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October 28, 2018

Novak Djokovic

Paris, France

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. So we'll start with the tough one. You're in an awkward position with Rafa concerning the Saudi exhibition match. And I'm not asking for a definitive answer, but how do you view your role as an elite professional athlete when it comes to a political or potential human rights issue?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I personally always try to be very apolitical /I don't like to involve myself in any political exchange or situations. And it's unfortunate that we are both drawn into this right now.

All I can say is that we have the commitment with them for over a year, actually last year when we were discussing this potential matchup, we agreed that it's going to happen in December as a kind of a lead-up to the beginning of the season. And it was my professional tennis decision to do that.

And of course I know, I'm aware of what's happening, and it's sad, of course. I mean, it's the only thing that you can feel when you see something like that and when you hear something like that.

But I can't say more than that. My team right now is in touch with the people in Saudi Arabia as well as Rafa's and of course we are all talking to understand the situation better. Because right now we just don't have obviously enough information, and we have to look into that a bit more and then we'll make our decision soon.

Q. Just to follow up on that, do you think that as it stands at the moment contractually that this match will go ahead? Because of course, I guess you could just refuse not to play.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, it's a commitment. And, you know, I've been always trying to be very professional and respectful towards people that I have commitment with. So of course we are trying to take in consideration everything, all the options.

But right now, I can't say more than that because, as I said just in the question before, we have to get more information on what's happening so we can make a rational decision whether it's good to go or not.

Q. So you have the opportunity for a year-end No. 1 finish here. Considering you started the year at 22, are you surprised at where you are now and how do you reflect on that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, when I had the surgery, obviously after that I actually thought I'm going to get back on the desired level quite quickly, but I haven't. And I experienced quite a low point in terms of me, my quality of tennis in Indian Wells and Miami, and then I realized that actually I'm far from my best.

And then I understood that it's going to be process and it's going to take time. When I reunited with my fitness coach and tennis coach again, we set up a plan and the peak was supposed to arrive around US Open time, and it arrived before.

Of course, we are very, very pleased with what was achieved in the last four, five months. And with Rafa's injury and him not playing China and so forth, it put me in a position to be very close to him in rankings and to fight for a year-end No. 1.

So of course right now I'm aware of it and I'm going to give my very best to try to achieve it.

Q. There's talk that you're back to the very best of your ability and the level you were when you were No. 1 and dominating. Is that also your point of view or do you still think you're not quite at that level?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: To be honest, I mean, in both US Open and Shanghai, I've played as good as ever, you know. So I really enjoy tennis at the moment and enjoy competing, because obviously when you're winning that many matches you have a lot of confidence. When you have a lot of confidence, you approach the practice sessions and the tournaments and the matches in a just completely different way.

And as I said, it was quite opposite extremes in terms of how I felt and how I played five months ago and today.

So I do think that I'm playing at my best at the moment and, you know, I always feel like I can improve, but I feel like this is a very high level.

Q. It seems on the outside that things have clicked into place quite quickly. You've won something like 28 out of your last 29 matches after all of the struggles before. Does it feel like it's happened quickly for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I don't want to sound pretentious or arrogant if I always say that I always knew and believed that I could get on this level.

Now, it's quite relative whether it's quick or not. I mean, depends for who. For me it's not, because I feel like, as I said, I always felt even after I had the surgery that I can play on that level right away.

But, okay, you know, I was ahead of myself obviously. And it took time, but I obviously had, you know, four months of a buildup to grass court season where it all started. And so I feel like as the months went by, I just kind of went in the right direction in terms of the level of play. And right now, I'm at my best.

Q. Obviously when you were struggling earlier in the year and you came back I think in Monte Carlo and it wasn't perhaps the level you wanted, how did you overcome the level of frustration? Because there must have been a lot of mental frustration. Was it important to clear that and be more clear-headed? How did you do that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, in the end of the day, you have to come to a solution and understanding with yourself by yourself. But of course, the reason why you have people around you in the team is because you're always seeking for help and their advices and some, you know, incentives that can get you to the desired level. Obviously in the end of the day it's me that I have to play tennis and do my job and try to do it in the best possible way.

Monte Carlo was, I felt, a new beginning for me, even though it was well in the season. Just considering my, you know, surgery and considering that I changed my team, and then I had, you know, Marian Vajda back again after a year of break, and that was kind of a fresh start.

So, you know, I do have high expectations for myself anywhere I go. So of course winning two matches would not -- from a results standpoint, very satisfying for me, but I also had to accept the fact that I'm in the process and that takes time to build. And it takes time to really find the proper rhythm in the game. I had to compensate my serve, and my whole game just needed some reinventing I would say.

So we put a lot of hours on the practice court and it paid off.

Q. I know you were asked this in China but a lot of us weren't there. Since you spoke there and the stuff about the Davis Cup, it obviously isn't the only issue at the moment, but has there been any move sort of further forward to clear up what looks kind of a bad situation for the sport at the moment? And are there any moves do you think in the next sort of few weeks or meetings that, you know, are going to move the situation on?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we are having a player council meeting tomorrow here in Paris. And as far as I know, I think all, you know, associations and interest sides in our sport are going to try to set up a general meeting in London with the Grand Slams, with ITF, ATP players, everyone involved, to really try to find some common ground and try to create that super event, one event. Because I personally feel that we don't have space for two big events, especially they're so close to each other.

And that's going to be inevitable reality for us in the next two years. Davis Cup is happening next year. The general assembly has put forward, you know, the format change and they approved it. So you know, it is happening. And it's happening in last week of the season in a format that you already are familiar with. Five, six weeks later, we're supposed to have a very similar format in Australia, and that event is supposed to be organized and belong to ATP.

So whether the format will be the same or not, it's something that is still not yet 100% confirmed in terms of the ATP's event. The ITF is staying as it is. I just feel like, as you mentioned, it's not a great situation for our sport, really not, because we are all supposed to be working together in the same interests. But it is what it is.

Davis Cup is the longest team, official competition that we have with a lot of rich history. And I had, you know, fortune to win it in 2010. I know how special it feels to play for your country. But at the same time there just needs to -- every, so to say, side and every group involved in this sport needs to understand that they have to, I guess, sacrifice something in order to come up with the best possible solution or best possible event that we call this super event, whatever you want to call it.

But I think, you know, considering the schedule and the calendar that we have and the amount of big tournaments right now, I don't see two big events being so close to each other being very sustainable. I don't think they're going to have a great deal of value. I think we're going to have two very average events if we have a very similar concept and formats.

So it's not only me. I mean, from conversations with everyone, I see that everybody is aware of it. So hopefully we'll come to some form of an agreement in, I don't know, 2021 onwards that we can actually have some form of a combined event all together, ITF-ATP.

But right now there's not much I can say. It's only my wish, my desire, and think of many, many other players and people from ATP, you know. Let's see what ITF, you know, wants to do about it. But a good thing, positive thing is that everyone wants to sit down and talk. So we'll start from there.

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