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June 29, 2017

Novak Djokovic

Eastbourne, England


6-2, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. That was a bit of a test today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was. I enjoyed it, especially in the second set. The first set went my way and I played good. Felt good on the court. Had some break point opportunities early in the second set. Haven't capitalized on those. I think Donald started playing with less unforced errors, putting more variety, you know, using his forehand very well from all over the court.

You know, he served for the set, had a set point, had set point in the tiebreak. It was very close second set. Obviously could have gone easily his way. But it hasn't, and I'm just glad the way I kind of held my composure, my nerves. You know, this is the kind of match situations that I was looking forward to have, and I'm glad it happened today and managed to overcome that.

Q. Was the support from the crowd helpful for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was great. I really want to say how grateful I am, you know, to really feel very pleasant, very much like at home on the court and off the court, as well. There is a lot of people thanking me for coming to Eastbourne. You know, that's something I haven't really expected. I'm really grateful for, you know, for their kindness, obviously the good vibe that comes around the town these days because of the tennis.

As I have mentioned, as you can see, there are so many matches and so many courts. There is always something to see. The town is vibrating and kind of breathing for tennis this week.

Q. Andy pulled out of Hurlingham again today injured. What was your take on that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's the first time I hear that news. I mean, Hurlingham is an exhibition event, so it's not really too significant. I'm sure that he'll be ready for Wimbledon. I don't know the nature of his injury, but I assume he didn't want to risk it.

Q. The problems keep piling up. He hasn't played hardly at all on grass, and now he's got physical problems.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, you can't expect things to go perfectly smoothly every single year all the time. We are all humans. We all experience our ups and downs. You know, you learn from those experiences.

I'm sure that this is a challenge that is not unknown to him. I mean, he has faced these kind of circumstances before where he hasn't maybe played as much, where he didn't have as good of results that he had over the years.

But, you know, he's a champion. He's someone that has proven so many times, you know, to people that he's one of the best players in the world. He's defending champion of Wimbledon. You've got to take this in consideration rather than just focusing on this very present moment.

Q. Would you not read too much into it, the fact that he's having these problems?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I try to pay attention to myself.

Q. You know what it's like to win so many Grand Slams. How difficult is it if you're not feeling completely 100% physically fit going into a Grand Slam?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have faced these kinds of circumstances before where maybe you're not at your best physically. You have to work your kind of way through and figure out what's working for you best in terms of preparation, recovery.

I'm sure, you know, Andy does everything in his power to get himself ready and prepared for his first match. He's got a team of great professionals, and, you know, most of the top players do. There is a reason behind it, obviously, because they all have their own role of expertise in our careers to make sure that every single aspect of our bodies are being taken care of and worked on and kind of gotten to the state where you can perform your best.

Obviously at times it's not possible. Sometimes those circumstances are such for various reasons, but, you know, we have learned how to play through pain. Professional athletes are very familiar with pain on a daily basis, basically, whether it's just a small stiffness, a tightness, a soreness, whatever you want to call it, or sometimes something even bigger.

There are times when you have to take anti-inflammatories. There are times when you try to do it without the tablets. You know, I'm sure all the athletes can relate to that. They understand that. Me personally I'm against, you know, tablets and anti-inflammatories, but at times I have to take them because, you know, I've got to play a match tomorrow in a Grand Slam. If I have an issue or for some reason I can't serve or whatever it is, you know, I put myself in a position where I have to ask a question whether I want to play kind of 50% or I want to play 100% if I have an opportunity to do that.

So it's a conscious choice, although I know that affects obviously -- it has some kind of side effects and consequences on your body later on, but that's another story. But in general, you know, you try to do your best to be in shape but at the same time stay conscious about your own health, about nature, and about the processes that go through and that take time.

Q. With all the matches you have to play all the time, do you ever feel 100% physically fit, or is that almost impossible?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course you feel you are doing everything that you can with people around you to get yourself in that kind of in-the-zone type of state, of mind or body or emotions. But if I'm thinking about it now and kind of taking the percentage of the matches the way I feel always 100% and where I don't feel, I think it's less than 50% where I feel 100%, completely, let's say, taking emotional, you know, mental, and physical aspects in consideration.

There is always something that is, you know, going on. But we are not robots. We are humans. We have to deal with those things. Actually, those adversities that we have to face on the court and challenges are actually there to be, you know, presented as an opportunity for us to learn, to get stronger, to grow from that experience.

So, I mean, there are obviously two ways to either take that and grow with it or let it break you. So of course at times you're not able to perform at your best. You lose the match, but it's not the last match you lose in your career. You learn how not to be too hard on yourself, even though at times you are.

You know, if tennis teaches us something, it's the kind of ability, because of the schedule, to kind of recuperate and recalibrate very quickly. Week after week we have always another tournament and another opportunity to shine.

Q. You have talked about the adjustment to grass, which is quite difficult after clay. You also were around in the Rebound Ace time in Australia when people were worried it could be too hot and too sticky. Do you think there are problems about grass that they do require such an adjustment to the body that it does risk a player getting injured? A general question as opposed to a specific player.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we talked about the uniqueness of this surface. I mean, just simple fact that when it's humid and when there is moist on the grass, as smooth as it is, it's still slippery. All it takes is to have one wrong move, lose your footing. A lot of things can happen, obviously.

Q. Is it more dangerous than other surfaces?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Yes, I think so. I mean, again, it really depends on which surface you're playing on in which particular time of the year, because the weather conditions and the nature obviously affects a lot, because this is an outdoor sport so we play mostly outdoors.

Of course sometimes clay can be very dangerous if it's too soft. Then it's not that great for ankles.

But grass, yeah, I mean, grass is very demanding surface. Especially those, you know, far reaches and those gets when you're running all over the court, especially if you're further back, that's where you are in kind of a danger zone in terms of movement.

Q. Do you pull out of some of those in the early stages of the tournament? Do you not go for a ball out wide because you fear...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I mean, it's hard to say. I'm not that kind of guy that kind of, you know, lets the ball pass. I try to get more or less every ball.

Just sometimes you can't get it. You feel maybe it's too much. You know, I like to try to reach for every ball because it's not that I'm doing that for the crowd or for my opponent. I'm doing it for myself, as well, because it keeps me in that good intensity.

Q. You and Andy have split the last four Wimbledons. What do you think are the elements of your game that work especially on grass and what are the elements that work particularly well for Andy on grass?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, for me, over the years, hard court was most successful surface, but for some reason, you know, I made a lot of good results in Wimbledon, especially. I think this surface, you know, makes us baseline players kind of move in a little bit more, you know, try to take the short balls, come to the net, put some variety.

I think because of the grass I also learned how to play a better slice and, you know, and also serve and volley. I'm not a natural serve and volleyer, but it's important to have that, I'd say, tactic/element in your game for this surface, depending on who you play, whether someone is blocking the shots or so forth.

There is a lot about movement. I think both Andy and I have, you know, over the years worked a lot and perfected our movement on any surface, as a matter of fact, especially on grass, and we try to put a lot of balls back in play. And grass is a surface where everything happens very quickly, so if you have a big serve, then really you have a big advantage because it's hard to return.

But I think both Andy and I have managed to return a lot of balls back in play over the years in Wimbledon and also have good anticipation on the court. That gains a lot of space, a lot of time and good positioning on the court.

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