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May 31, 2017

Novak Djokovic

Paris, France


6-1, 6-4, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. How do you feel? You had a rough landing, maybe arched your back or something. I saw a video on your Instagram about working on your vision. Curious to know what you're working on.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was an awkward twist, but it was nothing, nothing really major. It was okay. It was just a little pull. He wrong-footed me and I was in the air trying to catch the ball.

And your second question was regarding the video. Yes. Well, it's something that I have been doing in the last couple of months. It's one system that improves your cognitive functions. Basically, you train your reaction, your perfect [phonetic] vision. So it's everything through game aspect, through amusement, as well. It's quite cool.

You know, I don't feel significantly different, but, you know, you always -- I'm one of those kind of athletes that looks for small percentage of improvement in everything I do. Always continuously.

So, you know, I felt like that's something that is very interesting that could help me, because the tennis is very dynamic game. Everything happens in a split second, especially when you're returning serves that are over 200 kilometers per hour.

If that can help subconsciously a little bit and improve the instinct and reaction time, it's great. And Stefan does it, as well. I lower the tripods or whatever you call them. And he's chasing the green color. He loves it (smiling). That's one of his favorite games.

Q. What pleased you most about your performance today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think the beginning of the match and the way I have started. Great first set, pretty much done everything I wanted. Midway second set until maybe midway third set, that's where I allowed him to believe more that he can get back into the match, and he started playing better. I felt like maybe I took off the foot from the gas a little bit.

You know, he used his opportunities very quick to run around his backhand. Very aggressive. Likes to play on clay.

So, yeah, once he has time, he can be dangerous. So I tried to take away that time from him. In some important moments I was, you know, kind of hanging in there. Especially in the third set he missed an easy forehand maybe to go break up in the third. It was quite close. Especially in the third set. The way I ended the match and last couple of games was positive. The way I started, as well.

Generally, I felt better than the first round, so that's exactly what I wanted.

Q. Considering how much wanting to find the joy and fun in tennis again, one of your main goals past couple of weeks, how far have you been able to do that here considering the changes in your team, with the pressure coming in, defending favorite? How much have you actually enjoyed it, considering all the stress of a Grand Slam that this is?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I do really -- I do really enjoy playing for the sake of playing. Whether it's practice or match, of course. When you walk into the court playing an official match, the sensation is different because you have the pressure, the umpire calling the match and you feel, calling points, you feel all of a sudden the dynamic and the energy changes, because right now, you know, every point counts. Where on the practice sessions it's a bit different.

But in general I do enjoy it, and I do love it. I still have a great passion for this sport, and being committed to it is crucial for me to even have a chance to play on the highest level. I need to be committed, which I am.

So of course there are days when things are not as good as some other days, but it's all part of the sport. I think I reached the stage of my life where I just need to find always new ways of motivating myself, inspiring myself, and having Agassi on board and doing some changes is definitely bringing me that.

You know, I look forward to whatever life brings next. You know, I still feel young in my mind, in my body, as well. I'm going to keep going and see where it takes me.

Q. You mentioned looking for a better balance maybe between tennis and the rest in your life. You seem very peaceful on the court at the moment. Do you think you are slowly reaching that balance?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: At times. At times. But thank you, it's a compliment. Although, you know, obviously everybody is different. I always liked expressing my emotions. You know, I always try to be honest to people and to myself and to life in general, whatever I do.

You know, I never try to pretend, and so there are times on the court when I express emotions in a good or bad way. Important thing is to be aware of that and to try to channel it, you know, in your own advantage, so to say, so it can be useful energy.

I think, for me, it's again you mentioned the word "balance" and it's the right one that I'm seeking always everywhere, especially on the court, somewhere between having the right drive, intensity, a good kind of energy that I wouldn't say aggressive but aggressive in a good way, if you know what I mean, that kind of keeps you going. But at the same time, you know, be serene and be in the moment and present.

So I think that's a feeling that every athlete is trying to find and every tennis player. Some identify it as in-the-zone kind of moment, and it's not easy to get to it. I need to work hard for it, but not only physically. Also mentally. It takes time, takes experience. It's very easy to lose it, so it's something like confidence, as well.

It's what life imposes, you know, to us athletes and to us people. Always new challenges and new ways for us to kind of accept it, improve, use it in our own advantage, evolve, or just fall under pressure. There are times when we all do fall, but in the long run, you know, it's kind of trying to keep that positive mindset.

Q. One of the interesting conversations in tennis lore a while back was when Gilbert and Andre met up. I think it was in a restaurant in Rome, and for the first time, and they talked and talked and talked. It really clicked, and it led to a partnership that was very important. You had your conversation with Andre just a short while ago. Could you just share a little bit of two things: What your feelings were? Did you feel, Wow, this guy has got it and it's going to click? And could you share a little bit of what you shared.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, it was over the phone, first discussion we had. As I mentioned before, the reason why I have asked for his number so I could call him and thank him for being so supportive of me and my game always, also in these times when I received a lot of criticism in the last seven, eight months. He was always there and tried talking, praises and positive about me in general, which I appreciated very much.

So I just wanted to let him know that I feel that way. After that, it evolved into a conversation that went for, you know, 45 minutes. You start talking about everything. Just, you know, one of these things where you feel, you know. You don't think with your mind so much, where you just feel that certain things are matching and certain people are matching, and just it felt so natural, felt so spontaneous.

And, yeah, after that we just gave space and time for it to evolve into maybe a relationship that we have today.

So here we are, you know. I just can't be more grateful for having him on board and having his presence in my life, in person, and also when we are in distance, doesn't matter, you know. We are still in touch daily, talk, and he has so much input, so much valuable, wise things to share with me that I can use in every day.

It's great. I mean, I'm very honored to have him.

Q. Now that you have a crocodile on your shirt, do you know why Mr. Lacoste was called Crocodile?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Check this out (holding up a crocodile). This is my croc. I make the croc stories now, I decided.

Q. And are you going to cry after you kill your victims like a crocodile, or are you going to cry only when you lose like in Rio?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't know how to get this last comment. But I am proud to be with Lacoste, because it represents a legacy and tradition of René Lacoste, more than a tennis player, someone who was an inventor, revolutionary, athlete, someone who cared about people, and how his tennis and how his status in the world of sports influences and changes people's lives.

You know, that's something that I relate to very much. And to be the ambassador of a brand, of such a recognized successful brand that exists for a long time, is truly a great privilege.

Crying or not crying, I don't think that crying is exposing your vulnerability in a bad way. I think it exposes your vulnerability in a good way. We all have emotions. Crying in Rio was, you know, definitely one of the toughest moments I had in my career, knowing that I won't have a chance to fight for a medal that I really wanted so much.

So of course having your flag of your country on your chest represents a big honor that can't really be described.

That's something that has, you know, provoked a lot of emotions inside of me, and being part of Olympic Games is always extra special.

That's all I can say about crying. I will not comment on alligator slaughtering of his victims or something like that (smiling). I just hit a tennis ball.

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