TENNIS ROLAND GARROS 2014 – Novak Djokovic pre-tournament interview
Q. Coming off the Rome title, obviously having a week now to sort of process that, how good are you feeling about Paris at this moment?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the tournament win in Rome came at the right moment for me. For my confidence level it’s definitely a booster and positive thing, and hopefully I can carry that confidence coming into Roland Garros.
It’s obviously different than Rome tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. It’s two weeks long event, best of five, and there is a feeling that most almost all of the players who are participating in the event have an extra motivation to perform well in this tournament comparing to the other events.
Q. In regards to the tragedy in Serbia, how are you going about getting the information out? What have you been doing just to kind of keep the world abreast of the situation?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s devastating times. The floods are epic proportions. They have forced many people to flee homes. