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February 18, 2021

Novak Djokovic

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

N. DJOKOVIC/A. Karatsev

6-3, 6-4, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How do you see your ninth final here at Melbourne Park against either Medvedev or Tsitsipas?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, first I want to give credit to Karatsev for a great tournament. Maybe it wasn't his day today but he had big wins and debut, first Grand Slam semifinals. Kudos for great result.

I felt as best as I felt so far in the tournament tonight. Physically, mentally, as well. I was hitting the ball very well, mixing the pace. Didn't give him the same looks at all. Always kind of kept him guessing and served well when I needed to get out of the trouble, you know, late in the second set.

I'm just very pleased with the performance. It came at the right time. Before last match in a Grand Slam, couldn't be a better timing for me to play my best tennis.

But being in this situation before for many times I think helps kind of gather all the necessary elements for me to peak at the right time, which is happening again, which I'm very obviously happy about.

I'm also happy that I have two days off now. Still recovery is the priority. Played enough tennis. I'm feeling great on the court.

Regardless of who I face on Sunday, you know, it's gonna be -- I'm ready for the battle for the toughest match of the tournament, without a doubt. I mean, both of these guys are in great form. Medvedev is playing on an extremely high quality. He's on a winning match streak, over 20 matches won. He's just the man to beat, you know.

On the other hand, Tsitsipas produced some phenomenal tennis last night against Rafa. Coming back from two sets down against Rafa on a Grand Slam, any Grand Slam, is a huge effort.

Yeah, I know these two guys have a history between them on and off the court a little bit, so I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of intensity. It's a great rivalry, I think, that these guys have. I'm gonna watch that match and enjoy it.

Obviously then train on Saturday for the opponent that I have, you know, work on specifics. The way I felt today I liked my chances and I'm definitely going to go for a title.

Q. When you think you're in your ninth final over here, you've never lost a final, does that stagger you? Do you pinch yourself? How do you feel about that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, of course it contributes to more confidence, you know, prior to coming into the finals knowing that I never lost in the finals or semifinals just makes me feel more comfortable being on the court.

But each year is different, although it does have a mental effect on me, maybe on my opponents, I don't know, but on me it does definitely have a positive effect.

It's not a decisive factor in the way the match is going to go forward, because as I said, each year is different. Surface is also different. You know, you play against also different opponents. So that's not gonna be decisive factor I think on Sunday. Regardless of my great record I think both Tsitsipas and Medvedev will want to get their first Grand Slam title.

I'm sure that they are going to do their best, so I'll be ready for that.

Q. What is it about this place that you love so much? I mean, you just said it before. Everything is always changing here, the courts are different this year, your competitors are always different. The one thing that's consistent is you always going deep at Melbourne Park. What is it about this place that you love?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I answered that question a lot of times before. I think it's several different elements I think that contribute to my success here.

First, I think as any other tennis player at the beginning of the season I really want to get off the blocks and start the season in the best possible way. So I'm fresh, I'm motivated, I'm inspired to play my best tennis. It's one of the reasons.

Then of course the surface, the conditions, especially night matches are very suitable to my style of play, and I just somehow always manage to find the best game when it mattered the most.

The more I win, the better I feel coming back each year. I think it's kind of also logical to expect that. The love affair keeps going.

Q. This feels like it's been a long journey for all of us, but I would imagine longest for you. When you reflect on your journeys to this ninth final, is this the hardest one you've had to go through? Between Adelaide and the controversies and injuries, curious how it stacks up against some of your other campaigns here.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. Well, it's difficult to compare, to be honest, because I've never experienced a kind of an injury, you know, that I have experienced in third round here and had to deal with all of the things that I dealt with in the last five days.

I also had tough matchups, you know. I had big hitters, Fritz, Raonic, Tiafoe, Zverev, all big servers, big game. I just had to deliver my best.

You know, it took a lot out of me. You know, I was exhausted, especially after Zverev's match, but I was thrilled to overcome those huge challenges. I knew that once I triumphed over Zverev that, you know, things will be better, will get better for me. I just had that kind of inner feeling and proved to be right.

I mean, I have felt the best that I could possibly feel tonight. As I said at the beginning, it's difficult to compare -- you know, I played so many Grand Slams in my career, and I had some phenomenal tournaments where I was managing to, you know, maybe drop one set or don't drop any set en route to finals, and then I had some where I just had some five-set or, you know, couple of five-set battles to get to the finals. So it's definitely very unique circumstances that I have experienced here. Let's keep it to that.

You know, I see every experience that I have on the Grand Slam as something that I can actually draw a lot of lessons from and learn from and grow. Definitely had to stretch myself to the limit in the last five days in every sense, but I'm really pleased that in terms of injury and everything it's going in the right direction.

So, I mean, as I said, I felt the best that I could possibly feel in the last couple of weeks here today.

Q. Are you as surprised as everyone else how your body has responded? You look like you were moving normal tonight.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes and no. I am surprised the way I felt tonight. I think it surpassed, in a way, my greatest wishes and the way I wanted to feel (smiling).

But at the same time, you know, I did have a kind of similar experiences in the past where I was managing to recover pretty quickly.

You know, each one of us players is different. I just have, of course with the help of all the people around me, this pretty good way and ability to recover fast.

But I didn't think that I'll play without pain tonight. And I did play without pain, which is something that definitely surprised me in a positive way.

Q. Can you say whether it was a tear or not or a strain now?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I'm not gonna speak about it. Only end of tournament.

Q. Serena sat where you were earlier today and seemed very discouraged about her loss. I was wondering if you can speak, when you are chasing history, you're chasing history, as well, does it get harder the closer you get? That seems sort of incongruous, because it shows how good you are. But is there some obstacle other than your opponent that has to be overcome at that point?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, absolutely. I mean, when you're chasing big things that are related to the history of the sport, obviously it has a lot of weight, a lot of pressure. And regardless of the amount of years that you have played on the tour and the experience that you have, you still feel it on your shoulders.

I can empathize with Serena and what she's going through. She's such an amazing champion that inspires both male and female athletes around the world in what she has been doing, I mean, still is doing in her age, is extraordinary.

I mean, you know, I'm sure she's disappointed. I heard she was also emotional in the press conference. And, you know, regardless of all the success that she had, you know, I know that when you lose a big match you're frustrated. You're pissed off and you're emotional. Of course, it's completely understandable.

But I think when you see a larger picture for her and everything that who she is, what she stands for on and off the court, it's -- I mean, she's one of the greatest ever. I mean, there is no doubt, athletes, not just tennis player.

I'm just -- you know, I'm proud and honored to be playing at the same time she does and to see her greatness, experience her greatness is a thrill.

Q. Since we're not going to have an opportunity to speak with you after you know which one of the two players will be the finalist against you, if you wouldn't mind drilling down a little more deeply about each, if you could take one after the other, and maybe describe their games and what is most challenging for you in facing each one.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Daniil Medvedev, as I said previously, is the player to beat. He's on a big winning streak. He ended out the season best possible fashion. I mean, winning quite comfortably, actually, against top players, against myself in straight sets in London, and he just has improved a lot. I mean, he has a big serve. For a tall guy, he moves extremely well.

Forehand maybe was his weaker shot, but he has improved that, as well. Backhand is as good as it gets. He's so solid. He doesn't give you much. But he's not afraid nowadays to attack and get to the net and take it to his opponents.

He's just so solid. Also, I heard Jim Courier calling him a master chess player because of the way he tactically positions himself on the court, and it's true. You know, he's definitely very smart tennis player.

On the other hand, Tsitsipas is, you know, also on a roll. He's playing really well. He won a couple of matches in ATP Cup against good opponents. He had a tough one against Kokkinakis and Nadal and he managed to win those in five sets, which is very impressive.

You know, even though five-setter takes a lot out of your energy but at the same time it gives you a lot of confidence and makes you kind of feel better about yourself in the next match. You know, he's definitely going in the right direction. You know, he's very solid player, all-around player. He has no holes in his game, as well.

It's finals. So, you know, you have to expect that you're going to play the finals against one of the best players in the world. To win one of the greatest titles in the world, you've got to be the best. I will make sure I'm ready for that.

Q. When you spoke after obviously the third-round win over Fritz, you sounded pretty pessimistic about your chances. I wonder what sort of percentage chance would you have given yourself to be here now?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was not thinking about percentages, to be honest with you, but you are right. I was not really optimistic, you know, after match with Fritz because of how I felt.

Look, we took it day by day. When I say "we" I mean my physiotherapist, my team, doctors team here at Australian Open, physios, ATP physios, we took it day by day and we just make sure we do everything we possibly can, and we do it in a right way. We time everything rightly so that I could, you know, give myself a shot to compete.

Each day was progressing and getting better, and so today is best as I felt. Hopefully that will stay the same till the finals.

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