February 17, 2021
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
N. DJOKOVIC/A. Zverev
6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Do you think the key was those five games in a row you won from 1-4, Love-30 in the third set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There was a lot of keys, a lot of turnarounds today. It's hard to pick one moment in the match where I feel like things have shifted, because it was really anybody's game. It was really a roller coaster of a match in every sense of that word.
You know, I didn't start well. It took me time to really warm up and start to feel better in terms of movement, rotation, in terms of hitting.
Towards the end of the first I start to feel better on the court, and then I also played better. It was just a tough match. I mean, I feel really exhausted. It was a great battle. We took each other, pushed each other to the limit.
And kind of walking into this match today, I knew that's going to be probably the toughest match I have so far in the tournament, and it was like that. Until the last serve, it was really anybody's game.
Q. I know you said there was a lot of turning points, but seemed like the match totally turned right after you smashed your racquet on the ground like that. Are you probably not so proud of it? Interesting explaining to your kids. But at the same time, what was it about that moment that you let out emotionally and you were able to gain this kind of focus where you were really a different player.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was a relief for me, I mean, but I wouldn't recommend this kind of relief channeling, if you want to call it (smiling).
Of course I'm not proud of these kind of moments, you know. When I break the racquet, of course I'm not proud of that.
You go through a lot of different emotions. You go through a lot of inner battle, and everyone is different. I have my own demons that I have to fight with, and I'm sure everybody else has them too. Everyone has their own way of dealing with that. To me it happens and then today it actually helped, even though I don't intentionally do it in order for it to help me.
It's just accumulation of things that happen in big moments and some shots that were missed. I just kind of let it go. Poor racquet.
Q. I was super interested in what you said on the court about injuries, because it seems like the players that go deeper into the tournament are the ones that are more susceptible now --
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. -- coming up lame. Do you think there is definitely a correlation between what you all have been through and what we are seeing day after day?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, what we are seeing is not normal. It's not something we are used to. Top players are the ones that are fittest. It has been proven in the past that that's the case.
Now you have Berrettini, even Rafa coming in with a back injury, myself, Sascha, as well, struggled, Dimitrov. I mean, obviously it has something to do with these kind of circumstances that we were in. I mean, coming into a Grand Slam and a tournament before the Grand Slam just right after 14 days', 15 days' quarantine. I mean, for some guys it was even tougher than it was for me and maybe some of the other top guys, I mean, for sure. I can't complain comparing to some of the players that couldn't exit their room for 14 days.
But, you know, I don't want to sit here, complain about what we have been through, but we have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect on the physical well-being of players. Of course also mental, emotional, but physically, I mean, this is not normal.
Yeah, I mean, it is what it is at the moment. We are hoping that it's temporary. But talking to a lot of players, majority of the players just don't want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments.
So this is something that should be discussed, like as of now. I think council, I spoke to some of the council members, and they are saying they have extensive discussions about that with ATP management.
I'm waiting for some answers. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look like, because this definitely is not good for players in terms of their well-being.
Yeah. I mean, Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. If you want to talk about financial aspects, obviously here we are getting the prize money that we are usually getting. So obviously I think that's one of the biggest reasons why a lot of players just came and said, Okay, we'll accept 14 days' quarantine.
But that's not going to be the case on the ATP events, especially 250, 500. It's huge prize money reductions. So for the lower-ranked players, I have heard a lot of complaints. Challenger players, a lot of complaints. Yeah.
I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. It's just I'm speaking what is going on, speaking the truth, am speaking the reality, and we have to talk about it. We have to find a way, you know, whether it's something like an NBA bubble, because I heard some players talk about that, and I don't mind to discuss about that kind of idea. Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place. You know, three, four weeks in, three, four, two, three weeks' rest, then back again. Something like that. I don't know. On the top level.
But we just have to discuss options, because I don't know honestly if this is going to work. I mean, we are in Australia and we are in lockdown now for five days, but obviously, hopefully in few days' time we are going to see the crowd back on the stadiums. And we also have to be realistic that what we are experiencing here in Australia is far better than what most of Europe is going through in terms of restrictions and rules and regulations and quarantines, et cetera.
And most of the season will continue on in Europe, actually. Next few months is going to be Miami, Middle East, so forth. But once we start in Europe, I mean -- and, you know, ATP came up with this rule of player plus two only. So if you have family, you can't take family on the road.
Regardless of the fact where you are playing, whether in that specific country you have better conditions maybe than in some other country, you still are obliged to take only two people with you.
So we are basically going to be in a bubble every tournament all year regardless where we are. Which is, you know, fine if there is no quarantine, but I have been hearing that there are some countries that don't want to accept people coming in from some specific countries because of the virus strains, different virus strains, so forth, and transmission, and God knows what.
I don't know how we're gonna handle with that, honestly. But we have to address this very quickly, I mean, because season already started. The physical well-being of players is a big question mark, and I think it needs addressing.
Q. How much do you know of Karatsev?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not much. I have not seen him play honestly before Australian Open. I have seen him play during the tournament here, and he impressed me, impressed a lot of people. His movement, his firepower from baseline. Flat backhand, Russian school, great backhand. Looks to run around. Also hits some good forehands, dictate the play.
And he is impressive. I mean, two sets down against Felix coming back. Today as well he was just very solid against Grigor. Unfortunately, and obviously Grigor couldn't play at his best from the end of that second, beginning of the third.
But he's there for a reason, and congratulate him for great success. It's going to be our first encounter. Hoping I can be physically fit and looking forward to it.
Q. There's been reports that Melbourne's lockdown will end as planned. What would it mean to you to play in front of a crowd in a semifinal? How tough has it been with no crowd to get you going?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we want crowd, no doubt. We are entertainers, as well, and we want to bring good energy and good vibes to crowds. We want them to have fun. We want also to feel their support and their presence. I hope we're gonna have the crowd in couple days, for sure.
Q. How would you describe the story of this tournament for your opponent and the story of this tournament so far for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: My opponent? As in...
Q. In the next round. Your opponent in the next round.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: How would I describe his, what, his story, story of the tournament, and my story of the tournament? Did you ask me that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay. Well, I mean, it's his first semifinals of Grand Slam, so obviously for him it's biggest success he has had so far.
As I said, he doesn't have anything to lose, really. He's motivated. I expect him to come out and really go for his shots and try his best and try to take that win. So I'm sure he's enjoyed his Australian Open.
In the other hand, I mean, I have had a roller coaster of the tournament, to be honest, since third round and an injury that happened, and unpredictability of what happens next. For me, not training on the days off already two times. I'm not gonna do that tomorrow as well.
So, I mean, that's something that -- I have not ever experienced that, to be honest, and I have never experienced this kind of injury during a Grand Slam and kind of keep going.
But, you know, positive thing is that I actually felt the best today from the beginning of the second set until the end of the match that I have since the third round against Fritz when the injury happened.
It means that this is going in the right direction, and fingers crossed that in two days it will stay the same.
Q. Not too bad to come back in this situation. Why you not playing, thinking not to play even tomorrow, I mean, not to practice? What would happen if you would practice? It would break down more, you would be more drained, or what? Since now you're getting better, you think you're getting better.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, but I want to, you know, keep going with this kind of routine, I guess, strategy of not training in the days off, because I don't feel like I need to practice in terms of getting, you know, half an hour or an hour on the court because I need to work on something. I have had enough tennis, you know, played in the last couple of months and had a lot of match play.
So right now the priority is recovery. So the more time I have to recover and not exert too much energy and not make any quick moves, you know, the better it is for me. So that's the reason why I'm not training tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports