Q. Fernando spoke about he was confident until he saw he had drawn you in the first set. He used the word 'unlucky' that he drew you. Do you think that gave you a bit of a mental hold over him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I don't know how he felt about the draw. But, you know, I personally think that I could have drawn, say, an easier player. But nothing is easy obviously.

I mean, he's a quality player, a former top 10. He beat Nadal in first round last year here. He's a big match, big-time player.

But I think from one perspective it was good that I got to have the very tough first-round match, because it made me prepare better and kind of approach this match and the tournament with the right intensity right from the blocks, right from the first point.

That's the one thing I'm pleased with.

Q. Do you feel that the new year has offered you a reset option, not that the second half of last year was bad, but not to your normal standards? The fact that you had two months off, does that allow you to sort of write off the drop in form last year and start again?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I didn't have two months off. I wish sometimes our off-season is a bit longer. But it is what it is. I still had, I guess, enough time to be at home and to recharge and spend time with family and doing some other things that keeps my mind a little bit off tennis, which is important at times to balance.

The tennis season is, in fact, the longest season in sports. Very demanding. But a great sport. I love it. I mean, it's given me so much.

It keeps pushing me to kind of really find my own, I guess, limits, goals, ambitions, you know, capabilities. I really strive to always be better than I was yesterday.

Surely the off-season has served me well, as you used the term 'reset,' and kind of just reflect on the entire year, what I've been through, because there was some wonderful moments and incredible highlights. Especially the one in Roland Garros. Then, you know, the second part of the year where things haven't been really up to standard, had ups and downs in results. You know, dropped the No. 1 ranking.

But, again, Andy was there for a reason. He had an incredible last couple months of the year.

But all in all, you know, as I said, it served well. Already in last couple weeks, I was real eager to come back into the court and get into the competitive mode, just be back in the office, if you want to call it that way. I'm not the only one that enjoys it. Obviously there are many players that really are appreciative of this sport and what it gives us. Already early in the season we have Australian Open. So it's the best way to start the year.

Q. You did a tremendous job on your serve the past few years to improve it in every aspect. Then you had this issue with your arm at the end of last season. Did you have to change anything in your motion at all since then?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, certain tweaks, certain adjustments, yes, I had to make. Obviously I worked in the off-season on certain elements in my game, certain shots, technique, trying to emphasize certain aspects of my game where I can get better, which didn't work so well in the last couple months of 2016.

I thought we did good work on the court, because that's probably the only time of the year when we can actually put in a lot of hours on the court and for several weeks in a row actually train without having any official match.

Q. Can I ask you about your relationship with Ivan Ljubicic? You've been very close to him over the years, but now he's coaching one of your leading rivals. Does that change the nature of how you talk to somebody when you meet him off court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I'm glad to say it doesn't change and it didn't change. I mean, I've known Ivan more than 10 years ago. We met, and we actually trained together because we had the same coach, Ricardo Piatti. When he was No. 3 of the world, he was kind, very kind to me, always very friendly, always there to give me advice, anything that I need.

I remember I changed to half Luxilon, half gut strings because of Ivan. I really looked up to him. He was one of the biggest influences at that time on me. When I trained with the same coach, you know, I always kind of wished to train with him. At that time he was one of the top players of the world.

As I said, you know, he was always very positive, always very friendly, open to any suggestions, advices, anything that can allow me to develop and stay on the right track.

That kind of relationship we established at the very beginning has stayed all the way till today. It doesn't really matter if he's in Roger's box or not. We still communicate as well as we did back then.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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