Australian Open

Monday, 30 January 2023

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Novak Djokovic

Press Conference

N. DJOKOVIC/S. Tsitsipas

6-3, 7-6, 7-6

CRAIG TILEY: We welcome everyone. Again, we did this last night, but I'd like to cheers. Actually, I don't know what to say just simply because it's an incredible achievement. When you're part of history, it's pretty cool to be part of history.

What you've achieved this year and what you've achieved particularly, I know the difficulty, what you've achieved these last two weeks is just beyond remarkable.

We're incredibly proud of you. 10-time Australian Open champion, 22 Grand Slams, that's pretty cool.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thank you, Craig.

CRAIG TILEY: Well done.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thanks, Craig.

THE MODERATOR: I don't think we need any more introduction, so we'll open it up to questions.

Q. You said on the court the last four to five weeks what it's been like for you. Can you take us through that.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, just a huge pride and satisfaction that I feel at the moment. Of course, when I went into my box, I just think emotionally collapsed there and teared up with especially my mother and my brother, when I gave them a hug, because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to, I guess, be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening in dealing with an injury, things happening off the court, as well, that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game.

It required an enormous mental energy really to stay present, to stay focused, to take things day by day, and really see how far I can go.

If I turn back the time two and a half weeks ago, I wasn't really liking my chance in this tournament with the way I felt with my leg. Then it was just a matter of survival of every single match, trying to take it to the next round.

The good thing about the Grand Slam here is that you have a day between the matches, so it allowed me to have more time than normally on some other tournaments to recover, to try to do all the treatments in order to get myself in somewhat of a good state and condition to play and eventually win.

From fourth round onwards, I feel the leg was not bothering me as much. I felt my movement was much better. I played some of my best tennis honestly in Australian Open. The fourth round, quarterfinal, semifinals, just really comfortable on the court, hitting the ball great. I knew that against Stefanos, it's going to be different match than what I had throughout the entire tournament.

I saw him play. I saw how dominant he was, as well. I knew that it's going to be a big challenge and that I have to stay tough. That's what I've done.

I think I started off really well. Pretty short time for the play of the first set, I think about 30, 35 minutes. Then second set he was a better player. He had his chances. Didn't use them. He had a set point. I just held my nerves in both tiebreaks in second and third.

Yeah, was a huge relief and release of the emotions in the end. Yeah, just difficult to find any additional words really. It's been a long journey, but very special one.

Q. In the second set there were quite a lot of words and looks between yourself and I think Goran. What was happening there?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it was Goran and other members of my team. Just a normal chatter that we would normally have in the court where I was not comfortable and was looking for some help and some advices, some guidance. That's all it is.

Obviously on the court, difficult to explain to people that have not been in these situations what you go through. So of course I know that, as I said on the ceremony, they tolerate a lot of things that I do to them, say to them, and I'm really grateful to have their presence and their support, just the way they are.

If I'm in the box, and a guy is doing that to me, I'll probably act differently (smiling).

Q. You talked about the emotions at the end there. How much of that was what happened last year, coming back here, the injury, other off-court stuff? Was it a combination of everything?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It is. Coming into Australia was something I was looking forward to because, I said it before, I honestly feel great in Australia. My results are a testament to that. I really wanted to be back here. I wanted to play.

Knowing my records in Australian Open, I always like my chances. I ended up the last season in best possible way. I played great. I did a great preparation.

Of course, considering last year's event, I was a bit more nervous coming into Australia, didn't know how I was going to be received by the people. But overall it was a very positive experience.

Again, I wouldn't be able to do what I did in Adelaide and here if I wasn't feeling good on and off the court. Of course, there were things that were happening, also events of last few days with my father, that were not easy for me to handle, especially at these last stages of a Grand Slam. But I had to keep it together.

That's why I said in answering the first question that it took enormous amount of mental and emotional energy to really keep it tight, keep my focus.

People around me who have been with me have done a great job in making me do my routines in a proper way so that I could try to perform the best way as possible.

Q. You've spoken in the past openly of being motivated by history. We think of the duel now with Rafa now that you both have 22 slams. Are you motivated by ending your career with more Grand Slams than everybody? By that I mean even Serena and Margaret Court.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course I am motivated to win as many slams as possible. At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete. That's the case without a doubt.

I never really liked comparing myself to others, but of course it's a privilege to be part of the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time. If people see me this way, of course it's very flattering because I know that I give as much effort and energy into trying to win slams as anybody else.

I still have lots of motivation. Let's see how far it takes me. I really don't want to stop here. I don't have intention to stop here. I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I'm feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anybody.

I like my chances going forward. But, again, nothing is given or nothing is for granted. Of course, awareness there's a lot of players that want this trophy or want the No. 1 position in the world.

I've been so many times in these situations, that experience, and just, I guess, being in those circumstances, in those shoes, helps me always to kind of keep my mind fresh and know what's expecting me.

I don't know how many more years I'm going to play or how many more slams I'm going to play. It depends on various things. It doesn't depend only on my body. I think it's extremely important for me to be, of course, first to have the support and love from the close ones, and ability to go and play and keep the balance with the private life, but at the same time have the mental clarity or - how should I say - aspirations to really strive to chase these trophies.

Physically I can keep myself fit. Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is. But I still feel there is time ahead of me. Let's see how far I go.

Q. When the match ended, you looked at your box and pointed to a few different places. What were you trying to say?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What do you want me to say? You've seen it all (smiling).

It's a little code language we have. They understand. It takes, yeah, big heart, of course a lot of mental strength, and the third thing as well to make it.

Q. Have you learned anything about yourself over the last fortnight on the court but also off the court? Your level of tennis, where does it sit compared to the semifinal in 2016 against Federer?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, in terms of learning about myself, I always try to take away some important professional tennis lessons but also life lessons about my character, about my experience, about everything that I went through on and off the court. So I need some time. I need some space to reflect on that. It's hard to talk about it right now because it's so fresh.

In terms of the quality of the tennis, it's honestly some of the best tennis I've played on this court. As good as I've played maybe 2011 or '15 or '16 or those years where I really had some very strong, strong seasons and strong Australian Opens. I would rank it right up there. Maybe top two, three of all time of performances on slams in general, particularly here.

Q. You joked about 35 and 25. What significance does it have to you at this age to both still be winning these things and also now to get to return to No. 1?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, even more than probably 10 years ago, because you never know how much more time you have left. So, of course, I nurture and celebrate these moments of becoming No. 1 again and Grand Slam champion even more than I have maybe ever in my career. I don't take it for granted.

As I said, it's just so fresh. I just came off the court. Of course, I have to reflect and sleep over a few nights and just realize what I've been through with my team. Of course, it makes me incredibly proud, but it also is a huge relief because it hasn't been smooth sailing, so to say, on and off the court in the last three to four weeks.

That makes this victory even more special.

Q. You touched on it a couple nights ago, you hoped your dad would be in the stands for tonight's final. That obviously didn't happen. Can you explain why he didn't end up in the stands? How special was it to see him after you left the court?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, we talked. I thought the things will calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn't. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there.

That hurts me and him a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again. So it was not easy for him.

I saw him after the match, of course. Yeah, he was not feeling his best, let's say, even though he was very happy to hug me and of course with everything. I could see that, yeah, he's a bit sad.

Look, it is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it's important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he's here for me. If it's going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he's not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.

In a way I'm also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it's fine. In the end we have a happy ending.

Q. You mentioned on the court how you and Stefanos represent smaller countries. 22 slams later, what do all these victories mean to people back home?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I probably don't know fully how it resonates with people. I truly believe and I hope that, especially young people in Serbia, find a lot of inspiration in what I do, what I have achieved, so it motivates them to grab a racquet or whatever they do, whether it's sport or any other area of life.

As I said on the court, dream big and nurture those dreams. We heard the story before, but it truly is like cliché, but it is true. Coming from countries like Serbia and Greece, in Stefanos' case, with almost zero tennis tradition and support in any shape or form for the tennis, it makes adversity far bigger challenge to reach the big heights and great heights.

You kind of have to pave your own way and become the first in something - of course, along with your family and close people in your life and your coaches.

But that makes the whole experience even more unique and gratifying. I think for me appreciation for everything that I have achieved in life is greater because of knowing how I started.

Serbia and Greece, as I said it, we have great relationship historically between the countries. So as I have with Stefanos personally, of course we are great rivals, but we had some nice words for each other on the court.

I think it's important. It's important to be kind and respectful in those moments. Regardless of the score, you want to win without a doubt, everybody knows that. You're a fierce competitor, but you should always have some respectful words for your opponent and understanding of what he goes through because you can relate to a lot of the things that your peers are going through because you know how tough it is.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
128848-1-1145 2023-01-29 14:08:00 GMT

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