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March 7, 2014

Novak Djokovic


THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  Seems like every time you come here before the tournament starts you do something that's really fun or interesting.  Tonight Show several years ago; this year you did Desert Smash with Will Ferrell.  Can you talk about your philosophy about pretournament?  Some people are a little bit nervous to do things like that, and you just seem to embrace it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I do embrace it.  I do enjoy it, which is the most important thing.  I do it because I have fun with it and because it evokes a positive sensation in me.  For me, that's the most important thing.  I don't do things that I don't enjoy.
You know, I enjoy playing tennis.  I love it.  Obviously these are kind of events that allow us to have fun playing tennis, you know, not constantly be under pressure of winning the match.
Desert Smash is one of the exhibition events, charity exhibition events, that I've played and participated in in the last seven, eight years.

Q.  Can you talk about your experience with Will Ferrell and the other celebrities?  And one local celebrity, Timothy Bradley, the boxer.

Q.  Your impressions of him, as well.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  They are all great guys.  I have met Will several years ago here in Indian Wells.  He came with his family.  He's a tennis fan.  He loves watching tennis.  He was present in one of my practices.  He watched my match.
Few years after that, we were playing on the same court.  I was wearing a wig trying to look like him (Laughter.)  Didn't really come true, but we had so much fun.  I mean, he's one of the greatest comedians and I love his shows.  I love his work.
He's a very good tennis player.  I have to say he exceeded my expectations of his tennis game.
And of course Kevin Spacey, another Hollywood star who of course is also a big tennis fan, he traveled to Australian Open a few years ago only for few days just to see a couple of matches.  I mean, that says enough about his love for the sport.
It's great for tennis to have them around.  It's great for tennis to have such big stars dressed as tennis players and racquets and playing around, gives exposure to our sport, positive exposure and attention.

Q.  Can you touch a little bit about the quality of the game going on right now?  Currently in the U.S. there is a debate about the NBA and how the level has sunk because the younger guys coming up just aren't contributing.  Are you seeing that in tennis?  Do you feel like tennis is healthy?  When the Big 4, you know, come to an end, will there be others to pick up?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I think there will be, you know, other players for sure.  I mean, at this moment I believe tennis is in a healthy state, no question about it.  I mean, Federer, Nadal more than any other players have contributed to that popularity of the sport because they are the most successful players, active players, and also great champions on and off the court.
They have taken this game to, you know, to another level.  And Murray and myself, we followed that up in last couple of years.
But, you know, now there is Stan who won his first Grand Slam; Del Potro who also won a Grand Slam.  You know, there are players around.
Of course, the main focus is on the top 4 players, but there are others also that are equally as good and as interesting as top 4.

Q.  Coming into this year, a lot of the big story with regard to your tennis was a relationship between and you Boris Becker.  When Boris was in his prime, much was made of his relationship with Ion Tiriac.  How much of what Ion imparted upon Boris do you feel is coming down to you, and how much of the Tiriac experience do you feel like you're starting to feel?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I'm not feeling any influence because I'm not working with him (Laughter.)  I'm working with Boris Becker, and so far it's, you know, just the beginning of our relationship.  It takes a little bit of time for us to understand, you know, what is the best way to work, for him to understand how I am as a player, as a person.
You know, we have been improving.  We have been talking a lot.  We have been working on the court.  I'm confident that this relationship, you know, also his, you know, fair understanding with Marián Vajda can bring us success in the continuation of this season.

Q.  Do you know much about boxing?  Do you know much about Timothy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, I know he lives around the corner.  He practices here.  He has a big fight against Pacquiáo.  I follow boxing.  Not that much as Andy Murray.  I know he's a bigger fan of boxing.
But it was great to meet Bradley.  It was great to see him.  I mean, one of my friends, he went to see him train, so maybe I will do the same these days if time allows me.  It will be a lot of fun.
They are so committed, so disciplined, and they put their heart into that ring.  It's amazing.  I don't like the blood so much (smiling).
But, you know, the way they train, the way they prepare themselves physically and mentally is much similar to tennis, you know.  It's individual sport, so you can relate to what they do, except we don't punch each other in the face.  We punch the ball.

Q.  First set against Roger in Dubai, a lot of people thought...  But what happened in the second and the third set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, it was a turning point in the match.  Midway in the second set I had a couple break points to go up in the second, and that's when the momentum kind of switched from my side to his side.  After that, he played really well.  I just haven't been myself after that moment.
But, again, I haven't had a lot of matches this year, so I guess in that important few points against Roger it paid its dividends a little bit.
But, again, I feel like the hard work I was putting into all these weeks is going to pay off sooner or later.

Q.  When you compare to the last few years, it seems like you're in a little bit of strange territory coming into Indian Wells this year in that you haven't won a title.  I know there is a long year still ahead, but is that something that you think about or consider?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, it's a different feel, definitely.  I won Australian Open title three consecutive years, and that has significantly affected the confidence level in the start of the season and all the tournaments that were following up.  This year it's not the case.
But, again, I have still a lot of confidence because, you know, I'm playing well.  I'm feeling good about myself.  As I said, when you work hard and when you trust your instincts and you have that self‑belief on the court, the results will come.
Very few points decided the two big matches that I lost this year.  Stan played a tournament of his life, and he deserved to win the Grand Slam.  Last year when I won the Grand Slam, in fourth round he was very close to win against me.  It was 12‑10 in the fifth; this year was 10‑8 in the fifth.  Those matches you can't really predict and can't really have a clear favorite, especially in the fifth set when one point can decide a winner.
But I recognized, you know, things that I need to work on, not just game‑wise, but also mentally the way that I approach certain moments in the match.  You know, being able to recognize that is already halfway to solving it, and I'm working on it.
Hopefully I'm going to have ‑‑and I'm confident I'm going to have more chances to, you know, to kind of prevail in these moments.

Q.  You just played Roger in Dubai.  You said last year because of injuries and everything you felt he wasn't moving as well.  When you just played him, did you notice a difference?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I didn't notice too much difference.  He has always been moving so well on the court.  He's one of the smoothest players when it comes to movement on the court.  Everything looks so flawless.
So I haven't noticed much.  I mean, I have noticed that he, in the second part of our match, was playing very good backhands especially down the line.  That's not one of his favorite shots, but he's been working on that obviously and it pays off.

Q.  You talked about the fact that you haven't had as many matches coming into this tournament as you normally do.  At what point in your career with the physicality of the sport do you have to start considering schedule management and maybe playing a little bit less tennis for the sake of a longer career?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, you know, scheduling is one of the biggest priorities when it comes down to organization and the team and obviously preparation for the season.
I think my scheduling was really good in last three, four years, and it had allowed me to stay healthy and stay fit and play consistently well on the high level throughout the whole year.
So this year I have decided after the Australian Open not to play Davis Cup, not to play any tournaments until Dubai, because I felt that I needed a little bit of time to regroup mentally mostly.  You know, physically I was okay, but I needed mentally to recharge my batteries and prepare for what's coming up.
Indian Wells and Miami is where I want to reach the peak of my performance, and I want to try to get as far as I can and have a good season.

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