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May 16, 2017

Novak Djokovic

Rome, Italy


7-6, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Watching that, it felt like maybe a really good match for a guy who is developing his form, because it was close but a lot of rhythm and you finished stronger, so I guess you're pretty pleased?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, well, a little bit of a slower start, but as you say, you know, Bedene is the kind of player that gives you good rhythm. I had some good exchanges, some good games with rallies and it felt right, especially in the second set.

Tiebreak I played a great tiebreak. Served very well when I needed to. I just -- you know, I just wish that I had started a little bit sharper. But hopefully the next one will be good.

Q. Can we talk about the court conditions of play? Seems like it was tough for you guys to play out there today, and I know that the NextGen Arena has had some massive issues with the court and everything. Do you have any explanation about that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, it's hard to speak from this perspective now. I mean, at this stage when a tournament has already started, you can't really change anything. I mean, I just feel like it's important because I understand that they don't play much tennis on the center court.

I don't know how NextGen Arena is with the conditions of the court, but I heard not many positive comments about that. Center court also is not as good as it was maybe two years ago or last year.

But, you know, unfortunately traditionally we have these kind of issues with courts in Rome. The grounds men are doing their best. Nice guys, trying their best. But once a tournament starts there is not much you can do about the court. The court's foundation has to be built months and months before the tournament starts, and as I understand, they don't play much tennis on the center court and neither on the NextGen Court, the second-biggest one.

Clay is very delicate surface. In order to get it in the proper state, in order for it to have that solid ground, you need to play at least three months on the court before the tournament starts. It needs to be played more or less regularly, every day.

But as I understand, they play only, you know, three, four, five weeks before the tournament, and they don't play regularly. You can't expect to have a good court in that way.

Q. Couple questions about French Open. After we saw you yesterday, Roger Federer officially pulled out of the French Open and is skipping the entire clay season this year, saving up for surfaces he prefers more. I wonder if you think that model could work for more players? We used to see it more in the sport where people who didn't like clay would skip grass or Spanish guys who didn't like grass would skip Wimbledon, things like that. Wondering why you think we don't see much of that and how it would work.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: First of all, it's Roger, so he has the luxury to decide whatever he wants to and play whatever he wants to. At this stage in his life, and especially with the beginning of the season he had, I mean, he's been so successful throughout his career that he doesn't need necessarily to chase the points or play all the tournaments.

You know, he's very smart in his decision-making and scheduling. He knows what he's doing, I'm sure. Of course he's aware he has much better chance to win big trophies on quicker surfaces. Grass obviously is where he feels the most comfortable.

I'm not too surprised with this decision. I mean, he had a lot of matches played at the beginning of the year, and he did amazingly well.

It's something that we haven't seen, you know, from the top players in a while. I mean, when I say "in a while," I mean for at least 10, 15 years. Most of, let's say, us top players, have played throughout the whole season, more or less all the big events.

But before it wasn't the case. If you go back, you know, 20 years or more, many players skipping, for example, Australian Open because it was too early in the year, and if they would play maybe Davis Cup final and would like to have a proper rest and proper stretch where they could prepare well and take some time before they get into the new season. We don't have the luxury of that time anymore.

So in terms of schedule, of course it's not ideal. There are certain tournaments that could be maybe arranged in a better way, but it is as it is, and the tennis season has been, Grand Slam season especially, has been such for so many years. And of course in tennis you have too many probably organizations and governing bodies and owners of the tournament. There is too many intra-sites and it's usually conflicting interests between the players' tournaments. And whatever players want, maybe tournaments don't want.

So it's always give-and-take kind of battle. And, yeah, it was more common before. Now not anymore, so that's maybe why it's a little more surprising, because all the top players are playing big events.

Q. And the French Open announced they won't give Maria Sharapova any wildcard. She's gotten wildcards at a few WTA tournaments, including here. She's on court here. Wonder what you think of that decision. No qualifying wildcard was the other option.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, not much I can say. Whoever, you know, runs the French Open is in charge of French Open, and they can make a decision that they think is the most appropriate.

I can't say more than that. Must be tough for her, but it's the way it is. And in some tournaments she's going to get that help in wildcard and invitation; some not. Unfortunately, it's Grand Slam, which is, you know, for sure for her a big one, but it is what it is.

She has to -- you know, she has to go through a tougher way back. But, you know, I saw a little bit of her matches. She has been playing well, so I'm sure she's, you know -- after being absent from the tour for a long time, she's going to be patient, at least as much as she can, to slowly build her rankings and get back to where she has the quality to be.

Q. Today Chris Kermode introduced the Next Generation tournament in Milan, and there are some rules that they are going to try and see as a test. I'd like to know which ones you like the best and which one you don't like between no let, best five sets at the best of four games, no ad, only one medical timeout, spectators moving during play, and one clock counting seconds. And plus, the coach on court like WTA. Which one you like and which one -- headset on the court.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The coach is talking in the headset? (Laughter.) That's cool. That's nice.

Q. Tell me which one you like and which one you don't.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I like the headset. I like the headset. That's cool.

Anyway, after the match, you speak to Sky England or Sky Italia. You change over, like listening to music or a pep talk from your coach.

Yeah, I mean, look, I know about NextGen tournament, because all I hear these few days is NextGen, NextGen, event in Milan.

It's good. The young guys deserve to have event like this, and, you know, it's kind of a second-biggest season finale that ATP has next to the World Tour Finals. You have the Run to Milan, right?

I have played in Milan last September with Rafa, the exhibition match, and I played in that arena where they are going to play the NextGen Finals, so I'm sure it's going to be a great event.

In terms of introducing new things and new rules to the tennis, I think -- listen, everything is evolving in life and sport does, too. Tennis has to be open-minded for these kind of new potential changes, but again, there are some changes that are maybe reasonable and something that is acceptable by majority of the players; something that is maybe not as much.

So I understand it's really delicate, because, you know, you're used to one kind of rules and ways of playing. We played in IPTL with most of those rules that you mentioned, and it was strange, you know, playing with no let, with the clock that is ticking time from 20 seconds under. It is right in your face. That, I didn't like so much, to be honest. That is a bit too much. Because anyway, we have the chair umpires that are going to remind us of time violations.

But there are some interesting rules maybe, you know, that can be applied. The fact is that in terms of marketing and business perspective and TV rights, you know, obviously tennis has this disadvantage, because you never know how long the match is going to go for, and you never know when it's going to start.

You know, comparing to some other sports where Formula 1 or football match or basketball match, you know exactly when the game is going to start, when it's going to end, so they can lock a certain time in the TV schedule. That's what makes it -- that's what gives you better contracts.

So I guess from that perspective, I guess that's why they have probably a broader vision and they are trying to introduce some changes so they can try to shape it a bit, you know, better for the market, I guess.

But it's not that easy, because you have to respect the integrity and the tradition, the culture of the game but at the same time be open minded for evolution. So we'll see what's gonna happen.

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