THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Looks like he made you work a bit in that first set. Talk about how you turned things around.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, I was excited to be back on the court. I haven’t competed for over five weeks. I was a bit rusty in the first set. You know, I was kind of waiting for him to do something with the ball rather than doing it myself.
That resulted in a very close first set, and I was fortunate to get through that one. You know, I thought I opened up the match with two, three comfortable service games.
And then, you know, credit to him for serving well and taking the ball on the rise and just dictating the play. You know, he was the one that was really aggressive and dictating, you know, the points from back of the court for entire first set probably.
As I said, you know, fortunate to get through that one. Obviously I was more relaxed in the second and played better.
Q. He took a set off you when you last played here, didn’t he?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Uh-huh.
Q. Were there any similarities in that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I remember that match. I don’t know. I mean, it’s been many years ago. It’s kind of hard to say whether that has affected him or me. But maybe it gave him more, I guess, strength and confidence knowing that he took a set out of me in this very court, and he came out firing. You know, credit to him. You know, he played well and had nothing to lose. I thought his backhand was terrific, was taking it on the rise.
And on my end, as I said, the first set was just hanging on to the ropes and trying to, you know, win that set. Then the second set, obviously with the first set under my belt, was slightly better. I ended out the match in a positive fashion.
Q. There was a board meeting a few days ago. Wondering if you have any idea when you’ll be able to make announcement on new venue for the ATP Finals and whether all the cities that were announced as candidates in the beginning of the year are still in contention?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m not really 100% sure on that, because the board decides. You know, I’m part of the player council, so we do discuss.
But, then, you know, it’s up to our board representatives under this system and structure to really decide, you know, what they vote. In most of the cases they obviously follow what the majority of what the council feels like. But, you know, at times, on some big issues, we are divided, and so we let the board representatives take the lead.
So as I understand, there are several cities that are in contention for the World Tour Finals. London is still one of them. I think it’s Tokyo and a couple other cities, I think, Turin and Singapore.
We’ll see. Obviously it’s not that simple to decide. Tournament sites of ATP have to also feel comfortable with that. It is the biggest event that ATP owns.
So the choice has to be well-thought, and, of course, it’s going to affect, you know, ATP as a whole in many different levels.
Q. You said you haven’t played for five weeks in the tournaments. You also decided to play less tournaments in 2019. How would that affect you when going into tournaments? After Miami, for instance, I think you have four, five weeks also off. Is that more difficult or why do you choose that strategy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, I also want to spend time with my family. You know, for me, at this stage of my career, you know, it’s balancing between the two. You know, I can’t prioritize only myself and my career. I’ve got to think about my children and my wife.
And that’s fine, you know, because I want to focus myself on the biggest events. I started off the season in best possible way. So I really want to try to get the most out of Indian Wells and Miami. And after that, we’ll see.
You know, I live in Monaco, so Monaco tournament, it would be nice to play it. I would like to play it. But at the same time, it depends on different things. You know, moving forward, obviously schedule is pretty much the same. I mean, you know, most of the years I would play Rome, Madrid events, and then Roland Garros, obviously slams.
But as I said, you know, it just depends how the season goes because, at times, if you don’t have as good of a results that you hope for, then you need more matches. And, you know, it just depends really, you know, how I will do on these tournaments, and we will decide for the rest.
Q. Sampras was in the crowd tonight. What was that like?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I don’t get to see Pete that often. I was pleasantly surprised to see him watching my match.
It’s a thrill, obviously, to see someone that I looked up to when I was a kid. I think I tried too hard in the first set to impress him (laughter). It bounced back against me in a way.
But it was really nice, and I went up to him and I thanked him for coming. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see him privately, as well.
Q. Any tennis career is based on a series of important decisions and you went with Jelena and Germany and certain coaching decisions. But if you had to say, in your incredible career, the best one, two, decisions that you have made that have really made a difference in your career, what would that be?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s a good question. I mean, I think different stages of my career had different, I think, circumstances and people that have affected me in a positive way that have helped me get to where I am today.
I think I was very fortunate to have the opportunity very early in my career to work with quality people that are, first of all, people that cared about me, of course, other than my family.
You mentioned Jelena Gencic and Niki Pilic. Those are the people that have devoted their entire lives to tennis, people that know a lot about tennis, and they recognized my talent and my potential, and they were willing to help support me and my family, because obviously economics at those times were great challenge and an issue for us.
But they, you know, they also worked free of charge, you know, for a long time because they just believed in my talent and that I will become a world-class tennis player one day.
So, you know, from the very early stages of my career, I had that fortune to be surrounded with those people. And then, of course, as an individual athlete, you know, you go through phases of your career and your development where you just sometimes have to react and sometimes you have to plan in advance.
I think that what was very big for me, and my dad helped me a lot with that, was the preparation and always aiming for the best quality output and best quality environment and surrounding, always very stimulative environment, environment which allows me to maximize my potential.
And that’s why I think I went early to Germany, as well, when I was 12, and going back for school and using school breaks to spend time in Germany. That was probably one of the best decisions, but it was made not only from my side. It was from my parents and Jelena Gencic at the time that was in a very good relationship with Niki Pilic in whose academy I went for the first time when I was 12-and-a-half.
So I’d say those milestones in life have definitely shaped my career.
Q. Going back to the ATP Finals, the decisions obviously have to be based on various things.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. In London for eight days you get 17,000 spectators twice a day even without Andy Murray. Is there any point in going somewhere that can’t at least get somewhere matching that attendance?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that’s a fair point. I think that actually last year, several months ago, actually, the last World Tour Finals, wasn’t as good attendance-wise as most of the other years. So that was also an indicator that maybe people — maybe it’s time to change, maybe not. I don’t know. We’ll see end of this year how is it going to be.
But it has been a super-successful event. London is one of the biggest, most popular cities in the world in general but also for tennis, the city that has Wimbledon. And obviously because of Wimbledon you have tradition and history and you have the culture of tennis.
So people do nurture their culture of tennis, and that’s why we have experienced some super-star events in O2 over the years.
But, you know, I guess it comes down to whether we want to stay somewhere where it’s very successful, which is a fair argument, obviously, or you want to take chances, in a way, and travel the tournament that is supposed to be — if not the greatest event for promotion of tennis, then definitely one of the greatest.
You know, I guess that’s what it comes down to. Of course, there are various factors: economics, the city, culture of sport, various things. I think that’s probably the most important question.
Q. The last nine months of this career for you and some of your best results in a while, it also kind of coincides with this period of tension in tennis politics. How much of a mental challenge is that to try to navigate waters on the outside of your tennis; and the second time is why you want to spend this intellectual and mental or emotional energy on these topics at this stage of your career? Why take the risk?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you for asking me that. It’s a very good question. I mean, I tend to ask that myself, as well (smiling).
But I feel that it is my responsibility, in a way, as well, as a top player to contribute to the sport in that way, as well.
I take the role of member of a council or president of a council very seriously, and I try to contribute as best as I can. I mean, we all make mistakes. You know, it’s not my natural environment, so to say, but I am ready to learn and I’m open-minded.
Because, finally, I care about the current generation and also the future generation and future of this sport. I really do. I think that sport is doing well, but it can also do better and better, you know, as we go along.
And if I, with my status and with my position in the world of sport and tennis, can influence that positively, then why not? It gives me actually — yes, it takes away in energy and time, but I know I do it from the right place in my heart and with the right intent, and then I also receive a lot of energy for that, you know.
So, you know, I’m available, I’m responsive, and I try to communicate with everybody. I feel like the current council, player council, is the best that I have been part of, and I have been part of several council groups in the last seven years. I’m really glad, because we need active participation from players.
In the end of the day, in order to not just fight for players’, you know, rights and position and so forth, but just work together with tournaments to create even a better world than it is today for world of tennis, for all of us.
You know, that’s kind of a purpose-like mentality for me, really. It’s more than just — I really don’t have any, you know, financial incentive or any agenda for that matter. I just would like to leave a legacy also behind, and I would also like to contribute. That’s all that is.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #366 at 2019-03-10 05:12:00 GMT