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March 14, 2014

Novak Djokovic


N. DJOKOVIC/J. Benneteau
6‑1, 6‑3

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  After kind of struggling the last couple matches dropping a couple sets, felt pretty straightforward.  How did you feel it in general?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, I felt like I was very focused on the court from the start, and it's what I was looking for.  First few matches I played good tennis but I had some ups and downs.
Today was very stable from the first to the last point.  He made a lot of unforced errors, and obviously I just needed to make him play an extra shot and serve well.
I have done everything I wanted.

Q.  How important is this tournament to you, Novak, given your start to the year?  Is this an important springboard for you for the rest of the upcoming month and the months to follow?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Of course.  It's very important tournament for all of the tennis players because it's the first Masters Series tournament of the year, a 1000 event.  You want to do well.
Of course then coming to Miami with, you know, with a great confidence.  I haven't won Australian Open this year, as was the case in the last three years.  I came in Indian Wells without a title in this season, and that is a different feel from previous years.
So of course it's important for me to do well.  I'm on the right path and playing semifinals, which is always of course a challenge and a good result, but I want to try to go as far as I can.

Q.  You have generally been pretty open to innovations.  In terms of the Paribas tournament here with all its innovations, the prize money, the attendance, how people just love it, do you think it's the fifth slam or do you think it should become the fifth slam?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Ah, well, you know, there are a few tournaments around the world that they call the fifth slam, but it's difficult to say, really.
One thing is for sure, is that this tournament is if not the best then one of the best tournaments in the world in terms of, you know, investing in facilities and making players feel comfortable and really, you know, sharing the passion for the sport with fans.
That's what Mr.Ellison is doing and we appreciate that very much.  I think he's a brave man.  You know, he obviously is very successful in what he does, his personal business.  But then, you know, he obviously loves this sport.
I think that's the first and main reason why he, you know, bought this tournament and why he's investing in facilities.  He's always each year coming up with something new because he just loves the sport.  That's the first thing, and I guess business is the second.
You know, he's always trying to make the players feel good, and he's definitely succeeding in that.  I think we need to pay more attention to the ATP tournaments, because obviously we're always talking about Grand Slams as the foremost important and prestigious tournaments that we have in sport.
Indian Wells is one of the ATP events that shows that, you know, ATP events deserve to be in the same league.  Why not?
Everything in life is evolving, is progressing.  You know, there has to be times when people start thinking ahead, you know, What can we change?
Because tennis has been, in my opinion, too conservative in terms of scheduling and in terms of certain things that, you know, eventually could have the potential, talk about changes, you know, progress, because everything in life is, as I said, evolving.
You have to keep up with that.¬† You can't just have the facilities or tournament or, you know, prize money or whatever.¬† That was 20, 30 years ago.¬† Nowadays everything is more expensive for the players who are especially lower ranked.¬† It takes a lot of money to get to‑‑ arrive here with their team and so forth.
So, I mean, this is a great example of a tournament that is seeking always to improve.  I thank them for that.

Q.  You participated in the doubles here, as did other top singles players.  At least this week we have No. 1 and No. 2 in the final.  What does that say to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  No. 1 and No. 2?

Q.  Top two seeds in the men's doubles final.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  What does it say to me in terms of just the doubles, as a doubles specialist or are you alluding to singles players, as well?

Q.  Some people says doubles players are singles players who couldn't make it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Couldn't make it all the way to the finals?  I didn't understand.

Q.  Couldn't make it as singles players so they become doubles players.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:¬† Oh, that's what you mean.¬† Well, I mean, look, at a certain stage of the career‑‑ I don't think that there is anybody who's playing actively doubles now that started their tennis career intending to become a doubles player.
They all probably tried to play singles, and then at certain stage of their careers they want to play doubles.  They figured that that's, you know, better option for them, that they can be more successful in making more money and just have more successful career in general.
I mean, if I offended somebody, I'm sorry, but I haven't heard that the singles players started, you know, his career at age of 5 or 6 dreaming that he can be a doubles champion.
Yeah, I mean, that's a fact.¬† I'm not discrediting doubles.¬† I just think that that's just the way it is.¬† I mean, you always want to do it‑‑ it's individual sport, so you want to do well in singles, but over the time as you are growing up, of course you're playing more doubles.
And then, as I said, depending on individual, at the certain stage of their careers they say, Okay, I'm going to go for doubles and I'm going to see how it goes.
One of my best friends on tour Nenad Zimonjic, you know, he was one of the No. 1 of the world and one of the most successful active doubles players.  He was playing singles until a certain age, and then he started playing more doubles and now he's only a doubles player.
It works well for him.

Q.  Drawing you back to what Larry Ellison has done in tennis here, it might worry other people if they thought he might be able to take a more active role in the sport.  What he's done in his business life, he's been phenomenally successful.  Do you think we should open doors to more people like that who have done well in the business world and see what they might be able to offer this sport, which, as you quite like to say, normally closes its doors to people with initiative and ambition.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I agree.  I think that the sport, our sport, as I mentioned before, should be more open for innovation for creative people with the right intentions to grow and to improve.  Mr.Ellison is definitely one of them.  I'm not sure if he has time to be dedicating to our sport in a larger scale, but he's already doing a lot for our sport with this tournament.
But we definitely need to be a little bit more open to, you know, to the kind of modern times, I would say, because I feel like in certain things that sport is still, you know, decades behind.
Because just with no disrespect to the tradition and history of our sport, I think that this is very important to keep this integrity and always remember the history, how it all started and protect that as much as you can.  But on the other hand, I think you have to move on.
There is times when you have to just say, Okay, this is life, you know.  Everything is progressing.  Or, We are either going to progress or we're gonna go, you know, regression, the other way around.
We can't just be stagnating.  Can't be just in one place.  So I think, yeah, there is many, many different subjects that we can talk about, you know.  I think that this is one of the sports that still hasn't used its full potential.
It's very global.  Second or third most playable sport around the world.  I mean, that says enough.
I'm not just talking about economics here.  I'm talking about just global popularity of the sport, and many more things that can be done.

Q.¬† Do you think scheduling‑wise you would consider a good innovation they could come up with?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, there are some things.  I mean, in an ideal world, Australian Open can start three, four weeks later, you know.
Because I think that having Australian Open as one of the four Grand Slams right at the start of the season is a little bit too early.
And then having such a long gap to the next Grand Slam, and then having Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and US Open in a matter of two‑and‑a‑half months.¬† I think that's ‑‑you know, depends from what perspective you're looking at, but I think that's something that is not ideal.
But, again, it's been like that for so many years.¬† I have a sense that, you know, spent 10 years at the professional level and was three years involved in politics of tennis and was in council.¬† I get the sense that people are just too afraid of doing‑‑ you know, going towards some rational maybe changes or improvements or just something that, you know, they are always afraid it can disturb the history and the culture that this sport possesses.
You know, I agree on certain things, yes, but there are also many things that we close the doors too early for those kind of discussions.
So, yeah, scheduling can be worked around a lot.¬† I think that also the Davis Cup is also subject for‑‑ you know, over the years you don't see that many top men's tennis player being part of Davis Cup in last 15 years, which is sad, because it's the only official team competition where we get to represent our country, aside the Olympic Games.
It's something that makes us very proud.  I enjoy playing it.  But like, for example, this year, sometimes I have to make a decision not to play it because the scheduling is just too rough, you know.
I mean, Davis Cups always come after the major tournaments and after a month or month and a half of playing at a top level.
So I think these kind of discussions have to be, you know, on the table and see if we can change the format or if we can change maybe not playing best of five, maybe changing playing best of three and playing ‑‑ instead of three playing two days, so that, you know, there are things that you can talk about.
But it's always so complicated because it's structured ‑‑tennis, the structure is so complicating that it's very difficult to achieve something, because you have to go through a different governing bodies, to different organizations.
We belong to ATP, but then there are Grand Slams and there is ITF and there is WADA and there is ‑‑ you know, I think too many organizations.¬† For people outside of tennis it's also complicated to follow that up and really understand what's going on.
I think we have to make it more simple in order for this sport to grow.

Q.¬† You're saying things about scheduling and all that.¬† You made a point with the Australian Open‑‑ and I fully appreciate where you're coming from on that‑‑ but then you've also, I guess, got to look at what we're going through in, Australia, the time of the year, what sponsors want, and all that.¬† I guess it's a very difficult situation.¬† You're not going to satisfy everybody.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I know.  I know exactly what you're talking about.  I feel that the Australian Open is actually the Grand Slam that has been improving the most out of all the Grand Slams in last, you know, decade or so.  I'm not criticizing Australian Open at all.

Q.  I understand.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I'm just saying that scheduling is such that it's very complicating to change anything.  I said in the ideal world for players, it would be great if we started at least three, four weeks later, because then we would have a little bit longer of season and preparation.
In all the other sports, if you see the NBA players or football, soccer players, they have at least couple of months.¬† They have‑‑ they give themselves three to four weeks' break, and then they have another, you know, at least six, seven, eight weeks of preparation, which is exactly the time that you need for your body to get in the 100% maximum right shape.
We don't have that.  I mean, I have had in the last couple of years four or five weeks combined rest and preparation.
So that's not enough.  And then I have to be going to Melbourne already, you know, playing Grand Slam.
But I understand from Australia, you know, where the tournament comes from.  I mean, we have school break, I think, for these two weeks.  And sponsors and so forth, it's ideal time for them.
But on the end of the day, there is always going to be an excuse or somebody coming up with a reason, and then it's just too complex.  I think that there has to be a certain strong stand, and, you know, something that the players want, somebody who's going to represent their rights and see what we can do, you know, for players to feel good.
But in the other hand also for tournaments to survive and to do well.

Q.  But then we've got the situation then you're saying about that break at the end, and then we've got the new pro league tennis league that wants to come into that slot.  Then you have players wanting to play that when they should necessarily be taking that break.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah.  Well, again, you know, this tennis league is a new concept and something that you can call an innovation.  I think it's a very good idea if it happens.
But it's more ‑‑it's not as competitive as official tournaments.¬† So you wouldn't have players, you know, fighting for points.¬† Of course, you're being paid for playing that, but it's a different concept.
If it happens, it's going to happen first year this year.¬† You're going to see ‑‑you can't really judge and say, Okay, players wantit.¬† Players anyway try to use the free time off tournaments to play exhibition matches.¬† So this is kind of an exhibition league that you would play.
So, again, it's complicating because you have within the structure of ATP two sides.  You have tournaments and you have players.  It's always this kind of split voting, and it's always 50% of rights and power that both sides have.
That's where it comes to conflict, because obviously in 90% of the times it's two totally opposite interests.

Q.  Just your thoughts on the next match.  Isner won the first set.  You've lost against him here.  Gulbis?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC:¬† I played John here a few years ago and I remember that match.¬† 7‑6 in the third, and also lost to him very close one in Cincinnati last year.¬† He's definitely not somebody you like to play in the big heat with such serve.
It's very challenging because he doesn't miss his serve too much, so you have to kind of be able to hold your composure, you know, from the first to the last point and be ready to play three tiebreaks.  That's all.
But, you know, I know that the key against both of these guys, whoever I play against, is return and efficient serving.  You know, trying to just kind of stay tough and not let any concentration lapses, because then they can use it.

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