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May 14, 2018

Novak Djokovic

Rome, Italy

N. Djokovic/A. Dolgopolov

6-1, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: We have to do a short one, please. We do English and then couple questions in Italian. English first.

Q. How pleased with this were you? And I guess do you always feel that maybe Rome's conditions are better for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. Yeah, I think the conditions are pretty suitable to my game. It's kind of a medium-speed court conditions, which is quite suitable, as I said, to the game style that I have.

And I just -- overall, I feel so nice in Rome. I think speaking Italian helps. But, also, I feel connected to the people here.

You know, back in I think 2008 was one of the first big ones that I won, the first Rome title I had. And ever since then I had plenty of finals and titles and semifinals. So I've always kind of played well in Rome, you know.

And I think that's due to the connection and relationship I have with the people. They just give me great energy, and it motivates me to play well.

Q. Out of the context question, but there's this video of Nadal hitting some balls with Sharapova at practice here. I'm wondering if you have already practiced with one of the top women players just for the fun?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was practicing with Maria many years ago in Indian Wells, actually. We had a proper practice.

And I think with Caroline, as well, Wozniacki years ago. So, I have no problem to --

Actually, they hit better than most of us guys, you know, from the spot. I mean, they don't miss. And they hit flat and straight at you. So, they don't take time to warm up. You know, they go, you know, full speed at you.

So, it's fine. I have nothing against that. In contrary, I actually like. I played with Ana Ivanovic couple of times and we practiced there. So, I've done it before.

Q. I know we spoke before it's the process for you, that's the way you want it to be. But I'm wondering, do you get the sense that if you have a couple of decent wins in a row, you think something -- is that how you are feeling ahead of the French?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, French Open is where I want to play my best tennis. That's sort of, say, the big goal for this part of the season.

But, you know, I feel like my game has been going in the right direction in the last couple tournaments.

Obviously, I didn't get too many matches and the results are not, you know, I would say satisfying for me and I know for the people that follow me. Because I've had such a high standard for so many years.

But, it is what it is. I have to accept it. I know that I haven't been up to the level that I desired.

But, as I said, you know, Madrid and now the first match here has been already encouraging, you know, story. And hopefully, I can continue in the right way.

Q. Putting extra pressure on yourself because you know the expectations of outside? Is it something new you weren't doing maybe in the past?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah. It is a mental game, I mean, for sure.

Knowing that I've, you know, reached heights -- biggest heights of this sport and I've been consistent with, you know, best possible results for so many years, as I said, the bar has been raised so high that, you know, when I step on the court, I expect to win every match against anybody on any surface. And it's not a secret.

I mean, so the expectations are always high in that regard.

But, at the same time, you know, I had to learn in the last 12 months that, because of the circumstances and injury and surgery and all these different things, I had to, you know, think about my game and about my results and approach the tournaments in a little bit different way.

It's not like I don't want to win. Of course, I want to win every match. But I had to understand that -- where my level of my game is and to accept this reality and to accept that it is a process to get to where I want to, you know, be in terms of play, level of play.

So, as I said, you know, I feel like every day has been a progress. You know, Rome has always been a place where I felt good, where I received a lot of support, where I played well, and had a lot of great results.

And today's match encourages me and gives me reason to believe that it can be, well, you know, good week for me.

And, let's see. I mean, obviously, I don't -- I would like to go all the way but, at the same time, looking at my results I have to be a little more modest, I would say, with expectations and see where it takes me.

Q. You've always been incredibly intense on court, of course. But over the past year or so, the past two years, in terms of everything that you've experienced, has anything changed in terms of you maybe had a chance to decrease the voltage or anything off court to relax a little more? Have you changed anything by the way you relax off court so that you can bring your best on court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, it's a balance that you need to find. I mean, obviously, I can only speak on my own behalf because of all the players and athletes and people go through different stories in their life and, you know, different trajectories. But, that's what life is all about, you know, figuring out how to be the best version of yourself in whatever you do.

And, you know, for me, I've been through, as I said, various circumstances that has -- that have brought new challenges for me as a tennis player and as a human being. But, you know, as weird as it sounds for me, as well, you know, knowing that I haven't had, you know, a major title in a while and I haven't played, you know, good tennis in a while, I still am glad that I'm going through this process. Because it allows me to get to know myself on a deeper level and address certain things that you usually don't address.

When everything goes well, you're fine, you know. There are things that are just accumulated because, you know, you were not addressing them at the right moment. And you think, you know, well, I won a match, everything's okay.

So, that's what happened with the injury, for example. You know, I didn't address it at the right time, and then it just got worse and worse to the point I had to stop and make surgery, and so forth.

So, it's all a learning curve for me and figuring out the way how I want to move forward with tennis from this point onwards.

And, as I say, I don't have yet 100% clarity in terms of, you know, what the future will look like. But, I'm getting there. And I feel more comfortable on the court. More comfortable, you know, with my team.

And, obviously, that's where I've made many changes in the last 12 months. And that hasn't really brought a sense of, you know, comfort and peace to me because I had to always think, you know, who's gonna be next to me. Do I need someone? Is that someone going to travel full time or not? What are we going to work on? Obviously, new people, new ways of seeing my game and changing things and changing the racquet and all these different things.

And change is -- changes are, you know, in general, are good when they're, you know, kind of focused on improvements. And that's what I'm focused on. And we'll see where it takes me.

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