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January 29, 2011

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Andy was telling us last night about the first time you and he met each other when you were very young children. He seems to recall that he beat you 6-1, 6-Love.

Q. He doesn't remember too much more about that afternoon.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, of course. He remembers the wins.

Q. Can you tell us your recollections of that day and what you thought about it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I wanted to forget it as soon as possible definitely. But it's been a great, well, childhood, if you can say, that we had together. Growing up, as he said, it was the first time we met. We were 11 years old or 12. We played couple of times under-14, under-16 in the European level, then we started to play the professional tournaments. We didn't play for a couple years. He went to Spain. I think he was practicing in Barcelona. I was partly in Germany, partly in Italy. We went the different paths.
Then again at more or less the same time we developed into the professional tennis players. So it's been a nice story, you know, about both of us. And to be able to meet him in a Grand Slam final, it makes it even more special.

Q. Did you speak English back when you were 11? Could you talk to him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I had it in school so already I knew some basic things. Back then, yeah, we were speaking kind of more with the signs, you know, hands and legs and stuff (smiling). He was using more of a Scottish accent, so he was really hard to understand.

Q. You also played doubles with him.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He had the hair (laughter).

Q. A crowd of us came into the interview room and you took the senior role because he was overpowered by coming into a media spotlight. You seemed very composed already that day.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Because I wasn't facing that much media, you know, in my early stages of the career.
In one hand it's been a tough situation for him to face this pressure of media and being a British player. You know, everybody expects him to win Wimbledon and be the best player in the world because he's coming from a country of tennis, you know, a great history. Of course, Wimbledon, we all know it's the most prestigious tournament in our sport. And he faced all of that in his career. He managed to become one of the best players in the world. So you got to give him credit for that.
Actually, I remember that press conference we had. It was in the backroom there a couple years back. I was saying in one hand I would like to be in his shoes because he gets a big support obviously because of the country that he comes from. On the other hand I wouldn't like because of the media attention and pressure that he faces, yeah.

Q. But you just dealt with that in Serbia winning a Davis Cup. Can you tell us what that was like, the expectation from your country to deliver the Davis Cup?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it has been one of the biggest success that we had in sport ever, and by far the biggest achievement in tennis, and for me one of the nicest experiences on the tennis court. Very emotional, very historical. It was maybe chance of the lifetime for us to win a Davis Cup at home.
The crowd and the whole nation was kind of expecting us to win that match and to use their opportunity because we were playing really well. You could feel that the title is right there. Then after the second day we were 2-1 down and it wasn't easy because we play for our nation, we don't represent ourselves.
That's what makes Davis Cup different from the other events. You have to think about the nation and all the people first, that you're representing them, then yourself.

Q. How disappointed are you, having won that Davis Cup, Serbia being the champions, that while there's probably an airplane full of us from the British press, there's hardly any of your Serbian guys here? Is that a disappointment?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, no. I feel better just because of the situation I was referring to just now. Actually I'm talking English more often than I talk Serbian. It's hard for me to answer in Serbian sometimes the questions.

Q. Do you feel beating Federer at Flushing Meadows from two match points down gave you the confidence to beat him again two days ago?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that match has played its role as well on my confidence I was carrying to the start of the season and the last couple of months. But I think it was more of the Davis Cup win that we had in first week of December in 2010 which gave me a lot of confidence boost, you know, a strong wind in the back.
From that moment on, even though I had a very short off-season, I felt very eager to come back to the court and play more matches because I felt that I could play my best tennis. It's proven to be correct. Just very satisfied to begin my season, you know, in a Grand Slam final.

Q. When you played Andy in the juniors, did you always think one day you would meet at a Grand Slam event in the final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we were both dreaming of that definitely. I don't think we were planning to meet each other, but we were dreaming of being in a Grand Slam final.
But you could already feel at that stage when we were 12, 13, 14, that we both have a talent and we both have, you know, great motivation and mentality to succeed. You know, we had a strong team behind us of the people who were supporting us.
I knew back then when I played him and when I watched him play that he's going to become, for sure, top-five player. You know, came out to be true.

Q. Now is it hard to balance the friendship and the professional rivalry or do you achieve that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I sent him a message yesterday after his semifinal saying like, Perth final, because we practiced in Perth a couple times this year. We had fun. We played football there. He won, unfortunately.
It's fun. It's been a fun couple of weeks. I think we, as well, reconnected a little bit with the friendship in the last 12 months.
Well, we have to forget about all that when we step on the court. It's all business. I'm sure he's going to be very eager to win a first Grand Slam title.

Q. It's going to be an extremely hot day tomorrow, therefore a very warm evening. How are you going to cope with it? Have you factored that into your preparation?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's going to be evening, no sun, so I'm looking forward to that.

