16 April: Novak Djokovic

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
Tuesday, 16 April 2019
Novak Djokovic
Press Conference
N. DJOKOVIC/P. Kohlschreiber

6-3, 4-6, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You said afterwards that there were a few unforced errors, but can you take something from the way that you fought from a difficult situation?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that is the positive of today, for sure, for, you know, kind of hanging in there and fighting and grinding and trying to hold my serve and having an early break in the third.

I lost my serve I think four games in a row in the second set, and that hasn’t happened too many times in my life. I’m not a big server, but still, that’s quite a lot.

You know, I had ups and downs and in a way felt a bit rusty on the court. I had a tough opponent, of course. Philipp beat me in Indian Wells. It was a match that happened less than a month ago, so of course it was in the back of my mind a bit.

I thought I should have maybe stepped in and played a bit more aggressive in the second set, but credit to him for mixing up the pace and playing well.

I’ll take this win. You know, hopefully I can play slightly better in the next round, because if I want to go deep in the tournament, I definitely have to up my game.

Q. You have a pretty kind of tricky draw here, in theory, if all the players come through who we expect to come through. Do you think it’s better for you to sharpen up against this sort of high-level opponent early on on clay, or would you prefer to ease your way into it? What’s better for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, in a way it’s good I got to spend two-and-a-half hours on the court in my first opening match in the clay court season. This surface is very demanding physically. Tactically, as well, you have to construct the point, be more patient, put more spin into the ball, which at times, for me, maybe from backhand side is not as natural. I like to take the ball early, maybe flat.

So those are the little things that you have to get used to and kind of work on. You know, you always get one ball back. My serve wasn’t working today. You know, heavy conditions. I think I had it all on the match today.

I think from the positive side, it’s actually good that I got to have that much of a match play, because I did play a lot of practice sets and so forth, but it’s just completely different, you know, when you are nervous and, you know, playing an official match.

Q. Just to make sure, because at some point the speed of your second serve was really low compared to — there’s no pain? It’s not an injury situation?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, shot clock is not working well (smiling).

No, there is no pain, thankfully. It’s just didn’t feel so comfortable serving today. Let’s call it that way.

Q. How comfortable are you overall now with your level of play?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have to be comfortable with, you know, the level that I’m playing at the moment. I have to accept it as it is and try and improve it.

Is this the best that I have played on clay? No. I mean, far from that. But at the same time, it’s okay, you know. It’s a building process, and I just have to trust the journey, so to say, on getting to that desired level. Whether it’s gonna happen later this week or not, I don’t know. I’m going to try to make it happen. I will take one day at a time.

I have no match tomorrow. Things to work on. Hopefully I can be a little bit more dynamic on the court in my next round and play a level up.

Q. There was an interview with your compatriot and good friend, Janko Tipsarevic.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The podcast? Tennis podcast? He did send me that a few days ago. I didn’t listen to the whole thing but a little bit of it.

Q. He obviously spoke quite extensively about you and your relationship together. One of the things he was saying is he’s been telling you something like what an F-ing, stupid idea it is to be ATP council president and that kind of distracts you. I was wondering, what were your thoughts on kind of hearing that from him? You have been talking a lot about off-the-court distractions. Do you think it is taking up too much of your time? Is it something you would not be too interested in in the future?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I love Janko, first. I mean, he really has been one of the closest friends from the tennis world I’ve had throughout my career, my life. I respected him a lot always because he’s very frank, very transparent, honest. He doesn’t hold anything back, and that’s what I think is really nice to see. It’s a virtue in today’s world.

His comment concerning my involvement in the tennis politics, from certain perspective, makes sense, you know, conserving the energy and kind of trying to focus on, in a way, what matters the most for me, you know: obviously family and tennis.

But at the same time, it is the conscious, responsible decision I made to be part of it, partly because I also feel that players want me to be there. I was kind of re-elected to be there and re-elected as the president to run another term.

We all, in the council, don’t get any financial compensation or anything like that. It’s all volunteer, you know, volunteering job. Council has been more active than ever, I mean, in my opinion, in terms of communication. So it does take probably more time, but at the same time, we all feel and understand that this is an important time for tennis, a lot of different changes and a lot of different rule changes and new events.

Obviously the transition tour situation and everything that’s happening is quite serious. It’s affecting a lot of players. That’s one of the most important things to address at the moment and that we are talking about.

So look, I’m just one of the ten players. Yes, I’m president of the council, but I’m one of the ten players, and I’m part of 50% of the whole structure. So I can’t make any calls by myself. You know, there is no doubt about that.

Q. In a month you will be in Paris. How much upset you the disaster of Notre-Dame? And if you spoke to other players?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I saw it late last night, so I have not had a discussion about that with no one other than my team and close people around. I have not spoken to French guys.

It’s one of the most iconic cultural, religious, you know, infrastructures in Europe. It’s quite shocking to see that.

As I understood, I also saw that simultaneously, at the same time in Jerusalem, a mosque was burning, as well. I don’t know if there is any connection or something, but it’s really sad seeing those iconic buildings and structures to fall like that.

You know, I’m sending my prayers and of course my best wishes to Parisians, all French people. Hopefully Notre-Dame will rise again.

Q. Going back to Janko, he stressed the difference between an NBA world in which 50% of the revenue go back to players. He suggested that 12% of the slam revenues were being redistributed. He said we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of playing slams in different places. I wondered if there were sentiments…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Playing what in different places?

Q. It was quite “out there,” but he said we could play the French Open in Rome.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Okay, you mean some other place can hold the Grand Slam, for example?

Q. Right. What’s your thoughts?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, everything in life is possible, and I have learned that in my experience. But, you know, Grand Slams have historically been “the” biggest tournaments that this sport ever had and still has. They’re over 120-plus years old, and we of course have to respect the history and tradition and everything.

But at the same time, we have to balance it with evolution of sport. You know, ATP obviously is not the governing body of the Grand Slams. They are independent entities, so you have to communicate independently with them and try to figure out ways to, you know, to improve not just the tournament but the overall feeling of players in the tournament. It’s not just about financial compensations but facilities and, you know, courts, matches, stuff like this.

There is a lot of things involved, and it’s a very complex system. I mean, I have been part of it for quite some time, and I have said it openly that I feel this kind of structure that we have, particularly in ATP, is failing us. I really have lost my trust in the structure.

I don’t think it works well neither for tournaments nor players most of the time, and we have to face it, it’s reality, we have different interests, the tournaments and players. But we are part of the same boat. We are part of the same world, and we respect each other. I respect having tournaments around the world, and they give us an opportunity to play and we have to embrace and work together with them.

But I feel like structurally we need to change something, because it’s hard to reach any kind of consensus when you kind of go head to head. Nine out of ten times, you’re going to be — three board representatives from player side will be in favor of players, of course, and then the three tournaments will be against it, and then the president is always compromised, I think. It’s very difficult role to be a president of ATP in this structure, I think. I think it’s something we have to change, because we have to be able to release the pressure and responsibilities of president who make big calls every single time. And he kind of has to be in the limbo state, in a way. He’s going to satisfy one side, and the other side is obviously going to be very upset.

So, yeah, I mean, obviously it’s not easy to change right away something like that. Whether it’s possible, whether that’s future, we don’t know. I mean, I leave everything open, you know. But I think we will try to work with what we have, and I think men’s tennis and women’s tennis is doing pretty well in the last 10 years, considering, you know. So we are moving in the right direction, and things that we can always improve and I think that’s positive.

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