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September 9, 2007

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Novak.

Q. The shot-making seemed like it was there tonight. Were there mental breakdowns out there? Do you think the edge Roger had was more mental than shot-making abilities?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I think it was. And I think on the important moments, especially that first set when I served 40-Love. I had wind behind me, so I was in a good position, everything was good, and then suddenly I just started making these unforced errors, which are really not understandable.
And then I was quite nervous, a lot of pressure, and I knew that I had to make some shots. You know, obviously that was mistake because I just needed to calm down and wait for my chances, which I didn't.
I made a lot of first-shot unforced errors in that game. I think that was pretty crucial. I think I was mentally weaker today on that important points than he is mentally stronger. So I think it was my mistake and my weakness today.
But, you know, it's normal. You know, it's a bad day about that. I mean, in general, looking at the whole US Open, I have been performing really well. Today, as well, I played a nice tennis. I had a lot of chances. I didn't use them.
But looking at the situation, you know, it was a first Grand Slam final for me, 23,000 people, and everybody expected a nice match. So I had quite a lot of pressure.
But I enjoyed it. In the other hand, it was an amazing experience for me.

Q. If it's true that no player really knows how they're going to react when they reach their first Grand Slam final until the crisis comes up, five set points in the first set, is it also true it's out of your control when it gets there, you're just going to react the way your mind tells you to react?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes, you know, before the match, of course, there is a lot of excitement and positive energy and, you know, adrenaline, of course, considering the fact that you play finals of the Grand Slam in front of 23,000 people.
But on the other hand, you play against a player who is mentally one of the strongest or the strongest player in the world. I was aware of that fact. And I knew that I have to be, you know, in control in the way I have to be aggressive, and patient.
So I was hanging in there, you know, first set. But then that game on 6-5 was really bad for me after 40-Love. I was just reacting in that situation. Really I was rushing a lot. I didn't calm down. I was thinking about things like what happens if I get to tiebreak, you know, some negative thoughts which are not so needed in that kind of situation.

Q. After the overheating problems you had yesterday, what did you do after the semifinal before coming out to make sure it didn't happen again?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You're talking about this mental problem?

Q. The health.

Q. Yes.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Oh, okay. I was trying to recover as much as I can. I was really surprised with the way I was physically handling today's match. I think I was really fit, you know, considering the fact that I played a lot of long matches.
Especially yesterday was a big heat. I had quite a bit of problems. But, you know, it's a part of the tennis, part of the job. You have to get used to it. You have to hold on in the most difficult situations, when there is a lot of heat, when there is a lot of humidity, and I managed to do that.
So, you know, for the future I know what to do.

Q. How long will those seven set points haunt you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: My next book is going to be called, "7 Set Points." I'm joking (smiling).
Well, I can say that I'm sorry about turning back, about those set points. Right now I would dress up and go to the court and play this 40-Love point.
Again, I have to look in a positive way and I have to look generally this has been one of the best tournaments ever for me, one of the most amazing experience. This is basically, you know, one of the biggest cities in the world, and all crowd is making a great atmosphere.
Everybody's following US Open. I got on that tournament to the final. So I had a lot of sympathies, of course, as well from the crowd.
I'm really glad with my success on and off the court.

Q. Up until that seventh game you were playing a very high level. He was as well. What were you feeling out there? First Grand Slam final, but you're pressuring him an awful lot and maybe even have the upper hand. Were you feeling relaxed, like it was easier than you expected?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, no. I expected a difficult match. And, of course, I was concerned a little bit before the match if I'm going to be able physically to challenge him, and I did. I did felt pretty good on the start of the match.
I was just, you know, holding my serve and trying to wait for my chances, opportunities. I got them, and in the end I didn't use them.
I couldn't expect, of course, easy match because I'm playing a No. 1 player of the world, you know, in a Grand Slam final. We all know how good he plays in that Grand Slam finals.
He's been there. He has this experience. He played already, I don't know, 15 Grand Slam finals, so he knows what it feels like to be in that kind of situation. He knows how to cope with the pressure.
For me, this is something new, a new situation. But, you know, again, I have to look positive. Next time I hope I'm going to hold that trophy.

Q. You mentioned you were mentally weaker than he was mentally strong. How much of that is a reflection of the fact you know he's not going to falter?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think one of the reasons, one of the biggest reasons for me being mentally weaker in that important moments and for me rushing in that important moments was that pressure, I can say, or that new experience I got, you know, the Grand Slam finals.
You know, the last match we played in Montréal I believed that I can win, and I won in the end. I got to today's match, as well, with the thinking of winning and trying to just focus myself and to have a goal, you know, to really challenge him and to win; not to perform good tennis.
I was going with the right attitude on the court and everything was going well in that important moments. I had a lot of, lot of, lot of break points. Sometimes I was risking too much. Sometimes I was, you know, playing safe. And he used his opportunities, of course. So he overpassed me.
But doesn't matter. You know, I'm really happy with generally all the things.

Q. Could you talk about Roger's mind. Is that his greatest strength, he uses that to overcome tough situations?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah, one of his biggest strength is that mental strength. He gets advantage over the players in any match he goes into because the players are thinking, Okay, I'm playing Roger Federer, one of the best players ever in the tennis. So right away he has this little advantage.
But, of course, in the other hand you have to put yourself in his position. He's No. 1 player of the world and everybody expects him to do well on every tournament, on every surface, so he has a lot of pressure.
It's amazing to see him, how fast and how successful he deals with that pressure. He performs some incredible tennis. Obviously, you know, of course, he's very talented and he has a lot of talent, you know, advantages.
But to come in that situation he had to work a lot. He had to wait. It cannot happen right away. Time is very valuable and time is experience. He has much more experience than I have. You know, bottom line is that he's five, six years older than me.
You know, looking at this year, I don't have anything to complain about. You know, I had the best year ever. I'm gonna go slowly and try to learn some things and see what I need to do to improve my game so can I get to these matches a bit easier.

Q. On the seventh set point, you hit a forehand that missed by about a millimeter. If that ball is in, how does this afternoon change?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, anything could happen. It could go either way, you know. It was unpredictable from the both sides, you know.
Considering the fact that I played some amazing tennis on this surface, especially in the last couple weeks, he couldn't expect an easy match. You know, I got to the Grand Slam final.
So, you know, since we got to the court, you know, everybody was holding their serve pretty comfortably.
And then, you know, on this important moments obviously I was doing something wrong, and then I missed that shot. I was a bit unlucky, I can say. Besides the knowledge, footwork, physical, mental strength, you need a little bit of luck, which today I didn't have.

Q. Going back to that point, could you believe how close it was?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I cannot believe. I cannot believe (smiling).
I was asking the crowd what I need to do. Nobody could give me any advice. I could continue by my own.

Q. You've handled just about everything tennis has thrown at you. Today was it just a little bit bigger stage than you were prepared for, or did you feel completely comfortable out there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I didn't feel completely comfortable. I was enjoying the atmosphere off the court as well. You know, winning against Roger in the last match we had just a couple weeks ago was some kind of mental advantage in a way for me and another extra motivation.
Because of that match I believed even more that I can win this match and this tournament. But, you know, it's a new thing for me. It's a new experience. As I said, today I was a bit unlucky, and it brought me a negative outcome.

Q. You're talking about you being unlucky. Yesterday Davydenko said of Roger when asked, what's the one thing Roger does best, he said, Lucky. There were a couple of set points of his that the ball literally landed on the line. Were you feeling, Wow, this guy really is lucky?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I was saying before, next to all those elements, all the positive strengths you have in your game, in your mind, you need a bit of luck. I cannot say that he is No. 1 player of the world because he's lucky (laughter). You know, that's a bit strange to say.
You know, he's a big worker, very talented, a great player. That's why he deserves to be there where he is. But, of course, he is lucky and he gets these lines and lucky shots, I can say, because he's going for them. He's not trying to play safe. He's really being aggressive.

Q. Three years ago he was already No. 1. You were 17 years old, maybe not yet thinking about reaching a Grand Slam final. Was he ever your role model then, or other players?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, my lifetime idol was Sampras, I have to admit. As a kid I watched him play. Even though we have totally different game and style and thinking, I really adored his way of playing and coping with the pressure.
I think Sampras and Federer have this thing in common. They are very similar in that they are mentally very strong in that important moments they always play their best. They're ice cold faces, just going for the shot. Really that's why they're, you know, two best players ever for me.
But, you know, yeah, I always liked the way Roger plays. But, you know, since I got into this professional tennis I wasn't trying to look on someone as idol. I was just trying to, you know, improve more and more.

Q. Maria Sharapova was in your box and also Robert De Niro. What are those two relationships with you? Somebody had to ask.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I was expecting that question on the first place (laughter).
No, let's not go too much with Maria. It's just a friendship we have. It was nice from her to come and support me. As well, Robert, he was yesterday on the match, and today.
I mean, it's amazing feeling to see such a successful people, you know, in my box supporting me, playing with me I can say, living every emotional moment. It's great. It's great.

Q. What does she think of your imitation?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: She said she's going to kill me. Of course, she accepted it on the right way. Of course, she found it funny, not offended.

Q. How did you meet Robert De Niro? Did he just show up in your box?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I met him randomly on the street. I was sitting in a bar. He was coming, smoking a cigarette (smiling). No, no.
We were invited -- I went with a couple of players, Ana Ivanovic, we got invited from he and his wife to come to the dinner. It was really nice. He owns the Japanese restaurant, so we went there for dinner. We met. We talked.
As well, his wife is a very big fan of tennis. She's a great woman. He's, you know, a great person. I'm really happy that they showed up and supported me.

Q. Can you look upon this experience as like you're paying your dues in a way; it may be a different story next time you meet Federer in a Grand Slam final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I was always saying that every time you play Federer, Nadal, these top players, you learn something new. Obviously you try to improve your game, your way of thinking for the next time, next challenge.
I'm still only 20 years old. I have a lot of time in front of me, so I'm really not worried of anything or feeling sorry. Yes, I feel sorry about today, but doesn't matter. We have to get -- we have to look in the future.
I hope I'm going have a lot more matches against Roger because obviously, the way he's playing, he's not planning to get over that first place, which is so wanted from everybody.

Q. While it's true that how you play physically depends on how you play mentally, if for the sake of examining your game you could separate the physical from the mental part, do you feel your game is right there with Roger physically right now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You're getting into really deep, philosophic questions.

Q. You're a deep guy.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I am deep. Let me think (laughter).
First of all, I have to say that he's five, six years older than me, and he has this experience playing in the Grand Slam finals, Grand Slams, all those matches. He has much more matches on the professional tour than myself.
Obviously that makes him mentally stronger than I am, more experienced. Again, physically he's very good. His endurance, everything, looking at him after long points, it looks like he doesn't feel the long points. Seems like he's not getting tired.
But I have time. You know, I know that now, as the third player of the world, people compare me more and more to the best players in the world, like Nadal and Federer.
It's very flattering and it's positive for me, but still I have many things to improve in my game.

Q. Physically are you there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: And physically still I need to improve, yes. I grew up, I got stronger since the last year I played here, much, much better. I had these long matches on the Grand Slams.
This year I played already - I don't know - 70, 80 matches, which for me is too much. I didn't expect to play so many matches.
So maybe in some moments, in some matches, people see me physically weaker than my opponent. But, you know, next year is going to be different.

Q. Serbian tennis is at an all-time high. A big opportunity for Serbia in Davis Cup. How important is that occasion for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Very important. That's the next thing I'm gonna play back home. After 15, 20 years, we get a chance to get to the World Group. We are playing home against Australia, which we all know how good is Australia in the Davis Cup, how good is their history.
Of course, Lleyton is coming, which is going to make our, you know, victory or way of thinking more difficult. But, you know, it's gonna be a lot of people, a lot of support. Support is one of the things which is most important in the Davis Cup because Davis Cup is very unique, it's different, it's unpredictable, anything can happen. It's a matter of motivation really.
I'm really happy that tennis fans back in our country will have an opportunity to see me and rest of the guys and Hewitt playing.
Of course, I hope for the best.

Q. Have you heard anything about Janko's injury?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, he had a lot of difficulties in the last couple weeks. I spoke to him. He's getting better. Hopefully he's going to be fit for the Davis Cup.

Q. You came to this tournament not well-known by the American tennis fans except as the guy who beat Rafa, Roddick and Federer in Montréal. As they said in the awards ceremony, you stole our hearts. Do you have a sense of really what you've done? You said you're very happy with what you've done on and off the court.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, as you're saying, I mean, I'm listening to you and I'm sweating because I feel really flattering and emotional in that moment when I heard that at the ceremony when they told me that I stole their hearts. Even when I didn't win that match, for me it was very, very emotional.
To get, you know, American people behind you, especially a crowd here in US Open, is not so easy. Obviously they like my character on and off the court. So I get a lot of compliments on my impersonation, more than I get on tennis. I was a bit worried if the people look me as, you know, imitator more than a tennis player.
But it was all nice. You know, I made a lot of friends here in States. It's gonna be a big pleasure coming next year for sure. Really looking forward to it.

Q. You said throughout this you take positives, you learn from matches. Tangibly what did you take from this match, learn about your game or yourself?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I learned that I need to win the set points, obviously, that I shouldn't play safe or risk too much (smiling).
But, you know, it's a part of the tennis, of course. As I was saying, I always learn something. I have to look in a positive way. I'll try, of course, with my coach, in the first place, all the people around me to do everything I can to improve my game and to, of course, see this match again and see what I did bad and what I need to do to practice so I can make a better success next time.

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