Q. You talked about Andy trying to win his first. Can you remember when you won here in 2008, how hard it had been to achieve that, and what it means having that under your belt going into tomorrow?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we both play couple of finals already in a Grand Slams. He played here and US Open. Me, too. You know, we both know how it is difficult to make that final step and win a title, especially if you have across the net Nadal or Federer. In 2008, I had Tsonga. He had played a great tournament. But still, you know, it was both of us trying to fight for a first title.
You know, it was big pressure. Obviously you feel that. You feel the expectations. You feel that you're right there; you just need to make that final step. But on the other hand, you know, I was a 20-year-old kid who didn't really feel that much pressure and expectations off court and was just trying to play my best tennis. That's probably why I played so well.
Over this couple of years, you go through the process of learning things, you know, just facing some situations you never faced before in the sport. It's not easy. But you're maturing.
I feel that I'm more experienced. Definitely winning a Grand Slam title here a couple years back, having that for tomorrow's final, it's maybe a little bit of the mental advantage.

Q. You have an extra day's rest. How much of a factor do you think that will be?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: At this stage it's a great fact that I have an extra day because it's been a long two weeks. It's been a tiring semifinal against Federer mentally and physically. I recovered yesterday. Today just had a good hit. I'll be ready for tomorrow.

Q. Would you be surprised to know that starting with you in 2008 the player playing second has won the final, the player playing the semifinal second has won? Do you think the guy that gets through early has too much time to think about it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, not so sure about that. You know, I mean, it doesn't necessarily need to mean that the guy who is playing second semifinal will win the tournament. Maybe the facts are towards that.
As I said, at this stage of the tournament, you've played many matches. You've spent enough hours on the court, so you can't really lose the rhythm, you know, of playing points and matches.
As I said, you know, quarterfinals, semifinals, you're facing top-ranked opponents. Even though if you beat them in straight sets, you still have to go through a lot of, you know, physical and mental effort to overcome those opponents. Then you need some time to rest from that.
I look at it in a positive way, to be honest. I don't think it's going to distract me of playing my best tennis.

Q. This was the first of the four Grand Slam center courts when you played Safin in '05. If anything, does that make it special for you, this arena?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Can you repeat the question?

Q. Was this the first time you played on a Grand Slam center court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, yes. This was my Grand Slam debut right here.

Q. Does that make it extra special, being the first one?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I wasn't thinking about that. Actually I think that this center court here, conditions, the speed of the surface is more suitable to my game. I think I have been playing my best tennis in my career right here in Rod Laver Arena. This can be an encouraging fact for tomorrow.

Q. Was there any time in the last couple years that you were thinking at the Grand Slams that maybe that the Rafa, Roger dominance isn't going to end; that it doesn't matter how much you or Andy improve, those guys are going to stay on top of you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. If I was thinking that way, then the success wouldn't come. We both know how difficult it is to face Rafa and Roger in the later stages of a Grand Slam of any tournaments because that's when they switch gears and it's when they lift their performance a level up and really get on top of their opponents.
They have been so dominant, such a strong two tennis players mentally, it's just been fantastic to watch them dominate the tennis on one hand. On the other hand, it was frustrating because you don't have the opportunity of maybe winning more Grand Slams.
But over the years playing against them, you kind of get to know them better and start believing in yourself more that you can win.
I think right now there are a couple players that are actually believing they can win against Rafa and Roger. So it's good to see that. It's maybe the greatest rivalry ever in our sport. But I think it's good for the sport and for the crowd to see more faces are able to win major events. Not to have them in the Grand Slam final for a while is maybe a good change.

Q. Winning the Davis Cup, did you hear from Serbs all over the world saying thank you because nobody ever heard of Serbia, but now you were the world champs? Did you get messages like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You mean Serbs from abroad?

Q. Yes.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, there was celebrations all over the world. The people really loved the success that we have. I mean, tennis has become a very popular sport in our country in the last two, three years. Before that, it was only team sports. We are still a nation of team sports, of course. Basketball, volleyball, handball, water polo. Very successful and a lot of talent in those sports. Tennis never had a long history.
But now so much success comes in such a small period of time that everybody loves it, definitely.

Q. Did it help your country's reputation, do you think?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: For sure. I think that our athletes are probably our biggest ambassadors for our country.

Q. What tactically will be the key in the final to you beating Andy do you think?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We have more or less similar games. We put some variety in our games depending on who we play. But our games are based on the baseline. We can mix it up. We can play spin, defensive, offensive, quite solid serves.
It's going to be interesting to see who is going to dominate from the baseline. But I expect long rallies. I think patience and really using the opportunities when they have been given to you in the certain moments.

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