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January 15, 2008

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How did it feel to come out here as third seed as opposed to last year when you were much lower ranked?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, of course, having such a great season and getting to the third place of the world and getting to the new season as the third player of the world, it's a big pleasure, and I'm really happy for that.
But in the other hand, it's a big responsibility as well, knowing that there is a lot of expectations. Probably even here, you know, people expect me to get far 'cause of the results in 2007 on hard courts.
But, you know, I'm not trying to think about that too much. I really just want to focus on my game. I've been working a lot recently on some elements in the game, try to improve and, you know, just try to be even more consistent with the results.
It's a good start of the year.

Q. What was the difference in the first two sets and the third today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I started really well. Honestly saying, I was nervous before the match, knowing that I'm a big favorite in the first round against a player, who is, you know, in top hundred for two years already.
He's a good player. He serves well. He's very well-known for the last man who won against Andre Agassi. It wasn't easy. You know, he didn't have anything to lose.
But I was really focused on the start and just tried to think about the match and the court and what happens there.
But I lost my momentum a little bit in the third set. He started to serve better and he went for the shots, which he was not doing in the first two sets. So that resulted with, you know, a better result for him.
I had my ups and downs in the third set. I managed to come back, had some chances. But, you know, it's good to win in the straight sets always the first match and not to experience the big heat, which is one of the trouble factors here in Australia.
But it wasn't big heat today, so hopefully it's going to be good weather throughout the week.

Q. How did you find the speed of the court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it's slower than the last year. I didn't want to comment too much about the court until I really feel it on the match.
So today I felt really good. I think it suits to my game. But I think it's a little bit slower than the last year's surface. And the center court is quite different. That's my opinion.
Because I've practiced on some other courts, Vodafone Arena and some of the outside courts, and I think some outside courts are a little bit slower and the ball bounces higher.
Of course, it's the same for every professional player. We all have the same conditions. So to someone it's better; to someone it's not good. But, you know, you got to get used to it.

Q. At the Masters Cup you talked about how tired you were from such a long year.

Q. What did you do during your break to recharge?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Nothing (laughter). Well, I tried not to do anything. That's a real rest. That was necessary for me after such a long season. I played I think most of the matches in the ATP Tour, so I needed really to take it easy.
I was aware of the fact that I'm gonna start my preparation period a little bit later. But, you know, it wasn't affecting me he so much in a negative way 'cause I have been practicing a lot. Physically I'm ready, and mentally as well. I have a lot of motivation to do well this season, especially here in the Australian Open.
I'm very happy to start well in the new season.

Q. When you were asked afterwards to do those impersonations, you didn't look too comfortable.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn't, 'cause there was a lot of talks in the last couple months about me doing these impersonations. As I was saying many times before, I wasn't really trying to, you know, make fun of anybody or offend anybody.
It's just that, you know, it's something that I think, my opinion, brings up some positive energy and something different. I mean, I'm not trying to be different; just trying to enjoy. That's all.
I don't like when, you know, people comment about those kind of things in a negative way. So I didn't want to get more of these comments by doing again the impersonations. You know, I don't know. People made me do it, so...
It's good that I just did Maria. I didn't want to do any of the other tennis players.

Q. She doesn't mind?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: She doesn't mind. She's okay with it.

Q. When somebody in the top 10 loses in the first round, as Andy did, is that a reminder to people like yourselves who are the fancied guys, that you have to be totally switched on from the first ball?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, again, it all depends from the person. Again, this is the first bigger tournament of the year and it's a Grand Slam, so everybody has a motivation more to play and to win.
The loss of the top 10 player in the first round just shows another time how tough today men's tennis is. You could see even yesterday when Rafa played against my countryman, who is 126 in the world, you know, he was struggling the first two sets.
He played well, Troicki, and Rafa was trying to get the moment, trying to get used to the conditions. Always the first matches are dangerous, especially if you play against lower-ranked players who really want to prove and to show to the people they have a good quality, that he can play good tennis. It's really unpredictable.
You can't say that, you know, top 5 or top 10 player's going to get through easy to the third round, you know. So I think it's quite different than the women's tennis.
Men's tennis is really unpredictable. You see a lot of five-set matches in the first round.

Q. Do you feel more pressure now because of your ranking and the expectation that is on you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah, it's natural that you feel the pressure. If you don't feel pressure something is wrong with you, but it's a matter of how you deal with the pressure.
I'm trying not to think about that too much, about the expectations, about the people saying, You got enough quality to win a Grand Slam this year, especially in Australia or US Open, because of the hard courts.
It's very flattering when the people, you know, talk about me in the positive way, of course. But, you know, it kind of puts a lot of pressure. I'm only 20 years old, so hopefully, you know, I'm going to have another 10 or 15 years of the professional tennis.
I'm going to take it easy and try to focus myself on what I do.

Q. Tonight's match is a little bit different. Usually when Roger plays, we know how great he is. Do you think the players are going to be more interested than usual because there's this health issue? People wonder if he's ready to play the tournament.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I've seen him only one time. We greet each other, but I haven't talked to him about his problems.
I'm sure that he solved that. It's just a small issue. I mean, he's a great champion, great tennis player. As I say, it's always unpredictable. It's a sport. But he's always dealing with this with no problem.

Q. You mentioned a moment ago five-setters, not a lot of tournaments these days where you play five sets. You have quite a good record: 7-3. What goes in to someone who is a good five-set player? Are you aware of other players who have good or bad records in five sets?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it's a matter, I think, of experience in some way. You got to play a lot. You got to be on the tour. It's a mental game, as well, besides of course the physical part. You need to be really physically ready to hold on in tough matches in the big heat.
But, again, in these deciding points, moments, only the mentally strong players are really the champions, and that's the difference, I think. You don't get that just like -- you know, you're not born with that. You practice. You get it with experience and, you know, playing more matches on the tour.
And, you know, it comes up to, you know, five sets. When you get to the fifth set, of course if you're positive in your mind you try to hold on and push yourself, and then I think you're going to get a positive outcome.

Q. You were talking about improving elements of your game. Can you elaborate on that? Any particular element or combination that you felt you really improved or are doing better?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there's been a lot of talks, of course. I am aware that I could go more to the net, maybe I could improve a little bit more my serve because I'm, you know, pretty tall. So I have a lot of potential in these things, in these elements.
I've been working on them recently a lot, especially in this preparation period, because this is the only time when we can really have a couple of weeks of practice.
But, you know, it cannot come over the night. You know, I am trying to use my opportunities during the match 'cause I know that I'm a really good groundstroke player, powerful shots. I'm always trying to be aggressive.
A lot of times in the match it happens that I can finish off the point in a shorter time. So this is something which I'm going to do and work on in the future.

Q. What's it like having a bunch of teenage girls screaming that they love you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said after the match, it's nice to see that, you know. I've been watching on the TV as a kid. Playing on the tour, I've seen a lot of supporters having those messages or whatever, writings on the shirts, some flags or something like that. It's always great to have support behind you.
It's a mental sport, as I said before. It's always good to have somebody behind your back who is trying to motivate you, to support you, so you can, you know, hold on to the pressure better.

Q. Two years ago you were in the little interview room with Andy Murray and Andy was giving a press conference about all his troubles.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Out of 10 journalist, there were nine from England and one from Serbia.

Q. Are you surprised like how much has changed for both of you in that time?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well yeah. If I turn it around now and just look at the recent years, it's amazing how fast we got through and how fast we rise to the top 10 players of the world.
Obviously we have a lot of quality, a lot of potential. We've been more or less on the top of our generations throughout all the junior events. It's kind of expected from us to do well.
But on my side, I wasn't expecting to get to the third place of the world just after a couple of months last year. So it's really surprising.
But, you know, you're just try to hang in there and keep it up with the results.

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