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March 27, 2008

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Everyone's talking about Roger and the top of men's tennis and how it's very interesting right now with you and him, you know, struggling a tiny bit, and Nadal. Can you sort of talk from your perspective, what do you see at the top 3 there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the good thing about tennis in this moment is that there is more players that the people are talking about, and some new faces coming up and doing so well. Talking about especially this year, the Australian Open and Indian Wells.
I think it's good for the people, good for the crowd and for the sport in general. It's getting more attraction, you know, from the tennis lovers, of course, and it's good that the people started talking much more about three players, not two players anymore.
But still I am aware of the fact that obviously as the third player of the world coming closer to the first two spots, I have a lost of expectations as well considering the results in the start of the year that I can reach the higher spot even this year.
But I'm not thinking too much in that direction, because I'm trying to just go slowly, step by step. I don't want to jump over and lose my focus.

Q. One of the things that a lot of people have said about you is that one of the reasons maybe you could ascend is you don't seem to have fear of Roger, that you obviously respect him, but you have sort a different attitude. Do you feel that way?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I do. I was saying whenever I play him or Rafa I learn something new from those matches, and obviously as the two most dominant players in the last couple of years they deserve the highest respect. This is what I have for them, of course, as a professional athlete. But as soon as we get to the court, it's a different story.
Throughout my career, I always had this advantage, mental advantage, I think, and this is a very encouraging fact for the future, that I can be able to focus myself in the most important moments and to believe that I can be on the top.

Q. Having won Australia and Indian Wells, obviously it's a great motivation for you. But at the same time is not an extra pressure now?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, there are expectations. Obviously, looking at past couple of events and two major events in the start of the year I won, so the people obviously look at me as one the biggest favorites for this tournament and for upcoming season and as the first player of the world.
In this year I have certain of those responsibility and pressure, of course. Whoever I play, most of the matches, I have the role of favorite. But this is sport. This is something I have to handle.

Q. Can you talk about last year it all kind of started, I guess it started finals of Indian Wells. But winning here, I remember that day, and you threw your shirt and half your clothes into the audience and everything. Can you talk about this tournament and what it meant to you in your rise last year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was very exciting. Obviously, as you mentioned, this was a turning point in my career, Indian Wells and the Miami tournament. But here in Miami I won the tournament, so it feels different. You know, when you come to the final and reach the final stages of the tournament, it's not the same than when you win a tournament, such a big, major event.
From that point on my career was going uphill, and I gained a lot of confidence and motivation, of course, and a lot of respect from other players.

Q. The fact that you come from a country - and I know you've been quoted before - but do you still find it outstanding that there's you and Jankovic and Ivanovic, and the fact that there's so little money in Serbia. Does it show Jim Curry had a comment and wanted your reaction to it. He said the amount of money a country puts into tennis is nothing. He said tennis is an individual sport. It's about persistence and what an individual says, not a system. I wanted your comments on that given the success of your country with three Top 10 players.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think he's right in one way. As an individual sport, of course, tennis requires a lot of time on the tour. Obviously, when you start - when you start playing tennis at the start of your career, you've got to have some financial support, either from your parents or from somebody else. It's necessary because it's a very expensive sport for the starters. Even if you are not in the good position financially-wise, it's very tough to succeed.
Plus, on the other hand, I would say that the system is important. Why I'm saying that, because system helps you to develop into the professional tennis player. If you are coming from a country which doesn't have a such a big tennis tradition, then you have to push by yourself and with your family and your closest friends, the ones that are helping you out.
But if you have a system it's easier. You have a tennis center, you have knowledgeable people, coaches around you that can help you out.

Q. I want to ask, your personality, last year obviously everyone found out that you're very funny and all the impersonations and all that stuff. How do you balance between being taken seriously, obviously, as a tennis player, and how much fun do you allow yourself to have now that you are here? Is it different than when you were down here before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, true. I've been going through a lot of nice memories in the last couple of months. People come up to me and say I have a good personality and I bring up a lot of positive energy to the tennis. I'm a good clown in general, so the people (smiling) start saying that. I like it, you know. This is something that I do to relax, and I enjoy my life as much as I can.
But I want my priorities, that the people remember me as a big champion, as a great tennis player.

Q. How do you balance that? How do you decide? Can you still go out and do some of those funny things, or you think you can't do that now that you're No. 3?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not too much. The more successful you are, the more attention you get from people, from media, whoever, and it's normal. But everything in life is about balance. So if you're unable to keep your focus on what you do, and then in the same time be positive and enjoy, then you have a great life. You know, you are very successful and you find the happiness.
I don't complain about anything. So far I've been living my dream: Winning a Grand Slam, being one of the top players. I'm happy I have the right people around me, the right surroundings, and everybody's trying to keep that balance.

Q. Just curious about how you might describe your relationship with Roger, if there is any kind of connection there? Also what you might have learned from watching him when you were younger?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, obviously, as I said before, I have a big respect for him. So as a kid coming up as a junior to the professional tennis I was watching him, and he was back then just starting to be very successful and very dominant on the pro tour.
He's, obviously, a fantastic player. Everybody can learn something from him. Just the way he plays, he looks very easy like he floats on the court. You can learn a lot of stuff.
The other thing, we don't have any, I don't know, friendship or something like this. Whenever we see each other we greet each other. We are in a positive relations as professional athletes.

Q. You talked a lot about the expectations people have of you now. What are the expectations you have of yourself?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think it's important to have always some ambitions and some goals in every year you get. So this year I was saying before the start of the season, I want to win a Grand Slam, and that's what I achieved already. I want to be consistent with my results on the most important events and try to reach a higher spot on the rankings.

Q. Can I ask one more thing about the Jay Leno Show? Do you think that helped you just with the average American sports fan who is maybe not a tennis fan?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it did. I think it was very important for me to go there. But at the same time I did it with a pleasure because I've been watching that show for a couple of years already, and it's a lot of fun. I like the comedy.

Q. Speaking of comedy and what I wanted to say, the ATP is always trying to promote different events. Here's my thinking: They're having an event at Coconut Grove. You easily could get billed as the Improv there. I could see you doing ten minutes and getting a lot of fame. Is that something that you want to do? Because what you're going to have happen, in your career -- I know you don't want to be known as a clown, but you're going to be known as an all-around personality. That's how Serena and Venus on the women's tour, they went into another thing to prolong their careers. I want to know if that's part your thinking and your make-up for the future?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: My priority is tennis, and it will always be. This is what I choose to do in my life. These things off the court are quite important for me and for my life. This is just me. This is my personality. So I think it fits to a lot of different events, as you say.
For example, on the tournaments. Yes, certainly, I have a lot of people who are working in this direction, and everybody's following their job and they know what to do. So I'm happy the way it all works out. But as I said, it's all about balance.

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