Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

February 19- March 4, 2023
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 19- March 4, 2023
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 22, 2022

Novak Djokovic – Press Conference

2022 Men's Singles Round 1 - N. DJOKOVIC/L. Musetti 6-3, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Pretty much a perfect start to your week, also your season. How was it for you?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was a great reception, I must say. I was feeling great obviously to get that kind of reception and welcoming from the crowd. I thank them very much from my heart.

Obviously with everything that was happening, I didn’t know how it’s going to, you know, unfold for me on the court, how am I going to feel. Obviously I was trying to use my experience, approach this match as any other really.

I’m very pleased with the way I managed to hold my nerves I think in the crucial moments when I was facing break points, found the right serve. I know I can always do better in terms of the quality of tennis. There’s some moments where I felt like I played really well, some moments where I was just losing the rhythm on my serve. I had a low percentage of first serves in. Of course, for the next match there’s always more to work on and improve and look forward to.

All in all very positive experience in terms of how I felt, how I played, in terms of the atmosphere on the court.

Q. Were you more nervous than usual coming out onto the court about how you felt the crowd might receive you?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, yeah, I would say I was equally excited and nervous like before any other match after a long break. I had almost two and a half, three months without a match officially on the tour.

Certainly circumstances are different, everything that has happened in the last month and a half. So I was really looking forward to step out on the court.

I think Dubai is a perfect place for me to start a season because of the support and the fans that showed up tonight and really cheered me on the way they did. Big Serbian community as well. Very nice to see Serbian flags around. I felt there was an international crowd supporting me as well, which was very nice.

They exceeded my best expectations, so to say, in terms of the atmosphere.

Q. You mentioned Dubai is the perfect place to start for you. You’re also here on the 30th anniversary of men’s tennis here in Dubai. How do you reflect on your past performances? Any favorite memories you have?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, happy 30th anniversary. It’s definitely one of the best tournaments in the world, actually the best tournament in the world in category 500 that we have on ATP Tour. Many years in a row this tournament has been winning awards for a reason.

You always have, you know, at least four, five, six top-10 players participating in events historically, traditionally every single year. The field is very strong.

I’ve had some great matches against Roger here, who is the most successful player of this tournament of course. Probably the toughest year I had in terms of winning the tournament was 2010. I think I played four three-setters in a row. The finals was played over two days because of the rain.

I had some thrilling matches obviously. Can’t pick one at the moment. I’ve been blessed to experience a lot of success in this tournament.

Q. I wanted to clarify something. You mentioned yesterday you were waiting to see what happens with tournaments. Do you have any idea if you are able to play Indian Wells or not?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As of today, not. I can’t go — can’t enter United States. As of today I’m not able to play. But let’s see what happens. I mean, maybe things change in the next few weeks.

Q. I wanted to ask you, yesterday you said you found the reception in the dressing room much better here than in Australia. I’m wondering if you sought out any of the players, had conversations, how that has been for you here?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I had a few conversations. Actually most of the players that I met here in the last couple days were very friendly to me. It came up. Some of the players asked me, you know, how it felt, how I feel right now.

Majority of them actually welcomed me and said it’s nice to see me back on the tour. Obviously that makes me feel great. I’m very thankful for that because having the kind of an understanding at least I would say, if not support from my peers and my colleagues, is very important to me because they are the people that I get to see sometimes more than my family. So, of course, I care greatly about the relationships that we have.

So I appreciate the fact that most of the people here came up to me and welcomed me back on the tour, which for me is already very positive.

Q. How much of a concern has it been to you, your public image in general? Is it correct you’re working with some public relations consultants based in London perhaps to reset your image a bit after what happened in the last couple of months?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have many consultants in terms of PR around the world. I’ve had people from London, actually a few different places around the world, just trying to manage this situation as best as possible because obviously even though I have plenty of experience with media, actually mostly sports media, I do feel comfortable to speak with all of you, but obviously circumstances of this situation in Australia has exceeded and escalated.

It hasn’t been only connected to the sport. There was a lot of different areas of life, including politics, that obviously got involved in this whole case. Of course, for me, it was very important to be ready when I speak to media to understand the dynamics, so to say.

In terms of image, I really don’t know. Of course, there was not many positive articles about this whole situation in the last month or so. But ever since my interview with BBC, I think things are maybe shifting a little bit. I’m hoping. But I understand there’s still a lot of speculations and people questioning.

I said what I needed to say. I’ve been always very open and transparent, try to speak with the media that maybe criticizes me more or not, whatever. I’m there. I’m open to answer any question. Hopefully things will shift in a positive way for me.

Q. After losing the Australian Open final, Medvedev was not very happy with the crowd reaction. He said he would stop dreaming as a kid. You’ve been in a position where you played against Federer or Nadal in major tournaments where they have been the heavy crowd favorite. What would you say to somebody in that situation? Have you ever felt that way because of the crowd reaction in an important match you could stop dreaming? How do you relate to that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I relate to that. We spoke. Actually we texted after the match. I really felt sad that he was experiencing those kind of emotions because the inner kid is the reason why we are playing tennis. I mean, at least in my case and I think in his case.

Most of the players pick up the racquet when they were young because they fell in love with the sport, they have passion for the sport, they dream to achieve some of the greatest things this sport can offer them.

Obviously losing, being two sets to love up in the finals, it’s tough one to swallow. Of course, I’ve been in those shoes before. I understand how he feels.

I had plenty of matches where I had the crowd on my side and crowd against me. This is part of the sport. You can’t expect always to have the support behind you. Sometimes you just wish things to be different.

I wish him all the best. I think he’s a great champion, someone that is mentally very strong, already consistent with his results, soon to be No. 1 in the world as well. I can relate to that. I felt sorry for him that he commented the way he did after the match. But I do understand.

Q. It’s one thing that you had to miss Australia and another that the direct competitor with you in the all-time race for most Grand Slams won managed to inch ahead. How did that affect you?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, of course I was disappointed with the end result of my short stay in Australia, that I had to leave the country without competing in a Grand Slam. That’s the very reason why I was there.

I wasn’t enjoying watching the tournament knowing that I’m not able to be there. So the finals, I was trying not to watch it, but then I had my household was watching, basically everyone was watching, my wife and my kids, so I had to follow it.

But congratulations to Rafa. I mean, incredible performance. Amazing fighter he is. He said it, I mean, definitely one of the biggest wins of his life, in the circumstances, coming back after an injury.

I think it was four, five months ago that he was on the crutches, and now he’s winning a slam. I mean, it’s incredible. I got tons of respect for him. I don’t want to take anything away from his victory me not participating in the tournament regardless.

Of course, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling for me leaving the country the way I did and watching the tournament from far away.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
117154-1-1004 2022-02-21 20:27:00 GMT

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