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May 19, 2018

Novak Djokovic

Rome, Italy

R. NADAL/N. Djokovic

7-6, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I think you lost, but you also won for a lot of reasons. In the end, the support of the people.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The support of people. And I was talking about that, you know, many times this week. But, also, throughout last ten years that I've been coming to Rome. Support is incredible. So I want to thank again everybody for creating an incredible atmosphere on the court for both players.

I mean, I did feel like playing at home, really. And I can only thank them for that support and love they gave me. That's why this is definitely one of my favorite places in the world to play tennis.

And when it comes to the match, Rafa was just better in important moments. He just managed to play right shots. And he deserved to win. He was the better player.

I don't think that there was too much of a difference, which is great for me, great news for me. Because Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay courts. And, you know, he's in great, great form; and it's very difficult to play him on clay anywhere.

But, you know, as I said, I thought the level of my tennis was very high. I was unfortunate, maybe, in the tiebreak. You know, couple of points could have gone different way. I mean, you know, winning tiebreak for him was a great wind to the back. He managed to break me early in the second set, and then he held his serve all the way through.

I mean, all in all, really, really good quality match. I enjoyed it. I hope the crowd did, too. And I can only take positives from this week.

Q. You played really well. I think the best match I've seen this year. Maybe in the second set you were a little I don't know if it's lower or less convinced of your serve. You lost the long rallies, some of the long rallies.

Q. But at the same time it was strange, the tiebreaker. I think seven or eight mini-break, which is unusual.

I mean, as I said, you know, I decided the tiebreak well, made a mini-break right away. And then two very long points I lost on my serve. That's, you know -- that's how it goes, you know.

We change sides, and then I went from 3-all to play against the wind. And for the people obviously watching on TV and, you know, they don't see that. But it's huge difference playing Nadal against the wind or with wind, you know, with his spin.

So, you know, the ball bounces very high and it goes over your shoulders and it's very difficult if you don't step in, if you don't hit the ball at the right time on the rise. And if you don't hit it in exact spot, he's there. He's on top of the ball. And that's what happened.

I mean, I think it was 5-4, I was serving in the tiebreak again. I put the first serve in. We changed the rallies. He had that one looping ball, high topspin on the backhand. You know, I didn't -- I hit it okay, but it wasn't good enough. And then he just made winner with his forehand, you know.

Those are the little details, you know, in tennis that only I guess players and people who are on the court know. And especially someone who played against Rafa understands and understands the difficulty that you have to handle this ball.

But, look, I thought, as I said, all in all, it was a very good performance from Rafa but also from my side. I've played four matches here. You know, I didn't really expect anything coming into this tournament, when it comes to results, because I didn't have many great results in the last period.

So, you know, I'm pleased with how I've played last three days, very pleased. And hopefully Roland Garros can be just a continuation of this run.

Q. Just how much better mentally do you feel than you did, say, Indian Wells or so? Even when you got angry after losing the first set, people are seeing that as sort of a positive sign.

Q. You are engaged in this match and back to your old self. How good are you feeling mentally right now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, I was talking about the process. It's not only a process for my game but it's mental process, as well, to get back into that match play. You know, you need to play matches to get back that kind of, you know, level of confidence that you need in order to compete with these kind of guys who are the best players in the world. And to have a chance to compete for the biggest trophies.

And I've never faced this kind of -- that kind of situation before. So I thought that it's not gonna take me long to get back on the winning ways, but it actually happened the contrary and I had to learn a lesson and accept the circumstances.

But, looking back two or three months, this is the best that I've felt on the court, by far.

Q. As you said, it was a very good match. We have an impression that your backhand is back, very high level. But forehand is still to improve is our impression.

Q. This time last year you obviously made finals here. And people looked at that as sort of maybe turning a corner because the year 2017 hadn't been that easy for you. There had been a couple of losses, not the great results people were used to. This year you lost in the semifinals to Rafa. But does it feel more like maybe turning a corner? Do you believe in something like turning a corner?

Q. Getting on the right track?

I mean look, you know, in life, you know, we -- people are very powerful, you know. And we can turn things around in one day, you know. And I truly believe in that.

I mean, I've experienced it myself many times throughout my life and my tennis career.

So, I believe that one match, one tournament can turn things around one way or another. It just depends how you deal with it, you know, how you process everything, how you accept it. How -- you know, how you take the, I guess, the positives or the negatives out of it and use it for your benefits in the future.

So, as I said, I really don't see many negatives; I see mostly positives from this week. And that's something that I'm going to take in the next week of training for Roland Garros. And then, of course, Roland Garros, which is I think the goal for everyone to perform their best.

Q. I'm not sure if you're going to go and read the comments after that match. But it's full of, Novak is back; that's good for tennis. We forgot how much we missed those rivalries. Do you also still feel like it's something that you've missed, something that tennis has missed?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. I mean, I was really hoping I could go toe to toe with Nadal, because I was really playing well last couple days.

And I just wanted to start off the match well, which I did. I lost the break, but I managed to come back. And, yeah, very long first set, very competitive.

And it was -- Some points were fantastic. The crowd was into it. And I miss this feeling, you know. I miss it, I have to admit. I haven't had that in a while. So, you know, I'm very grateful.

Q. Do you consider Rafa overwhelming favorite for the French Open? Might be a stupid question.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know the answer.

Q. I asked you last night about the scheduling. You didn't want to talk about it then.

Q. But how much of an effect do you think it had on the way things have ultimately panned out?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, I understand you asking me now again. But again, it's kind of tricky for me to talk about that now because it's going to seem like I'm complaining about losing the match because of scheduling, which is not true.

It is what it is. I have to deal with it. But, the fact of the matter is that it's quite a difference playing Nadal during the day or night.

And then playing a two-and-a-half hour match last night, finishing at 9:00, and then coming back to play during the day. It affects a lot the entire game.

But, it is what it is. You know, there are many different, so to say, factors that affected that kind of scheduling.

What I don't like, in general -- and that's something that I've expressed several times in my career -- is that, you know, most of the big tournaments are setting up the schedule, you know, for the final three days about, you know, three to six months in advance. Because of the TV rights and everything.

And I understand, obviously, that everybody has to do these things in advance. But at least what they can do is reach out to players. Players have no information whatsoever about scheduling.

So, nobody has ever, ever, reached me throughout my career in advance to ask me whether -- what I think about, I don't know, Indian Wells, from now, let's say today, to Indian Wells; what I think, you know, would be the best scheduling or not.

I think there should be a participation from the players, players' council. We never have received any kind of notice on that.

So that's what I mind. That's what I don't like. I don't think it's fair. But, we'll address that in the next council meetings, and hopefully we're able to change something.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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