Wednesday, 31 August 2011
An Interview With Novak Djokovic
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You're in here a little earlier than expected. It was kinda quick.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, I don't think I'm lacking any time on the court or matches. This year has been a very long year. So I really don't mind that I spend less time on the court. I think I've played well for these 45, 50 minutes that we had on the court. It's unfortunate for my opponent, obviously. He had food poisoning he told me after the match. But I felt great on the court, and that's something that's really important for the start of the tournament.
Q. How tired are you at this point in the season, playing so much?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I'm not really tired, you know, because I switched to the mode of Grand Slam focus, you know. Not really caring about what happens, it's just I'm trying to be in the present, trying to prepare well, and be 100% mentally and physically fit for the matches that are about to come here. You know, today was great opening performance. I know it has been long year, but it's not the first time that you know, I've played many matches in the past, as well, but, you know, you've got to adjust to it. I think, you know, right now with my time I'm doing a quite good job to stay fit.
Q. How would you describe how your shoulder felt in Cincinnati and how it felt today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the shoulder in Cincinnati didn't feel good obviously, and throughout the whole week I was carrying the, you know, kind of pain and discomfort in my shoulder. But after Cincinnati I took some time off, and I did everything in order to recover the shoulder. Today I didn't feel any pain. I served well and I played well, so I have no concern.
Q. Have there been any times this year where you just didn't want to go out on the tennis court, didn't want to get up in the morning and just wanted to...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There is always those days, you know, where you don't want to get up and, you know, you don't feel like playing. It's normal, you know. Everybody has those days. Bad days in the office, if you want to call them. But, you know, in the end it's yours job. It's your profession. You have to do it. You go on the court especially if you're playing big tournaments, big matches, you have to try to play your best. That's something that, you know, always keeps me motivated, the will to win.
Q. When you think back on your performance here last year in the finals, do you primarily feel pride of your achievement of getting that far, or is there any disappointment? How do you think back on that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I actually have great memories from New York and from the US Open. Last four years, two semifinals, two finals. I played great, you know, throughout my whole career on these courts. That, you know, gives me enough reason to believe I can play well. This year, I think this year more than ever, you know, I have a good chance. I'm playing the best tennis of my life and I have a great confidence. Yeah, the conditions are suitable to my game. I love the entertainment. I love the crowd.
Q. Speaking of entertainment, for years you were trying to pass Roger and Rafa. In terms of entertainment, Rafa is almost like a rock star. He's so appealing. And Roger is beautiful and perfect and graceful. How do you think you're taken and received here in North America?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What about me?
Q. You're No. 1. Just don't hit me when we're doing an interview.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You spent all your words already on that. (Laughter.)
Q. What do you think your image is like here? How do you think it's changing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, you know, it's equally important, of course, to play well on the court and to do your job to win, you know. As much as you're successful and as much as you win, you get more attention from the media and from the people, and you get more respect, obviously, from your colleagues. But I think it's really important as well to carry yourself off the court in a good way. I have been learning that throughout my whole career, and last couple of years I have experienced some good and bad situations on and off the court. But I accepted that all as a big lesson in my life and, you know, something that can serve me well for my future. You know, I'm aware of the responsibility that I have as a present No. 1 to, you know, represent the sport as well in some ways off the court. So I need to do that in a best possible way. You know, I'm trying. You tell me, how am I doing?
Q. And the maturing process, how critical was that for you for your breakthrough this year? Do you put that as the No. 1 reason?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. I think everything in general just came together. And as I said, you know, I think progress is a slow process. It takes a while to really understand the game, understand the life that I'm having, and you learn from your mistakes obviously. You know, you try to get better as a person and as a player each day you wake up. I think maturing this year, you know, helped me a lot on and off the court.
Q. Do you think that we're past a time in tennis where we're gonna see 17, 18, 19 year old Grand Slam champions? Is it just not possible anymore?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's really hard to say, you know. It's hard to predict if that's possible, but maybe I'm wrong. In my opinion, it's much harder to have, you know, teenagers as, you know, Grand Slam champions or No. 1s nowadays because it takes time for a body to develop and to get stronger and to get experience. It's so competitive nowadays physically much more than it used to be.
Q. Last year Jack Sock hit with you during the rain and before the final, and now he's out here and he belongs to CAA like you do. What do you think of his future and what's to come for him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was saying last year that, you know, I'm really impressed by his game. His professionalism on the court, I think he has a bright future, you know, if he continues on being determined and focused on this sport. I've practiced with him quite a lot last year, actually, and during the tournament he has won the US Open juniors, so I have to give credit for that. And, yeah, he's a really nice guy off the court, as well. I wish him the best.
Q. Roger last night said he felt the conditions were a bit slower. Did you feel that too, or do you think that's because he played at night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there is difference I think in the night sessions and matches during the day. I think, you know, during the day the ball travels through the air faster than in the night. So maybe that's why it was a bit slower. I don't know. I didn't spend that much time on the center court, but I still I don't feel any big difference from last year. I think it's more or less the same surface.
Q. To clarify a subject you touched on in the press conference yesterday, what importance has this egg, the hyperbaric chamber had in its therapy for you? How much have you used it in the last year? Is there any sort of controversial aspect to it in your mind?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, I said yesterday, and I'm gonna repeat it I think for the last time, you know, because I really wouldn't like to speak about it anymore because I don't there is no reason to open the subject. I have used it a couple of times, very few times last year just to test it and see how it is, and since then I haven't used it at all, you know, this year. So I cannot really say what's the effect. It doesn't have any influence on my success that I had in last 10 months, so that's really all I can say.
Q. Is there something controversial about it, for those of us that aren't that familiar with it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I really don't know. There is nothing controversial. As I was aware, you know, many athletes, successful athletes, have been using that in the past. But as I said, I haven't used it for 12 months so I really don't know. I didn't keep track with its technology.
Q. I don't know if you remember Gaston Gaudio the Argentinian player. He's confirmed today officially that he's a retired player. What do you remember about him? What do you remember about his game?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he's a Grand Slam champion, you know. He won Roland Garros and he had I think the year when he won French Open and the year before, year after, he had couple of best years in his career. He was the player to beat on the clay courts, you know, next to Rafa, Coria. You know, those guys were ruling the clay court season. Yeah, he's very talented. One of the nicest one handed backhands. Very relaxed guy off the court. Very nice.
Q. It's very rare actually that we ever talk to someone who has their dream come. Wimbledon, obviously, you became No. 1. Is it something that actually since you were a little kid you were thinking about it? Did it change your life? Did it change how people are around you, or were you surprised nothing changed? Did you think something like that would really change things for you, or in the end it hasn't changed much?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I wasn't thinking about, you know, the period after achieving my dream and winning Wimbledon and becoming No. 1 what's gonna happen. You know, I really try to, you know, take things lightly and see how it would work for me. But after that I have won Wimbledon I took some time off and I got to think about everything that I've been through. And to be honest with you, I even have more motivation to play and to win more Grand Slams now more than ever that I know that I can actually, you know, perform equally well on any surface, that I have equal chances on any Grand Slam that I play. So this is something that gives me a lot of desire to come back to the game.
Q. Do you see and read things about people are saying if you win here you might complete the greatest season in the history of men's tennis? Does that sound real?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sounds big. (Laughter.) No, this year has been tremendous, best so far in my career, and there has been a lot of talks about history making and this incredible run. No doubt I'm extremely honored and privileged to be part of the elite of the players that have made, you know, the history of the sport in some ways. But my main focus is really on the court. I need to take one match at a time. That's the only way I can really perform well.
Q. Next year the season will get two weeks shorter. Do you think that that would be a good length of the season for you, or would you still want the season to...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we were all really engaged in the schedule issue. I mean, top players and most of the players will have been, you know, kind of complaining about the length of the season. I think it's good. It's really good for all of us to have a bit shorter season. You know, it's not an easy thing to do. It's not an easy process of changing the schedule because there is many things involved. It's not just ATP. It's ITF, it's Grand Slams. So can't always look at it from the players' perspective. You have to look at it from the tournaments' perspectives as well, what's good and what's not. So the intensity is gonna be I think the same, if not higher, next year because of the same commitment tournaments. But at least it's two weeks shorter and we're going to have a bit longer of off season.
Q. You'd be happy with that, or still need more time off?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, of course.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
I won't bother with match reports as they are not going to say much, this was more a practice session than a match.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, joined team Audemars Piguet as its latest brand ambassador. According to the Swiss watchmaker, the partnership began when Djokovic paid a “discreet visit” to the company several months ago. “I have discovered a new passion for fine watchmaking, and I truly admire both the traditional and modern aspects of the work accomplished by Audemars Piguet,” Djokovic said.
The tennis player is the latest to join the luxury company’s stable of brand ambassadors, which includes basketball player LeBron James, Formula One race car driver Michael Schumacher, soccer player Leo Messi, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and golfers Lee Westwood and Rory Mcllroy.
UNICEF announced on Monday at the US Open that the current world No. 1 ranked tennis playerNovak Djokovic will serve as an Ambassador for UNICEF in Serbia. The partnership will allow Djokovic, a native of Serbia, to continue his push to defend children's rights and provide access to early childhood education.
"I am very honored to partner with UNICEF to help increase awareness for the importance of early childhood education," said Djokovic. "I look forward to working with UNICEF to help make a difference in the lives of young children throughout Serbia, particularly those who have fewer opportunities to learn and develop to their full potential."
"Of course, I would like to add that, you know, through my work as well with UNICEF I would like to help Serbian children to realize their dreams, you know, because I have been dreaming myself all my life to become the world's best tennis player, and I think anything is possible if you really believe that you can achieve it.
"Novak Djokovic is a natural fit for UNICEF," said Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director (a.i.). "He cares deeply about the welfare of Serbian children, bringing the same passion and enthusiasm for his career on the court to addressing issues affecting children."
Djokovic's work as a National Ambassador will kick off with a focus on early childhood education. The importance of investing in learning opportunities for young children is well known, with abundant evidence that laying solid foundations in the early years results in better life outcomes for the individual child and society as a whole. This is the case for all children, but even more striking for children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. In Serbia, less than half of all children under-five attend early education programs, dropping to less than one-in-ten for those from vulnerable groups. Expanding early education to include all children is increasingly recognized as a key priority in Serbia.
In accepting the appointment, Djokovic said, "Through my work with UNICEF, I want to help Serbian children realize their dreams. I want to help them understand that they have rights and that those rights should be protected. I want them to believe that anything is possible."
Djokovic began playing tennis at age four and made his pro debut at 16. Since then, he has won three Grand Slam singles titles, the 2008 and 2011 Australian Open championships and the 2011 Wimbledon Championship, becoming the first player representing Serbia to win a Grand Slam singles title and the youngest player in the open era to have reached the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam events, separately and consecutively. Amongst other major titles, he also won the 2010 Davis Cup.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's obviously a different level that I have of the game this present moment last nine months. It's been the best nine months of my career, and I just feel that I got better on the court. I just know what to do, and I have matured, as well. You know, there has been some improvement definitely in my game, and it's all coming together.
Q. Have you been able to hit much in the last few days? We had some kind of colorful weather.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I have been able to hit, and actually even yesterday I hit for an hour, hour and a half outdoors, so it's good.
Q. How is your shoulder feeling? Any remnants from the week before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, my shoulder is feeling fine. I had a little trouble in Cincinnati throughout the whole week, and I carried that up to the finals. You know, it was unfortunate to finish this way the match against Murray. But I think it was right decision, because I needed not to risk anymore, any further, you know, further major injuries. So I decided to take some time off and went to MRI and everything is fine. I have been serving in last couple of days, playing 100%, so I'm ready for the tournament.
Q. Had you not had a Grand Slam tournament two weeks later than Cincinnati, would you have withdrawn? I mean, or would you have withdrawn under any circumstances with that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't know, because the Grand Slam is one week after Cincinnati, so I cannot give you an answer on that.
Q. In what way was last year's Open a springboard for all that you've achieved since? What do you take from last year's experience here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I had a great US Open 2010. As you said, it was one of the springboards for me for the season that I had so far, 2011. The match against Troicki first round actually last year when I was two sets to one down and a break down and I managed to come back, and then I went to the finals and played an exciting match against Federer in the semis. So, you know, after that tournament, US Open I started to believe more that I can win big matches against top guys. You know, I got the necessary confidence, you know, in order to approach the next season. The Davis Cup win was probably the other tremendous experience that I had that gave me a lot of positive energy. I was very eager to come back to the court after that, even though the offseason was very short. But I still wanted to play tournaments. You know, in the end this is a very mental sport, so I think, you know, playing on the top level for last couple of years I was aware of the importance of a mental approach to the game. Obviously you need to have a high level of confidence. You need to believe that you can win matches when you're playing against top guys and when you're playing on Grand Slams. That's something that I think improved in my life and my game in my head in the last 12 months.
Q. So here specifically how did your belief level change?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, after the tournament I started to believe that I can win the matches, like against Federer for example, where I saved couple of match points, and, you know, I didn't give up. I had still a really good final against Rafa. So after a while, you know, I won my first Grand Slam in 2008. I had great opening six months that of year, and then I had a lot of ups and downs. You know, I struggled especially mentally. I was always coming to the later stages of a Grand Slam, semifinals, but I wasn't managing to make that extra step, you know, because I didn't get that positive mindset on the court when I played the big guys. Now I changed.
Q. You have been withstanding a lot of pressure for the last nine months, but nevertheless, it looks like you have been having a lot of fun. You did a recording with a fish saying, Don't worry be happy. That is like your secret, right?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Exactly. That's my best friend now. Yeah, I think it's been a roller coaster ride for me last ten months in every sense of that word. On and off of the court I have experienced some things that I didn't experience before. Obviously I had a fantastic ten months on the court and I had some incredible runs, but I did experience as well the, you know, expectations and the pressure of having that run. But I managed to mentally hold on and really, after that loss in French Open, you know, to stand up and really recover well and perform my best tennis on Wimbledon in the moment when I needed it most. I became No. 1 of the world, but I'm enjoying every single moment of it, to be honest. I don't really want to think of, you know, the time that I will spend on this place or when it will end, when I will, you know, lose the No. 1 spot. I'm really trying to accept everything that I have in front of me as a big challenge.
Q. There was a story today about your use of hyperbaric chamber for healing.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I saw that.
Q. And physicality.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah.
Q. What can you tell us about that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, all I can say is that I have used it a couple of times last year, and I haven't used it since. You know, it's very interesting technology, but I don't know the effect of it. It has nothing to do with my success that I had in last ten months.
Q. The story said you were using it last couple of days.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it would be great if that machine had wings so it can fly wherever I am playing.
Q. Where is the machine?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's in New Jersey, one of the sports complexes there.
Q. When you happy when Tsonga beat Federer in quarterfinals in Wimbledon, or would you have preferred to play semifinals against Roger?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I'm happy the way it is right now (Smiling.)
Q. Once in a while in Monte Carlo you take your bag, you go up in the mountains playing. Which kind of stuff you do outside of the court to have endurance without the racquet?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have different kinds of practice routines that I, you know, do with my team. I cannot say everything that we do obviously, but we try to put something new in our practices, because tennis schedule is more or less the same each year. We're traveling to the same places, going to the same tournaments, and most of the preparation for those tournaments are, you know, the same. So we always try to put some innovation in our practice to make it more interesting. We like to do different kinds of sports, you know, as our physical preparation, as in biking, as you said, and kayak and different kinds of things for endurance for general strength. You know, it just really depends for what we are preparing and which tournament.
Q. When we were talking to Federer, we were always asking him what was motivating him and what were still his dreams. Now that you are No. 1, you still have dreams? And what is the first dream of all
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, in my life I have a lot of dreams, but in my tennis career, as well. You know, look, I did achieve the dreams that I had throughout all my tennis career, but I still have lots to prove to myself, first of all. I think I'm able, if I continue on playing this way, I'm able to win more majors. That's one of my goals, you know, in the next couple of years, to try to stay healthy and try to perform well and win as many majors as I can. You know, Olympic medal and, you know, another Davis Cup would be great.
Q. One thing is a goal and one thing is a dream.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I kind of put them together. (Laughter.)
Q. When you played the match against Argentina in Davis Cup, it depends what happens here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Will I play? The question is will I play Davis Cup?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The way the things are standing now, yes, I will play.
Q. What do you think about this match in Argentina?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, we are playing at home, which is always, in my opinion, a little advantage, because Davis Cup is a very different competition. It's a team competition, and it's really important to have the home advantage and support of your people.But Argentina is very successful team. They have great players: Del Potro, Monaco, Nalbandian. They have many options. But, look, it's still US Open in front of us, so I will try to keep my focus on this tournament and then Davis Cup.
Q. How old were you when you started to slide on cement? Is it something that you learned or does it just come naturally?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it developed through the practices, you know, and through the matches. I don't know. It's not something that I really was planning to learn how to do, you know. I don't think that there is any coach that is going to tell you logically that it's right to slide on cement, right? It's not just good for your body. But I developed it, you know, through my game. I was always playing from the baseline and I always had you know, in the beginning of my career I had coaches who were telling me not to let any balls pass me. You know, even in practice, even if it's out, to try to get every ball, to try to fight for, you know, each point, each ball.So I guess that's why, you know, I was always trying to get you see the ball and it's far away, and I slide.
Q. You are going to play after US Open with Sampras exhibition match somewhere in Europe?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, that's true, but it's still not confirmed. We were supposed to play in Slovenia exhibition, but the negotiations are not over yet. It's not confirmed. Hopefully it's going to become true, because I would really love to play with my idol.
Q. The story about the pressure chamber, it said you stayed in New Jersey the last couple years.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah.
Q. Is that not the case this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I'm staying at the New Jersey again with Gordon, because he's my friend for my years already. He's been in the tennis world for last 15, 20 years. He's been a player himself. Yeah, we're staying in New Jersey because it's very calm, it's very private, and we get to relax after, you know, exhausting day here.
Q. Will you use that since you will be in New Jersey, that chamber?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I haven't used it this year because I'm really not intending to change my own routines. I have my own therapist I have with my team and it's been working well, so I have no reason to really try other things.
Q. Is there just a little concern that with a two week grind, that the inflammation could come back, you know, with long matches and stuff? Are you trying to get these matches maybe early on over maybe three sets instead of five set matches?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think every player tries to win in three sets in a Grand Slam. Try to spend as less time on the court as possible. Look, I cannot predict anything. I cannot say, you know, this is what's gonna be, you know. You never know what's gonna happen. But what I can say right now is that my shoulder is in a really good condition. I didn't feel any pain, I don't have any inflammation right now, and I hope it's gonna stay that way.
Q. You have the sensation that what happened this year, Roger and Rafa fighting for No. 1 and 2 are definitely over, or do you see a situation maybe in 2012 where they can fight again for 1 and 2 and you be the No. 3 in the world?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't think it's over. Look, you know, both of them, they're playing incredible tennis still. You know, even though maybe Roger didn't have the year as successful as he had in last five, six years, I still think he's playing really well. He's I'm sure very much motivated to come back to the No. 1 of the world. From all of us, he knows the best how it is to win the major events because he's record holder. He has 16 Grand Slams, has a fantastic career, and so I'm sure he wants to come back there. And Rafa is he's, you know, unbelievable player that is very complete that can perform equally well on all surfaces. He has proven that. We have played in five finals this year. I mean, I got the edge on all these matches, but, you know, that doesn't mean that I will win every single next match that we play in. The fact is that they have been the two most dominant players in the world. Even though I'm still No. 1, they are most the best two most successful players that there are active in today's tennis.
Q. In the last match you played Andy Murray. How would you assess him just now, and what would it be like to play him again here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I'm sorry, man, it's very hard to get the accent.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Scotland. I think I get
Q. Want me to repeat?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, that's fine. I have been talking to Andy many times, so I'm really kind of getting his accent. (Laughter.) Andy, you know, he has won in Cincinnati. He's definitely a player that everybody should look up to now. In US Open he's been always playing well in last four, five years in the US Open Series. He's been always coming I think to US Open with 1000 or Masters Series title, so I'm sure he's very eager to win his first Grand Slam. We all, we are all fully aware of his potential and we are all fully aware that he has great talent. There are some things that he just needs to get together mentally. You know, he has proven that he can win against anybody on any surface. I'm sure he's one of the favorites to win the tournament.
Monday, 29 August 2011
Who can beat Novak Djokovic, already the player of the season by an almighty margin, in the US Open? If he is 100 per cent fit, I doubt there is a player out there who is capable of doing it.
But this is not to say that Djokovic is a guaranteed winner. The one thing that could undo him is weariness. I don't believe he has a serious shoulder problem, even though he defaulted against Andy Murray in the final of the Cincinnati Open, but I do worry that his incredible record this season has pushed him close to the limits of his own endurance.
That is the irony of success. Look at the two back-to-back Masters titles in Montreal and Cincinnati and most of the top guys have played five or six matches, whereas Djokovic has played 10. Hard-court tennis creates a lot of wear and tear on the body.
It is a grinding style of play, and in the American summer it always seems to be hot and humid, so it is hardly surprising that he pulled up against Murray.
You can see why Djokovic wants to keep going. "Winning breeds winning" is one of my favourite axioms. Success is the only drug athletes are allowed to enjoy, and while you're experiencing it, you just want more and more. During a hot streak like this, Djokovic must feel as though he is on a constant high.
But there is one obvious downside to reaching the final of every tournament: you play so many more matches than everyone else.
I can only salute Djokovic for the way he has has maintained his performance levels. Having wonWimbledon, which was clearly the peak of his career to date, he went straight into a Davis Cup tie against Sweden. After that, I was expecting he wouldn't really be up for the first couple of hard-court tournaments.
But once again he started where he left off, beating some tough opponents in the Masters series.
Eventually he is going to run out of gas, and he has got to be careful not to do that in the second week of the US Open, when he is supposed to be playing the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
When Roger Federer was the king of New York, winning five US Open titles in a row, he was very canny in the way he structured his season to make sure that he had something left in the tank when he arrived at Flushing Meadows. He knew his own body and he knew how to balance his schedule.
But with Djokovic, this runaway success is still new. He can never have reached the end of August with 59 matches under his belt before.
That is why he and his support staff must be careful how they approach the end of the year. Djokovic is on course to match or even beat John McEnroe's incredible year of 1984, when he won 81 matches and lost three, but to get there he will need a decent run in New York. I don't expect him to play too much in the autumn.
The first week will be crucial. He needs to keep the matches quick: a couple of straight-sets wins, maybe one four-setter, and he'll make it through to the second Monday fresh.
But there aren't many easy games on hard courts. It's not like clay or grass, where there are a few specialists and everyone else feels a little uncomfortable. Just about every player is at home playing hard-court tennis, whether they are baseliners or serve-volley artists.
So what of the rest? I would always rate Federer ahead of Rafael Nadal on hard courts. Even though Nadal is the defending champion, I don't think he is going to retain his title this year. He is not yet physically or mentally back to where he was last year. His foot injury still seems to be bothering him, and he is unsure what to do about his five-match losing streak against Djokovic, especially as all of those defeats have come in tournament finals.
As for Federer, it only takes him a couple of wins to come back to his old self, but he needs to do that in a hurry. Over the last few weeks, he has lost in the third round and then the quarter-finals, and those are not the results of a potential Grand Slam winner.
Of all the guys behind Djokovic, Murray is probably the one with the most confidence and the best conditioning. He looked awful in Montreal, as if he was taking a holiday, but then he went to Cincinnati and as soon as he had a couple of matches under his belt he got stronger and stronger. In the final, even before Djokovic retired, he was the dominant player.
This has been a good year for Murray. He has cemented his place in the top four, and in effect he defended last year's win in Montreal with the result in Cincinnati. He had an average US Open in 2010 so a good result now, a semi-final or final, could be a major rankings break through. He could end up chall eng ing Federer for the No3 spot.
Remember what I said, winning has an extraordinary effect. After Cincinnati Murray – who really enjoys the fast courts at Flushing Meadows – could just be the man in perfect position to take advantage if Djokovic falters.
Sunday, 28 August 2011
Saturday, 27 August 2011
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Friday, 26 August 2011
Novak Djokovic is the top men's seed for the U.S. Open.
The scene underscored the defining characteristic of his season: change, on all fronts, with more promised. In the past year, in a relatively extreme makeover, Djokovic changed his serve, his diet, his publicist, his fitness regimen and, because of all of this, his standing in men’s tennis.
The next phase — making Djokovic a household name, among the world’s biggest sports stars — will continue next week in the United States Open, where he was named Wednesday the No. 1 seed in the men’s draw. While Djokovic has surpassed his rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the tennis court, he now hopes to at least join those two, who both reside on Forbes magazine’s list of the top 10 most powerful athletes, in areas such as endorsements, fame and global exposure.
“Of course, the world is looking at me differently,” Djokovic said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m pretending that I’m modest, but I don’t really consider myself a star, or something like that.”
Perhaps Djokovic was not widely regarded as a star — merely a very good professional tennis player — until his dominance this year. He has won 57 of 59 matches and nine tournaments since January because his game, a combination of speed and endurance and a counterattacking baseline style, robbed opponents of a precious element in tennis — time.
Suddenly, Djokovic himself is pressed for time. The task of coordinating the effort to boost his image falls to Goran Djokovic, Novak’s uncle and chief marketing strategist. This week alone, he planned 30 to 40 business meetings, while Edoardo Artaldi, the new publicist, handled the 30 or so daily media requests.
It takes time to appear on national talk shows (he taught Jay Leno and Katie Holmes a Serbian dance), time to sift through marketing pitches, time to pursue Djokovic’s next dream, acting, in Hollywood.
“Our job is also to show the world, to show the United States, that there is a new No. 1 in the world,” Goran Djokovic said, leaning forward Tuesday in the lobby of the Mondrian Hotel in Manhattan. “We have to adjust everything, what we are doing now. But let’s say we are preparing for that all our life.”
The Djokovics are a family of entrepreneurs. They employ about 150 people in a variety of businesses, mostly in Serbia, from their pizza restaurant to their tennis club (they run their own tournament) to their Web site and all its merchandise. Goran likes to joke that Team Novak includes so many people that they travel by bus, “organized like Formula One, so many people around,” he said.
This marks an important moment in Djokovic’s continuing transformation. In a season in which the coach and analyst Darren Cahill said, “Quite possibly, he’s taken the game to a new level,” the opportunity to capitalize has never been higher — and it might never be again.
For years, Djokovic seemed destined to play tennis’s third fiddle, the next-best player in a generation that featured two all-time greats in Nadal and Federer. Djokovic was known more as the Djoker for his off-beat personality and spot-on impersonations of fellow pros. When Djokovic, now 24, won the Australian Open in 2008, he flashed a glimpse of the dominance to come. But before he could begin his transformation, he needed to believe that it was possible.
“Maybe he was impatient at that time,” his coach, Marian Vajda, said. “He was saying: ‘I have Federer and Nadal. I can’t make it.’ Negative thinking. He was coming in 2008, but still not mentally there, not mentally strong like now.”
But while Djokovic overcame the mental hurdle, while he lost weight by removing wine and pizza from his diet, while minor tweaks to his service motion led to 69 more aces and 125 fewer double faults than at the same point last season, he still lags behind Nadal and Federer in terms of popularity and endorsements.
Or so confirmed Stephen Master, vice president of Nielsen Sports, a company that combined with E-Poll to create what they call an N-score. This measures an athlete’s endorsement potential in America based on awareness and appeal.
Djokovic has won 57 of 59 matches and nine tournaments since January.
The company tested Djokovic in November 2010, before the streak, and in a random sample of 1,100 — half were shown his name; the other half his picture — his awareness level stood at 6 percent. The company tested Djokovic again after he won Wimbledon in July. He again scored 6 percent in awareness, but this time, his N-score went from 12 to 14, because those who did know Djokovic really liked him.
He had the “highest appeal level,” Master said, of any tennis player. But his N-score most closely resembled that of James Blake, far behind Americans past and present, including Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe.
This score does not account for Djokovic’s worldwide popularity, which is far higher than in the United States. Yet it does account for the renewed emphasis in regard to his recent marketing strategy, which includes working with Ron Burkle, managing director of the Yucaipa Companies, a private investment firm, and someone Goran described as connected in the worlds of music and entertainment.
“The U.S. Open is a very, very important tournament for Novak,” Goran Djokovic said. “Especially now. Let’s say that with the winning of this tournament, he can have a better chance to do what he wants moving forward.”
While Djokovic woos the general sports fans, his entourage must insulate him from the increasing demands lobbed his way. Djokovic says that everything around him changed in the past six months, except for the most important thing, himself.
But that requires extra effort. While uncle Goran conducted the interview, he also lined up transportation for sightseeing Tuesday, for Novak and his girlfriend.
Tennis, and the best start to a men’s season since John McEnroe arrived at the Open at 59-2 in 1984, made such opportunity possible in the first place. Djokovic, according to the retired player turned television analyst Justin Gimelstob, currently ranks among the best on the ATP World Tour in regard to his backhand, serve, service return, balance, core strength and flexibility.
The dietary changes, Djokovic said, made him feel fresher and calmer, physically stronger and more dynamic.
“What he has done to get in shape, he should bottle that and sell it,” Jimmy Connors told reporters in Canada this month.
Djokovic lost his second singles match of 2011 last Sunday in Mason, Ohio, when he retired against Andy Murray in the final while trailing, 6-4, 3-0. Djokovic and his uncle said his sore right shoulder would improve in time for the Open. But the schedule remains daunting: Davis Cup in Serbia, then to Italy and China and back to Europe.
“Can you imagine the next six months?” Goran Djokovic said. “It’s a nightmare. Everybody can become crazy about that. But it’s an important time. Especially for Novak. For all of us.”
Thursday, 25 August 2011
Serbians weary of seeing the world's media focus on their country's recent wartime past are uniting in praise of a new national hero, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic trained as a young boy amid the chaotic breakup of Yugoslavia, rising to become world tennis number one and favorite for the U.S. Open later this month. But the recent arrest of two former wartime generals has provided another reminder of the conflicts that tore the Balkans apart in the 1990s.
Tennis coach Jelena Gencic is putting two young players through their drills at a rundown court on the edge of Belgrade. Gencic lived through seven decades of her country's turbulent history. She is hailed as the person who discovered Serbia's biggest sporting star. Gencic describes the moment they first met.
"I saw one little boy just behind the fence, watching, watching, watching all morning," said Gencic. "I come to him and ask him, 'OK boy, do you know what we are doing here?' 'Yes, I know. You play tennis.' 'Oh. What's your name?' 'Novak Djokovic.' Very clear. Very strong."
Djokovic's image adorns buildings in Belgrade. His every match is watched avidly in sidewalk cafes. It was not an easy route to become number one in the world.
Just as Djokovic was discovering his talent for tennis in the early 1990's, Yugoslavia began its bloody breakup. His teenage training years took place against the backdrop of the Kosovo conflict and NATO bombing raids on Belgrade.
Coach Gencic describes how she dodged the bombs to keep Djokovic playing tennis.
"I listened to the radio. 'There's a bomb here in Banitsa.' OK, next day, we shall play here. 'No! Why here?' Because tomorrow the bombs will hit another side of the city," she said. "That's what happened. When I listened in the morning to where the bombs were, so we would go in that part of Belgrade to practice tennis."
As Djokovic's triumphs put Serbian tennis on the map, the country has been in the spotlight for very different reasons.
The arrest in May of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Maldic and in July of former Croatian Serb general Goran Hadzic have been painful reminders of the country's brutal past. Both are accused of committing war crimes during the Balkans conflict.
Ljiljiana Smajlovic is president of the Serbian Journalists' Association. She said there is anger at the way Serbia is simplified in the world's media.
"In the sense that Djokovic is someone that we look up to and we're happy that the world sees us in a better context than it has in the past, and at the same time there is resentment... Mostly when people think of Serb war crimes, I think it's in terms of the resentment that they are played up so much in the West and it's not in terms of, 'God, are we going to face up to our past?'" said Smajlovic.
The arrests of Mladic and Hadzic were meant to boost Serbia's hopes of joining the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Belgrade, however, that it needs to make progress in talks with Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Smaljovic said Serbs are growing tired of EU demands.
"I see some trouble ahead in this lack of hope almost. This feeling that we're being told there's no alternative all the time. Hearing that there's no alternative is not something that makes your heart grow fond," she said. "Because transition has been, for the most part, that you lose your job and then you never find a job as good as that one."
Belgrade does not seem like a city stuck in its past. The annual beer festival is just one of many events to have emerged in the last decade that attract visitors from across the globe.
But the lack of interest among young people in Serbia's recent history concerns Miljenko Dereta, director of the non-governmental organization, Civic Initiatives.
"We had a survey recently because we have a youth program, and we were shocked by the lack of information they have," said Dereta. "They didn't know there was a war in Bosnia, incredibly. They didn't understand why the Hague tribunal is judging only the people from this region because they didn't have the basic information it was formed for this region."
Back at the tennis club on the outskirts of Belgrade, Gencic is mentoring the next generation of Serbian stars.
At 12 years old, they were only just born when the NATO bombs were falling on Belgrade. They have one aim - to emulate their hero.
"Novak Djokovic," said one young player when asked which player inspires.
"Novak Djokovic," replied another.
Like millions of people across Serbia, they will be following every step of Djokovic's attempts to win his first U.S. Open title. He is the one person, it seems, who unites this country - the new face of Serbia.
To start the very playful press conference, Djokovic came out in a blonde wig, proclaiming to be Sharapova, causing the press club to break out in a roar. The banter was a live version of the latest TV ad for HEAD, released just in time for the US Open, which can be found on .
The two sat down with MC Bill Macatee and discussed how switching to HEAD racquets have impacted their games.
Djokovic, who is currently No. 1 in the world ATP rankings, switched back to HEAD racquets at the beginning of the 2011 season after playing with them as a junior and then going with another company. This season has been the best of his career. He won 41 consecutive matches and has lost only twice the entire year, capturing a Wimbledon and Australian Open title.
He has the number-one draw at the US Open, but a recent has prompted questions about getting his season back on track. He said, "The shoulder is fine. I am going to be good for the US Open." The top-ranked Serb said that there is no structural damage but was just a result of overuse. As Maria Sharapova pointed out, playing 60 matches will do that.
Sharapova, who also switched to a HEAD racquet this year, explained how using the new racquet was a right fit: "I hit a few balls and just knew this was it."
Sharapova, whose love of fashion is comparable to her love of tennis, introduced her new HEAD bag line. Sharapova was a part of every in the processes, something she said she thoroughly enjoyed. The bags will be available worldwide at the end of the month.NEW YORK CITY—Tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova took some time out from their US Open preparations to discuss their latest venture with tennis racquet manufacture HEAD on , at New York City's Benjamin Hotel.
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
The World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 10-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal has went out together for some entertainment at Mamma Mia in New York.
Djokovic and Nadal have spotted at the ancient old musical Mamma Mia in New York, where both the players has some entertainment on Tuesday night. The American people amazed to see the tennis stars together at Mamma Mia. The 2011 French Open champion Nadal said that, he come from Broadway to see Mamma Mia along with Novak and had taken picture with them. Djokovic said that he will be return back into the action at US Open tournament, where he will begin practice session soon.
The 2011 Wimbledon Champion Djokovic has been recovering from shoulder injury, where he sustained in the 2011 Cincinnati Masters final against Andy Murray on last week end. He added he was amazed to watch the Mamma Mia participants. The 25-year-old Nadal said that he has enjoyed a lot at the ancient old musical Mamma Mia in New York on Tuesday night. Spaniard has begun his training session on Tuesday afternoon at the Center Court in New York. Djokovic will be seeded No. 1 following with defending champion Rafael Nadal, five-time US Open champion Roger Federer and three-time Grand Slam finalist Andy Murray.
