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June 13, 2007

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Thoughts on that one, Novak?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I'm happy to win considering the fact that this is my first grass court season match. I didn't get an easy draw. I played against a player who plays really well on this surface, and he had a couple of matches before this one, so he was very well-prepared. You could see that in the first set.
You know, I managed to come back in the second. He made some double-faults. I started returning well. Just got, you know, motivated.
In the third set, I made two breaks. He started to return really well. Still trying to get used to the surface. It's not easy to come from the slowest to the fastest surface in only couple of days.

Q. Are you finding it maybe a little easier than 12 months ago? You had Wimbledon last year. Do you expect to find it a little bit easier?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I can't say. Wimbledon, you know, I think the courts there are different than the Queen's. That was my first time I played on the Centre Court of Queen's. It was a new experience. It was a bit slippery.
As I said, I was very careful how I move because, you know, usually on clay you slide, and here you cannot slide. So you could see that Robert got a little injury. It could be more serious. He was lucky. I was trying to pay my attention on the movement and on the game as well at the same time.

Q. Is that in the back of your mind, that potentially you could get an injury like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, in the first match, yes, I was being careful. At the same time you have to think about that as well, which is not easy if you play a player like Kendrick, who serves really fast and really precise, doesn't give you any rhythm. For me it was crucial to stay focused all the time but, again, to be careful.
Really happy to win because it was a really tough one.

Q. How much practice have you had on grass since coming here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Two practices, not more. I had one match, a doubles match yesterday. Basically I didn't hit at all. I didn't have any points. I just had a practice, practicing from the one spot, not of moving. You know, first match, first time I move on grass this year. It was really dangerous.

Q. Roger Federer pulled out of Halle, said he's exhausted. Only Rafa has played more matches than you this year. How do you feel now physically after the spring you've had?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Honestly saying, I didn't expect to feel so good. I feel pretty good. Even though I was careful, I was moving well. Physically I'm feeling pretty good. After the French Open, I was a little bit exhausted, but I had two days off to recover.
I'm still trying to get used to those things, playing a lot of matches week after week, 'cause this is the best year I ever had in my career. I never played so many matches. Till now I played more matches than I played in whole last year.
I still need to figure out what I need to do, choose the tournaments for the next year. I hope I will stay on this level.

Q. Perhaps not so many people knew about you last year, but now you've proven people should take notice. Would you like to be in the spotlight or would you prefer to go to Wimbledon and maybe people focus on the other big guys?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, I'm not thinking about it too much, if the people are paying too much attention to me or not. I'm trying to focus on my game, on what I do, just try to get used to the grass and find my game, be hundred percent ready for Wimbledon because that is the most important tournament of the grass court season.
I can say that, of course, I know that there is a lot of expectations behind my back because, you know, I'm one of the most consistent players this year, a young player coming up and making great results during the last six months. You know, I'm No. 4 of the world, 3 in the ATP race. Of course, people pay lately a lot of attention on me, media. I'm really happy for that, you know. I think I deserved it.
But still I need to be ready for what is expecting me, and I'm still only halfway of the season.

Q. Can you cope with that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. I mean, you got to get used to. That's the life of the professional tennis player. If there is no pressure, then it's not normal. If there is expectation, there is always a pressure. But, you know, you got to be mentally strong for everything.

Q. Your football team from Serbia are in the European Championships, under 21. Back home is the interest divided between yourself and them?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I've watched a little bit of their game. They won against Italy, I think.
Well, I can say looking at the media, football is always kind of more followed sport, more supported. But right now I think the tennis is No. 1 sport, looking at the people, popularity, how much they're following it. I don't think the kids and the old people are following so much the football, but tennis they are following. It's incredible fact. It's really nice.
I think tennis has deserved that because we never had a big tennis tradition in our country. In the last year and a half or so, what we did, it's just amazing.

Q. When was the last time you went home? Did you notice a difference between people coming up to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I'm not trying to stay home too much because of that. I don't have my own privacy. But I was just two, three days ago, I was home for one day. We had a nice welcoming from the government, from the people. Ivanovic, Jankovic, myself, we were standing at the balcony of the government. This is our traditional thing which we are doing for the sport. If sport is do well in some competition, in any sports, the people wait for them. It was about 15,000 people. It was really nice for the tennis to succeed in that way.

Q. Must make you proud, and also your family must be very proud.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, very, very proud. I got the biggest support ever from the family.

Q. Who did you meet there? The members of the government?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I already knew them from before. I know the president of government and everybody, prime minister. Everybody is now interested and attracted to tennis. Now we expect in some way from them some kind of help - not financial help, but help in the way to make a tennis center so the kids can practice. My family, Djokovic family, we're trying to build up a tennis center for the last year or so. I think we did more than enough, I mean, myself and the rest of the tennis players, to make tennis more popular. Now we are expecting them to do something.

Q. Were the prime minister and president there last weekend when you went back?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, they were not there. They were not there. After Miami when I was -- when I won the Miami, they were there.

Q. Does it seem quite strange? You obviously always wanted to do what you're doing now, but if someone told you six years ago you'd be on first name terms with the prime minister and president...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, it's amazing. I'm really proud of myself. But I always worked for it. I think I deserve it anyway. I was trying to be a professional as much as I can. It was not easy to succeed from the country of Serbia. As I said, it's not a country with a big tennis tradition. So fortunately I was spending a lot of time outside of the country practicing, developing. In the end, everything came as I planned.

Q. When you're in a situation where you don't have a lot of experience on grass, the fact that Rafa last year got all the way to the final, does that change people's attitudes in the locker room who say, "If Rafa can do it, maybe I can do something"?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: For the past year, you're saying Rafa playing the final?

Q. Yes. People are saying, "He did it last year."
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, you can see that the courts, especially in Wimbledon, have changed a lot. Nadal, realistically looking, he doesn't have exactly the game for grass. He's not a big server. He's not a serve-and-volley player. He has a big spin from the forehand. But he played the finals of Wimbledon. That shows you that the courts are much slower, the ball is bouncing more. The Spanish players, the players who prefer more the other courts, the other surface like clay, can play well on the Wimbledon. You see much more longer points now. You see more baseline players winning the Wimbledon, even Hewitt. Okay, past four years Federer, but still you see a lot of surprises.
You know, I don't have any particular goal for Wimbledon, but I'm going to go step by step, match by match, see what happens.

Q. When you met the president, did you call him Mr. President or sir?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Mr. President, yes.

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