16 April 2018: Novak Djokovic (English)
Monday, 16 April 2018
N. DJOKOVIC/D. Lajovic
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What did you think of your performance today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I thought it was good considering the amount of matches I’ve played in the last almost 12 months. I mean, played probably six, seven matches in total ever since Wimbledon last year.
I personally feel, and I know that you can also see it from outside, that I’m lacking more of the match play, more of the situations of, you know, competition, playing out points in an official match.
Obviously, practicing and playing practice sets is one thing. Playing an official match is completely something else, mentally mostly.
Also, you know, with injury and everything that was happening the last couple months, the post-surgery period, me trying to come back to Indian Wells and Miami, and obviously playing well below the desired level, it wasn’t that easy for me to cope with all of that. At the same time it made me I think even more inspired to come back and try to play the way I played today.
I mean, I think, as I said, under the circumstances and considering I haven’t played too many official matches, I thought I played well. I thought I started the tournament well. It’s first match on clay. It’s against a very good friend of mine, who obviously, you know, hasn’t played at his best, was making a lot of mistakes.
Still, I thought all in all, it was a great start of the tournament.
Q. Reuniting with Marian, did it feel like you never left or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s a fresh start I think for both of us. I missed him. I have a feeling that he missed me or tennis or both (smiling).
But we both enjoyed a lot the last 10 days of practice we had. He knows me better than any tennis coach I’ve worked with. He’s a friend. He’s someone I can share a lot of things with, whether it’s professional or private life. He’s always there for me. He knows me inside out. He knows what I need in order to get to the highest possible level of play. We could not ask for a better start.
I mean, together obviously, as I’ve mentioned before, don’t have any kind of long-term commitment with each other. We just want to see how it goes in this tournament. So far has been a lot of positive things and actually only positive emotions, every practice session, and today on the court.
So hopefully we can keep going in the right direction.
Q. We haven’t seen you since Miami, so can you talk us through sort of what led to the decision to move on from working with Andre and with Radek.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, first of all, I’m so grateful to both of them for, you know, being willing to help me out, to be there for me, to contribute as much as they can to my career, to my life.
Of course, we still stay friends. Radek I think is actually coming here in a few days, so I’ll be seeing him. This doesn’t affect our personal relationships that we established over the years both with Radek and Andre.
But we just decided that it’s better to part ways because, you know, both sides did feel that that’s best for me and for them.
I didn’t know in which direction I wanted to go after Indian Wells and Miami. I was, you know, questioning which way I want to move ahead. I didn’t want to keep them in, so to say, the dark in a way, being indecisive, not giving them clear indications what I’m going to do.
The elbow was still not as good as it was in the last 10 days, seven days. So after two years finally I can play without pain. Indian Wells, Miami, especially Indian Wells, was not like that.
I understand, as well, that, you know, I might have rushed my decision to play a little bit because I missed matches, I missed playing. I didn’t have risk of hurting the elbow, which is good. But I obviously wasn’t ready to play at that level physically. I mean, I had to work, but I decided to be there. That’s it, you know.
Marian is back. We just see things as they are at the moment. God knows what future brings.
Q. Why do you think, from your point of view, it didn’t work with Andre the way you wanted it to?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, you know, you have to understand that, first of all, we didn’t have any commitment. We didn’t have any contract. He was not, you know, working with me officially. He was helping me out. He was really genuinely wanting to help and to give me advices and to share his experience with me.
That, you know, speaks enough about him as a person, that he is someone that I always admired as a player and as a person. The last eight, nine months with Andre was just amazing. The amount of things that I’ve learned, you know, not just about tennis, but life in general. For that I’m very grateful.
We didn’t have, you know, kind of an official relationship, so we could not have ended it at the same time. I mean, his invitation to call, as he said, is always open. I can call him any day, speak with him, ask him for tips, advices, you know, share something.
That’s always the case with Andre and with Radek, as well, although with Radek it was slightly different because we were talking about some long-term commitments. Radek was also ending his player career late in December. We didn’t know whether he was going to be a coach, a player, or both. So before it has even started in a way, I mean, it has ended.
Again, nothing personal, no bad feelings. We just split in a very normal way. As I said, we’re going to be seeing each other and still keep on being friends.
Q. It didn’t seem normal. I was wondering if you were disappointed at all that he put the news out before you. Normally the tennis player would put the news out.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I mean, look, Andre was giving an interview, as I understand, in ESPN. We talked about it. I don’t see things really from that point of view. I don’t mind that. I’m not disappointed at all. I mean, I just have gratitude towards Andre, and Radek, but especially Andre for what he has done for me in the last year or so. That’s it.
I felt only friendship. I felt only sincere willingness and desire to help me out. That’s all. I mean, I don’t care about the game, who comes in and says things in the press first. I mean, nobody offended anybody. We’re still in a very good relation.
Q. Today you seemed to be 100% into your match right from the beginning, physically and mentally. That was from the outside anyway. Is that the way you felt? Is it that eventually you can play pain-free or because you found some serenity back being with Marian again?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s a combination of things. Obviously the pain was a huge factor that was affecting my overall state, my mind. End of last year when I started training again, I took about four months off from tennis. I did fitness. Even when I’m doing conditioning, training and fitness, I have to avoid doing stuff, I have to do specific work. I can’t throw a ball. I can’t impersonate tennis serve movements. A lot of things had to be left aside, compensated because the elbow was not healed.
If I, you know, could get a surgical intervention, could have done it before last year? Yeah, I mean, I could have. At the time it wasn’t what was advised to me. Generally I don’t like surgeries. I never had one. But it had to be done in the end, unfortunately when the season already started, so that was a tricky part. The intervention was done right, and I came back already after five weeks on the court from the moment I had the surgery. That’s amazing.
I still obviously wasn’t ready game-wise, physically. So Indian Wells and Miami were really kind of a struggle on the court for me mentally. I know that I can play much better than that, but I couldn’t. I just wasn’t ready. And that’s it.
But today, you know, pain-free. Obviously having Marian is a lot of positive emotions, as I said. He knows me very well, so we worked on a lot of great things in the last 10 days. Physically I think I’m getting in a better shape as the weeks go by.
So I think today was result of combination of a few factors and elements.
Q. What you said about Marian on the court, you said he’s more than a coach, he’s like a brother, like a father. Does this mean you’ve been searching for some greater emotional support, that you really needed that with frustrations you’ve experienced?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, you know, I was very fortunate throughout my life and career to have really great, honest support from people that are closest in my life, starting with my parents, my brother obviously, and my wife, and the team of people that I had. I mean, literally with all of them, if not all of them, then 98% of people I’ve worked with professionally have stayed my friends.
It’s hard as a tennis player not to create that kind of chemistry, if you know what I mean, because you travel so much with each other. If you do that over 10 plus years with someone, like Marian, who is the person that he is, a very humble, very genuine, liked around the tour from everyone, then the relationship becomes much more profound than a player-coach relationship.
The first practice we had, that’s what I felt. I felt safe on the court, I felt motivated, a lot of great things. We’re going to both work to keep it that way.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports