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January 18, 2018

Novak Djokovic

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

N. DJOKOVIC/G. Monfils

4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Gael said he never played in conditions as hot as that before. Were they the toughest conditions you ever played in?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: One of the toughest ones, yeah. The conditions were brutal, that's for sure. I mean, we both struggled. Maybe he struggled a bit more, you know, in a period, end of the second set, entire third set. That's where I think I managed to get on top of him, you know, get even on sets, obviously start off well in the third.

It was obvious that he was not at his best. He was just, you know... At times we were both just trying to get a little bit of extra breath, a few seconds more, so we can recover. We were also getting into some long exchanges and rallies. That's what happens when we play each other.

I was mentioning on the court that he truly is one of the best athletes we have in tennis. He hasn't lost a match this year. He won a tournament. He was feeling confident. He started well. I didn't start well at all. I was a set down. Obviously just try to hang in there and wait for opportunities, and when they're presented, obviously try to use them.

But, you know, it was just one of these days where you had to stay tough mentally. I think physically it was obvious that, you know, just have to try to hang in there.

When you're facing such conditions, obviously it affects you mentally, as well. It was a big challenge for both of us to be on the court, to be able to finish the match. I'm just glad that I managed to come out on top.

Q. This new 25-second rule between points, do you think in conditions like that today there should be some relaxation in it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, I got a time violation today, and didn't say anything. Chair umpire in the next changeover was trying to justify why he gave me a time violation.

I said, I have nothing to say. You're completely right. I went over.

It happened in the past. When it happens, I don't say a thing. When I get the pre-warning, I think it's fair. He did give me the pre-warning today. He gave me a warning for time violation. I have nothing to say. I respect that.

Chair umpire was doing a good job today, I think. He was really trying to participate in the game and understand what's happening. He was obviously trying to tolerate few times for both of us, after some certain points that went long, conditions were really challenging for all of us, for the crowd as well. I mean, nobody enjoys these kind of days.

But it is what it is. You know, the rules are there. Obviously you have to respect them. It's same for both players. But I think it's just this human factor of chair umpire really putting an effort to understand what's happening, really understanding the game, the dynamics of the points, the conditions and how that affects it all.

So I think when a chair umpire does his job, like ours did today, I just have to say (Serbian) and well done. It's not easy also for him to sit out there and kind of control both players, you know, have that kind of tolerance.

Q. There will be a debate over the next few days whether conditions like that are safe to play in. 42 degrees tomorrow. Gael said you guys took a risk today by playing in conditions like that. Where do you sit on it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I mean, if we talk about rules, there is a rule about index, combination between temperature and humidity. I'm not so sure about that, to be honest.

I think, you know, there are certain days where you just have to, as a tournament supervisor, recognize that you might need to give players few extra hours until it comes down. I understand there is a factor of tickets. If you don't play matches, people will be unhappy. You have to take into consideration different angles before making a big call like that.

But, you know, people might say, Well, at this level you have to be as a professional tennis player fit. It's the beginning of the season. You kind of work and train hard to be able to sustain these kind of conditions, to be tough.

But I think there is a limit, and that is a level of I guess tolerance between being fit and being, I think, in danger in terms of health.

Q. Was that limit reached today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was right at the limit. You know, I mean, you're a part of the industry. Our sport has become an industry, like most of the other global sports. It's more business than a sport. At times I mind that, I don't like that. As someone that has started to play, still plays this sport, for the sake of playing it, you know, pure passion to be part of it, of course we're all blessed to have a great financial compensations, great lives. For sure, I'm very grateful for that.

At the same time what is most important for us is our health and what happens after career, after you're 30, 35. You know, there are many players that are struggling. They can't physically walk, run, jog, whatever. I mean, they're struggling some way or another, health-wise or physiologically, whatever.

It's very complex subject to talk about. You have to understand what the player goes through. When I say you're part of the industry, you're just adding up events there. There is no indication that we're going to have any form of discussion for a shorter season or anything like it. We're just adding events, official events, unofficial events. It feels, from a player's perspective, that you're kind of always in a rush. You're always obliged to play the mandatory events. You obviously have always a big challenge to defend points because it affects everything. You're always constantly, week after week, being part of that dynamic of our sport, which is at times -- at times, it seem as bit too much.

But it's our choice, at the same time, whether we want to play or not. So I don't want to sound ungrateful. In contrary, I'm very grateful. But I also think that there should be some kind of rational conversations about, you know, rules that are maybe imposed or certain things that are concerning players' well-being.

Q. You've only lost to one French player in 50-odd matches. Do you have something against the French? Also, did you actually request an afternoon start today? That's what we've heard.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Did I request? No. I think it was just, you know, whatever they put me. I don't have anything against French (smiling). I mean, actually I get along very well with Gael and most of the guys. It's sport. I mean, I don't know what to say.

Q. You had a lot of double-faults today. Was that due to the conditions or was it due to your new service action?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. Well, I mean, I had the nervous start. I wasn't really comfortable at the very beginning. I can't blame conditions for my double-faults. I mean, it's still that motion that I'm kind of getting used to.

Being rusty at the beginning is something that you can also expect. I just have to accept it, embrace it, obviously hope for a better day tomorrow and next match.

Q. The WTA announced today they're moving their tour finals to Shenzhen for a 10-year block. Prize money is going up to $14 million. The ATP Finals are currently at $8 million. Do you think the ATP should be testing new markets to see if they can get more money somewhere else? The WTA obviously found gold in a new market.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, I need to congratulate them. I mean, that's a big success for WTA, for all the female players. They deserve it. No doubt about it. They fight to have the best possible tour for them.

World Tour Finals is, both men's and women's, the biggest asset we have in the sport that WTA and ATP control, can leverage on the market.

China obviously has exploited a lot the WTA calendar. I think there is over 10 - not sure exact number - but over 10 tournaments in China over the year, WTA. You see a lot of Chinese female players breaking to top 100, top 50 in the world, with Li Na opening those doors.

Obviously they're hoping to have, rightfully so, someone who can eventually participate in that tournament in Shenzhen and hopefully win it one day.

I think, just observing the whole situation, a logical step for Chinese sponsors or whoever is putting the money, organizing the event like that, it was a logical thinking to try to invest a lot of money and bring best players there. Women's tennis is more popular than men's tennis in China because of the success they've had with Li Na and everyone historically.

But men's tennis is picking up, as well. We also have some big events there that they are doing very well. Obviously they have great facilities. Chinese economy is obviously doing great. They love tennis. They put a lot of money into tennis.

When it comes down to World Tour Finals, for us and the ATP, London has been a great success for us. I mean, if you compare prize monies now with what Shenzhen is going to give, you know, I don't think we should compare that. They fight for what they deserve. What they get, that's completely fine. I respect that. I think we should focus on our own tour.

I think if you ask, if not all, a super majority of the players, they will give you positive impressions of that tournament. London has been historically a tennis city. People are very knowledgeable about our sport there, very supportive. It's probably one of the most successful tennis events that we had in many years.

Also, in my opinion, this kind of event should travel, because it's just probably the biggest leverage that we have. I mean, outside Grand Slams, ATP is obviously not behind Grand Slams. This is the biggest event that ATP has. I think it's probably the biggest asset. Best eight players in the world, singles players, best doubles players, are playing there. Out on the market, I'm sure, as I was hearing, there was a lot of competition from a lot of different cities.

But London has always been the safest option, I would say, because of obviously different reasons and history. But I think it should be exploited a little bit more. It should be leveraged more because of the promotion of our sport. If we want to grow our sport, especially in regions like China or those parts of the world where tennis is popular, I think we should think about it, just maybe travel it a little bit more.

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