Well, everyone does now — thanks to Mississauga electropop band Ja Boo (Serbian slang for "all or nothing"). The seven-member group's ode to Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic, posted on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkJ4ClqXaMs&feature=related), has gone viral, generating more than 141,000 hits in six weeks.
Five Ja Boo members are Serb-Canadians, one is Armenian-Ukrainian and the other is Canadian-born. The band started as a family project less than two years ago and, thanks to the hoopla surrounding the musical tennis tribute, is now working on its first album.
Irina Angelov-Mladenovic takes care of keyboard and vocals for the band, when she's not cheering on Djokovic. She's an admitted tennis junkie who was transfixed by Djokovic's Wimbledon run this year.
The day before the men's final, she decided her countryman's efforts needed a theme song. So, she and the other members of Ja Boo — vocalist Kristen Sehn, accordionist Dusan Paunovic, Ashot Grigorian on saxophone and zurla, guitarist Aleksandar Jovanovic, drummer Vlada Mladenovic and Milos Angelov, touring bassist for the Matthew Good Band — took to the recording studio.
By the time Djokovic played the defining game of the tournament against grass-court wizard Rafael Nadal and won the tournament, Ja Boo had written, recorded, mixed, mastered and posted the tribute song, Djoker (Ale Ale), on YouTube.
After Djokovic won Wimbledon, he was so delighted about the song that he "tweeted" about it and posted it on his website. That put the song into the stratosphere, as it received playtime on European radio stations. In short order, it was the No. 4 music video in Canada.
Members of Ja Boo were at the Rogers Cup in Montreal a few weeks ago when Djokovic, ranked No. 1 in the world, put an exclamation mark on his Wimbledon performance.
They say the best part wasn't just meeting the champ - it was hearing him calling out and demanding to meet them.
Ja Boo is now headed back to the studio to write and put together a full-length album.
Monday, 22 August 2011
August 21, 2011
A. MURRAY/N. Djokovic
6-4, 3-0 (ret.)
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. If the rain had come 60 seconds earlier, would it have impacted your decision?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't think so. I mean, I don't think anything could change in that short period of time. Just, yeah, it's unfortunate that I had to finish this way. I apologize to the tournament; I apologize to the people who came here today to watch the match.
I really tried. Didn't make sense for me to continue.
Q. Is there such a thing as a good loss heading into the Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There is no good loss, that's for sure. But the good thing is that there is a week, eight days to the start of the US Open. So I think that's enough time for me to get ready.
Q. Do you expect this to affect you at all going into the US Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I believe not.
Q. Was it a lot worse today than it had been?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. Could you describe what was going on with you physically? Was it just the shoulder or...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, the major issue was shoulder. Generally I was quite exhausted playing many matches, but the exhaustion is not the reason.
The reason is shoulder pain. I just could not serve. I served an average 90 miles per hour the first serve, and I could not play forehands.
You know, I could have maybe played another couple of games, but what for? I cannot beat a player like Murray today with one stroke.
Q. So the pain in the shoulder would more affect the serving and not so much the rallies? You had one 40-shot rally or something.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, you know, as I said, I had the most problem with the shoulder during my serve and forehand. Running forehand mostly, or when I'm on the stretch. When I hit it from the spot it's okay, but not on the stretch.
So, yeah, I'm not finding any excuses. Of course I'm not saying if I was 100% that I would certainly win because Andy is a great player, but I am sure that we will have a better match.
Q. How long has it been troubling you? Has it got gradually worse day by day?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It has been there for about ten days. Yeah, it was increasing, the pain was increasing, but we were trying to maintain the good condition.
Today was just too much.
Q. Have you had an MRI or anything?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I didn't have because I didn't have time. I was playing every day.
Q. Apart from your shoulder, talk about the exhaustion you mentioned before, the general fatigue level.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I mean, it's kind of expected. I've played so many matches this year. I mean, I've been winning, you know, a lot and reaching the final stages of each event that I've participated on. You know, considering the schedule that is very busy in tennis, it's kind of normal to expect that at some stage you are exhausted.
But as I said, you know, I am confident that I can recover and be ready for US Open.
Q. Is it too busy, the schedule? Back-to-back Master's events coming into the US Open, I mean, you're not the only player that's got problems at the moment.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, you know, we can discuss about this for the whole day. I mean, we do have some things that we are trying to change in the schedule. There has been certain changes from next year. We'll have two weeks shorter the year.
But still, the intensity is going to be the same, if not tougher. But, look, it's the same for everybody. We just have to I guess get used to it and adjust.
Q. Have you had to adjust your life in the regard of being world No. 1? How has that constrained you? Has it added pressure? Added fatigue? Increased pressures on your schedule?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think I have a pretty good team of people around me that are doing their job really well to make me feel, you know, focused and professional and concentrated and relaxed on the court as much as they can.
Because it's important. There is a lot of requests and demands and of course attention with the new position that I have. But I think I'm doing a quite good job. I'm still doing the same things I have done even before I became No. 1, so it's going to say stay that way.
Q. Despite today's loss, it's still a great day for Serbian tennis with Jelena also in the finals. Talk about how you've seen tennis grow in Serbia.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it grows rapidly. The results we had the last couple years are incredible. You always think you know how far it can go, and every year it's better.
I'm proud of all the tennis players who are coming from our country, and I'm happy to see them doing well. Hopefully we can bring at least one title to Serbia today.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports