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May 29, 2017

Novak Djokovic

Paris, France

N. DJOKOVIC/M. Granollers

6-3, 6-4, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. How did it feel to step out there a year on from last year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, different because obviously coming to this tournament for first time as a defending champion gave me, probably more than anything else, relief, you know, because the anticipation and the pressure and expectations that I had also for myself but all the other people around me in the last, you know, three, four, five years before 2016 Roland Garros trophy was really big.

So I was really thrilled to achieve one of my childhood dreams and win all Grand Slams. To come back to this court, it was definitely special.

But in general, I try to treat it as usual mindset, you know, the approach more or less the same, especially the first match. I wanted to start off well and, you know, engage all the engines in the right way and come out with the right intensity, which I have done, you know, and I think set 4-1, two breaks up, and then I just played a couple sloppish games.

Also in the third set when I had him on the ropes, if you want to call it that way, I just played very bad games in my serve and just managed to lose the break of serve, one of the two that I have had.

So that's basically the only thing that I think wasn't really great for me today. But all in all, it's a straight-set win. Granollers is a tricky player. He knows how to anticipate well on the court. He has a good serve. It was a bit of a rusty start, but in general, it was a good performance. I was feeling the ball well. I'm just glad to start off the tournament this way.

Q. I would like to ask you a question neither about your today's game or your current form but about Serbia. You're one of the most popular athletes of Serbia, and an amazing ambassador for your country. For several years Serbia has hoped to join EU at a time when Brexit happened. Far right movements are all over Europe, including France, in order to leave the EU. In your opinion of Serbians who can speak English, Italian, Spanish, German, a bit of French...
THE MODERATOR: I have to ask you to get to your question.

Q. Do you see admission in EU zone as the beginning of chain of hope for your country?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I really didn't understand your question in the end. Can you repeat that again (laughter)? Can you give him the microphone, please?

Just in one context, because I understood the context so far till the last sentence, was very political. I just want to understand again...

Q. Do you see an admission in the EU zone, European union?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I'll stick with my answers about tennis and sport. Politics is something that is not of my big interest at the moment. I do follow it, of course, because it is part of my life, part of everyone's lives. So I'm aware of what's happening. But more than that, I can't say.

Q. Have you and Andre been able to work out how long he's going to be able to stay at Roland Garros, maximum length of time he'd be able to stay?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he's going to stay I think till the end -- well, I hope till the end of this week. Then he has to leave, because he has some scheduled already things that he cannot reschedule. So that's all.

I'm going to try to use the time spent with him as best as I can, as best as we can. So far plenty of information, plenty of things to kind of process. You know, I think this is exactly what I need at this moment, a person like him that understands the transitions as a tennis player and, you know, as a person, as well, going through these kind of lifestyle and certain choices that you make, how that affects you later on.

So he has been through that, and he has a lot to share with me outside and inside of the tennis lines. I'm really enjoying it so far.

Q. Andy Murray said the other day that he thought that one of the reasons that maybe he hasn't had such a good year this year because he struggled a bit for motivation after achieving such a big goal at the end of last year. Do you see similarities between his situation in the last six months and yours over, say, the last year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Understandable. I mean, I can relate to that, because I have been through similar situation. Probably mostly after US Open, you know. But as a tennis player, you're kind of trained and you're developed to kind of flip the next page very quickly. Whether or not you win or lose in a big tournament, there is another big one coming up in a matter of weeks' time or even less.

So for me it was really strange to get to feel what I felt the end of last season, because I always, even when I would face that before in my career, I would felt that I would overcome it very quickly.

Well, this time was not the case, so I had to work harder, which I am, as well, in every aspect. Look, it's life. You know, life, you know, throws a lot of good things and things that are, you know, maybe a bit challenging for you. But in the end of the day, it's all for your own good and for your evolution. I mean, that's the way I look at it. Even though at times it's hard to comprehend why certain things are happening or you would wish them to happen differently, but all in all, we are all human beings, we all go through those stages in life.

I mean, Andy has had an unbelievable year, especially last six months and spent a lot of energy to do what he did. It's no wonder that he felt a little bit, I guess, deflated. So he needs time to rediscover that sense of urge and motivation.

But I know him for a very long time, so I'm sure he'll be back on track.

Q. From what you said just now and then the other day, it seems like Andre's presence is definitely towards the motivational and things like that. But is there anything in particular or a few things in particular you think you can get from him for the technical part of your game? Did you see any of that coming out, even in this first match?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we discuss, of course, mostly about the tennis and the things that are surrounding tennis, let's say, whether it's technical stuff, on court, during the match, during the practice, the way you go about things every day. There is a lot of different things that obviously I can or he can relate to what I'm going through.

That's why his advices and everything he shares with me is very valuable, because, you know, he understands exactly, you know, what one top tennis player goes through.

So, yeah, I mean, we try to spend as much of quality time together on the court and also off the court. We talk a lot, but we, at the same time, try to be aware of the moments and of the subjects of discussions, and, you know, and he likes to talk about things. They are very deep inside, you know, the human being, so kind of surface that out and try to get to know you, so these things in the long term are fantastic.

So for me it's very different relationship than from any other that I have had really with anybody, consistently talking a lot about those things.

I can see only positives to now. But, you know, it's hard. I mean, it's hard to say whether there is significant difference on the court, because it's only a few days that we are together.

So it's going to take a little bit of time, and all the good things take a bit of time to really get their real effect on it.

You know, I'm patient, and, you know, for us this is a great way to start off our collaboration and friendship and get to know each other and then see where it takes us.

It's hopefully something that can be long term.

Q. Obviously very early days, but I'm wondering in the terms of process with Andre today, his coaching staff, for instance, before the match, is there a big pep talk and afterwards do you do a long debrief or have you already had one? In terms of the mechanics, in terms of Boris or Marian or whatever?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's different. I mean, every coach-player relationship I have had was different.

So I don't want to compare, because they all have their own ways of approaching. I think the relationship with Marian and with Boris was extremely successful, and I have enjoyed both of those relationships very much, as I am enjoying Andre's one.

I don't want to call it a pep talk. I don't think it's appropriate, because, you know, I think for us it was most important from the very beginning to establish this relationship where we are able to share some intimate things with each other, and we are able to really open up.

So it's more about sharing how he feels, you know, about my game, about the opponent, about some general things and me, as well.

So it's very much a two-ways kind of conversation. So we kind of complement each other. He says the right things in the right moment. Everything he says, it's very useful for me. And it definitely makes sense.

So I'm trying to implement certain things on the court. Specifically it's not anything that really will significantly change my game. I won't start to play serve and volley or something like that, you know. It's more about the mindset, the approach, because, you know, I feel that the game that I have has gotten me to where I am for a reason, and he feels that my game is very much at a good place. It's just matter of fine-tuning it in the right way.

Q. Understandably a lot of focus on Andre, but I wondered what you're considering on the fitness side for your new group, and if Gil Reyes is in the conversation.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: So far, no. He was not part of the conversation. I have certain people and methods that I have been trying out lately. I don't want to talk about that one. It's still not the time, because I want to see whether or not it really works so I can speak to you about it. So for now -- I am working on something, for sure, but still not ready to be shared.

Q. Andre was a pretty puzzling kid. Drank a lot of whiskey at Bollettieri's, bleached hair and all that.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn't hear about that.

Q. Read the book.

Q. Maybe it's in Bollettieri's book.

Q. Jack Daniel's. Anyway, he's gone through so much and has gone through so many changes and has gone on to do such incredible things for children. Talk about how he's evolved as a man. Is that something that's impressed you? Is that part of your partnership and is that what you learned from?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: His book is probably the best written book about tennis player, I mean, that -- I mean, I read quite a few books about the autobiographies of tennis players, or athletes, as a matter of fact. I mean, I think it's, you know, that book has revealed so much about him that people didn't know, and he told me it was a two-and-a-half year process of writing that book. So you can imagine how much details and emotions he shared with people throughout the world with these things that were in the book.

So many things at the time, when I personally read it, were, you know, quite shocking, you know. But what I was very impressed about was his honesty and transparency and willingness to, you know, to share his life's experience that one human being goes through. You know, even though sometimes the top athletes are regarded as perfect people, you know, flawless people, but it's not like that. We all have our flaws.

And what I think made him different from maybe others is that he was willing to share those flaws and really allowing people to understand that we all go through those moments and also, I mean, the purpose of the book was, you know, very noble and was very positive, wanted people to kind of relate to him and maybe pick something that could inspire them, you know, to also be the best versions of themselves, whether it's sport or anything else in life.

Yeah, I mean, certainly he has plenty of experiences in life on and off the court, Andre. He's been through a lot. So I'm just still getting to know him, you know. It's just the beginning. So obviously he's not going to share everything in the first day, you know. So, you know, hopefully we will have enough time to really get to know ourselves as best we can.

Q. He has a much different demeanor in the box...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I suggest something, I should bring Andre to the next press conference. You guys should speak with him, sit down.

Q. He has a much different demeanor in the box? Have you talked about that? It's something you care about?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He is the way he is, you know. And I'm not gonna tell him how he's going to behave in the box or the court or whatever. I don't have a right to do that, and I'm never gonna do that.

I like him the way he is, you know. It's obviously the first match that he has watched, you know, courtside from the box, role of a coach, so, I mean, it was -- it was very interesting for me to experience and feel what, you know, what I'm going to feel on the court when that's happening.

But I actually felt very much focused on what I needed to do, so it wasn't really, you know, disturbing in any way to me, you know. It's quite special. I'm honored. But at the same time we are a team. So we are there for a reason.

It was completely fine.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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