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March 14, 2008

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You were at Jay Leno's recently. What was interesting about it, it was funny privately he flew you down to Burbank, NBC. Tell us about that, please.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, can you hear me? Hello. Well, it was fantastic experience for me, and it was important for me as a professional tennis player to be presented to the American people, the ones who don't follow tennis as much as, you know, the tennis lovers. They all saw me on that show, and this is one of the most watched shows in the states, so I was privileged to be there and to be invited.
Yeah, Jay was funny, like always, of course. That's what it's all about on that show, just to be relaxed and be spontaneous and make a jokes and talk about some things.
It was all spontaneous, 7, 8, 10 minutes of the talk, and I enjoyed really, really a lot.

Q. Did you have a chance to talk to Bill Cosby?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, and I heard he's a tennis fan and he confirmed that, so he told me some stories about him playing the tennis about 50, 60 years ago (Laughter) with a wooden racquet. Obviously I don't remember that time. It's a little bit before my time.
But we made jokes out of it, so he's a great person. Very, very intelligent man, and he's great.

Q. Did you spend time with him little bit after the show, or did you do anything?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We had a chat backstage before and a little bit after the show. But, you know, I had to come back to Palm Springs and practice. You know, my coach is giving me a hard time, so...

Q. Appearing on that show is one example. How much has your life changed since winning the Australian Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You could hear that in the show, I think. Well, it changed a lot, you know, in the professional way, of course. The people are giving me a lot of -- lot more respect and looking at me in a different way.
I'm happy for that, of course. Obviously, I deserve that and I showed my quality in the last couple of years. The hard work is paying off, but I'm not trying to change as a person. You know, still trying to be funny as Murphy here (Laughter). You know, outgoing and communicative with everybody, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Q. Who would you like to play in the finals?

Q. Who would you like to play in the finals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it's still a long way to finals. Still playing first round. Second round, actually. I won't talk about the finals yet.

Q. Do you feel like you're entering now a new stage of your career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yes, I do in some way. I'm coming to this year's event here at Indian Wells as the third player of the world and coming to every tournament now in continuation of the season as a favorite to win it.
I've been playing very consistent last year, so that's one of my goals for this year, just to try to be consistent with the results, and, you know, perform my best tennis in the major events.
You know, as a third player of the world, I have those responsibility now and expectations, of course, pressure. But I think it's a challenge, which I like to have.

Q. About the pressure you just mentioned, how much of an asset is the mental game going to be for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, this is a mental game, the bottom line, and everybody's working hard in today's tennis. Physically more or less everybody's 100 percent prepared for most of the tournaments, especially the Spanish guys, South American guys.
You know, we all know that they have this system of practice that they practice five, six hours a day, and it's hard to keep up with them, you know, physical strengthwise. In the end of the day, you know, you get to the important stage of the match, and this is where there is a difference between the top guys and the other guys, the ability to cope with the pressure in the certain moments.

Q. When you're growing up obviously as a kid you think of winning a Grand Slam. When you finally win it, what is the difference? In other words, you've achieved this goal. Are you amazed at it? Delighted? Or are you saying, Boy, I always knew it was there? Is it what you expected?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, actually it's none of that. I just want to win more. (Laughter.)
I'm joking. It is really -- it's really a fantastic feeling, and you get the feeling that everything you have done, you know, in your life, has paid off in one tournament. Everybody's dream is to win a Grand Slam, any Grand Slam, and I've done it.
Still I'm only 20 years old and still have a long way to my lifetime goal, which is to be No. 1, and hopefully I can stay healthy and play professional tennis in another 10, 15 years.

Q. Andy Roddick decided not to play in the Olympics this year because it's so close to the US Open, which is a priority for him. Where is the Olympics in your list of priorities?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Probably on the top, one of the tops for sure. I mean, come on, Olympics. You get to play Grand Slams every year, you know, four Grand Slams. Olympics you get to play one time in four years, and who knows what will happen in four years for us.
So I will not risk that, and I'll be very honored and privileged to participate in such an event, an event with the most tradition in sport.
Just to be there and feel this atmosphere it's great, so for sure. Hopefully if I stay healthy I'm going to go there.

Q. Are you therefore surprised by his decision?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Everybody has a right, you know, to have his opinion. I don't blame him.

Q. Do you ever think now that you've won the Australian Open that maybe at the Olympics you'd have a chance to carry your country's flag at the opening ceremonies?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That's a possibility. It's still not 100 percent sure, but if I have this chance, I'll use it for sure.

Q. Whatever is happening in that part of the world right now with your country, does it affect you as a player or privately more? How do you cope with that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it doesn't affect me as a player too much, because I got used to the professional life, and I have to think in that direction, you know. I have to focus myself in tennis. This is my life, this is my job, this is what I like to do and I need to do in my life, and all the other things beside that have to be, you know, have to be considered as other things. You know, I have to just put them aside.
Again, privately, as a person, I'm very touched for what is happening. But, you know, I can't affect -- I can't be affected on the decisions have been made already and the situation that is going on, so only thing I can do is to try to win as much matches and tournaments I can and represent my country in the best possible way.

Q. You gave a video speech to the crowds after the Kosovo situation happened after there was fire at the U.S. Embassy. Why did you decide to come out publicly and talk about it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Because I wanted to give the people support, and I just wanted to let them know that I am there with them and that I'm supporting Kosovo and Serbia.

Q. Frankly speaking, most of the people in the United States, for instance, don't know who President Tadic is, but everybody knows you. Do you sometimes feel obligated to speak on behalf of your people because you're up there right now, and are you going to speak in the future, as well?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that's now a difficult task to talk about. I think I'm still not intending to get to the politics, and I never have. My life is sport. My life is tennis. That's what I will stick to.
This was a very unique situation, so I did something that I felt doing. So, you know, your question about the president and myself, you know, the Americans know me. They don't know him. That's a different thing.
I mean, I don't know -- and I haven't watched the stats, but still, as I said, I'm just trying to stick to the tennis.

Q. Not to harp on the Olympics thing too much, but do you feel like the rest of the field feels the same way, as enthusiastic about the Olympics as you are?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I really don't know. You know, I heard some players, they're really looking forward to it. True, the fact -- the fact is that it's really mixing up a schedule a little bit, and even without Olympics we have a very, very tough schedule. You know, we have to play week after week and go to the other countries, other continents, and the season is very, very long.
Olympics kind of messed up that. But even though it's, you know, you have to -- you have to give it priority. It's Olympics, so...

Q. Ana Ivanovic said if it was her choice she would pick you to carry the flag at the Olympics?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: And she would win the medal, right?

Q. She wants to make sure you don't take your shirt off while you're doing it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I'll talk about it, about that with her privately.

Q. What are you doing for fun in and around Palm Springs?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You tell me. I don't know. I don't know what to do.
No, well, there is not much to do here for young people. (Laughter.) This is nothing against the older people. It's just that we younger people would like more action, so it's not much to do except tennis and golf.
I love golf and it's really relaxing. Sometimes you need to be in a place like this to relax to isolate yourself. So many golf courses it's ridiculous.
Just the other day I played golf, and I decide today stop on the seventh hole. I was coming back the same way with my coach, and in one moment I don't know why, we decided to turn right. In 20 minutes we were circling around to the golf courses; every course looks the same.
We ended up in Indian Wells. I don't know how. We were in La Quinta, so...
So that's how it is. But it's -- it's good to be here. It's a relaxing place.

Q. Things really kick started for you over here last year. You gave that great, pretty solid run. What's it like coming back now after the success of last year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it's true. This was the turning point I could say of my professional career.
After this tournament I got to the top 10 for first time in my life, and it turned out to be my most preferred surface and the surface where I play my best tennis: Outdoor hard court. This is encouraging fact for the future, because we have lots of tournaments on the hard court outdoor, and I haven't lost a lot of matches in the past year, year and a half or so on this surface. So it's good to be back, and the crowd here is very enthusiastic. They try to put on the show, and they like entertainment.
So it's good. It's good to perform in front of that.

Q. I know you said radiation on The Tonight Show, but what other reasons do you think the Serbian players have been so successful at this point?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Water, food, mountains.

Q. Are you working on any other imitations like you do with Sharapova in your spare time?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Spare time, it's not the only thing I do in my spare time. I have some other interests, as well. But, no, I wasn't working on imitations. This comes spontaneous obviously. Maybe I have a talent for it.
But I don't think people are going to see a lot of that in the future. Once you do it it's interesting, but if you start doing more and more it can be a little bit annoying. I'll try to stick with tennis for now.

Q. Did you see Pete and Roger, the match the other night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it was not televised. I tried to see it, but...

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there was information, at least in the Serbian media, that Pete might be playing with you or hosting you.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, there was talk about that, and unfortunately we couldn't -- we couldn't make it. We were supposed to practice with each other. He invited me to his home for a week in the time of Dubai tournament, but I decided with the coach that it's better that I play some matches outdoor.
Unfortunately, because of the schedule, we couldn't do that this year, but I'm really looking forward for some other opportunities, if that is possible, in the future.

Q. The pressure is usually on Federer at most tournaments, but it might be fair to say that at Indian Wells and Miami the pressure goes to you and Rafa because you're the two champions. Is that a different position you guys are in?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it's a little bit different. Looking at the past four years Roger has been very dominant, especially on these events here. Last year he lost here second round; he lost quarters or last 16 in Miami. He doesn't have anything to defend, and he's obviously willing to step it up and to play well here.
He has a little bit less pressure that we have, that's true. Still, he's No. 1 in the world for a long time, and Rafa hasn't been closer ever than now, so he feels it. He hasn't won a tournament still this year, Roger, and the things are a little bit more interesting this year.
You know, you don't have only two players now. You have three, four, five players, you know. Then more and more and more players are believing that they can do it, they can win against Roger on a lot of surfaces and they can win the tournament.
So it's going to be quite interesting to see what's the end of the year.

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