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May 16, 2018

Novak Djokovic

Rome, Italy

N. DJOKOVIC/N. Basilashvili

6-4, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Novak, please.

Q. That looked like a solid and comfortable win today.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Maybe I know why, because I have a French ...

Maybe that's why. I scared them off.


Q. That looked comfortable today, but also tricky with the conditions. You didn't look too satisfied with the surface.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah. I mean, it's different. I mean, it's -- Surface-wise, it's different from the center court. It's slower, but it's more slippery.

And Basilashvili came out firing from both corners; you know, forehand and backhand, playing very solid, very fast, you know, attacking every possible ball.

So, you know, obviously, I didn't play a match on Pietrangeli for many, many years. And I was looking forward to that. And I'm very happy I played there. I thought the atmosphere was unique, phenomenal. It's one of the most beautiful tennis courts in the world.

Used to be the center court here in Rome. I think was the last year was 2009.

And I have great memories there. And I think it's so nice to play in front of the people that also don't have to buy ticket for Center Court.

You know, it's very intimate, you know. It feels great.

Over the years, I always enjoyed watching the matches of this tournament on that court. Always have some drama there, you know, with Italian players. And a lot of top players have lost their matches there.

So, I hope that I won't be one of them.

But, yeah, it was -- the first set was quite close. The second was already better because I kinda got used to his pace and the conditions.

Q. Can you talk about the joy of being on court at the moment versus the relative pressure of needing to show yourself that you're back where you want to be?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, I mean, I've talked a lot about it. It's the process that I have to accept and embrace and try to get the best out of myself in every match that I play, not just matches but practice sessions as well. Which count a lot. Which make me feel more comfortable playing a match, you know.

Obviously, playing matches and playing practice sets is really different because you have the nerves, you have the importance of winning a point or a game, you know. So, you have to deal with all these things.

So there is no better practice than actually playing a match. Which I haven't had actually too many of in the last year or so.

So, if I can get as many matches as possible here, I would be very happy. So I'm taking it day by day.

I know that - - Look, you know, if there's anyone that likes to see me playing on the level that I played on when I was No. 1 in the world, you know, it's me. I'm working on that.

I appreciate a lot of support from people. I put in a lot of work. But I guess, you know, it takes time. It takes time to -- it takes matches for me to get into the flow.

So, hopefully, I can already, you know, be better with a small percentage each match that I play here. It's a great energy, great support I always have from Italians. You know, always have this very special connection with people here. And I think that brings me good feelings.

Q. In the top level you and Rafa are in, you two are the only seeds left in the top half of the third round. Is that surprising to you? Do you feel the field is getting a bit closer together or is clay playing a bit of an equalizer, that maybe almost everyone can beat anyone? Or how do you see that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. Look, especially here in Rome where each court I feel is different, you know.

I haven't played a match in Next Gen Stadium, but they say it's also different from Pietrangeli and Center Court.

So, it's not easy. I mean, for a seeded player, you know, you don't play a match and you play someone maybe who came up from qualies or played a match already. You know, it's quite different because he feels more comfortable and he has nothing to lose because you are a high seed so he wants to beat you. That's usually the case where it gets tricky, you know.

I mean, Dimitrov is a high seed and went out today; but he went against Nishikori, who is - - you know, we all know that he deserves to be one of the high seeds, as well. But, you know, obviously the rankings are different for him right now.

Well, I mean, clay is, you know, the slowest surface we have in sport. And I think Isner lost to Albert Ramos Vinolas, who I'm playing against tomorrow. Which is - - You know, I mean, Isner is in great shape but Ramos is always tricky guy to play against on slow clay.

So, I mean, all these different matches that you have and seeds that lost today was not a huge surprise. I mean, it can happen.

That's tennis.

Q. You've obviously been looking for the right coaching setup over the past year. What's the most challenging part of being an employer and everyone on your team being on your payroll, having to make, you know, these decisions? It's not something that athletes in team sports have to think about.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think there are advantages to that. I mean, financially, you know - - I mean, you have players that are supported by the federations, especially the players coming from countries where the federation -- tennis federations are very strong. And big. Especially the ones that host Grand Slams.

And usually those federations are making contracts with their players for their young - - early stages of their career. And they're supporting their, you know, team of experts, and so forth. And so, they don't need to worry about it.

But for other guys it's different, you know. I fit into this second group. But, you know, you fight your way through.

It wasn't easy for me I mean, of course, you know, for me/for my parents, you know, at that time to find a way to support my tennis career. Tennis is a very expensive sport.

It's one of the most demanding financially sports for parents.

That's why, you know, it's not - - it's much easier for a parent to have their child play a team sport like football, basketball than tennis, you know.

But, you know, in a country like this, in Italy, you have very strong club tennis, which is important, I think. And it supports tennis players from a very young age.

And, you know, you try to get as much support as you can. But if not then you, I guess, have to clench your teeth and want it even more.

That's what happened in my case.

It doesn't always happen. I mean, actually, most of the cases it doesn't happen. Because most of the players don't actually have the ability to get to the desired level. And many of the talented players have left tennis because of, you know, financial demand.

You know, every sport has this kind of - - these kinds of challenges. But I think tennis more than other sports because it's just individual sport. And if you're not supported by some kind of organization or system or sponsor from early stages of life, it's quite hard.

Q. If I may follow up on the jacket thing you were talking about, because France are going to like seeing you with our colors. But how did you end with a French flag and French word on your outfit?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I just - - I like it.

I mean, I don't know if Lacoste people will like me wearing this because it was not the designated on-court jacket for me.

But, you know, I like it. I don't know.

Locoste is a great mark, a great brand. And this one just fits with my outfit, the matched outfit. And also the colors matches the colors of my country, as well.

Do you like it, you as French?



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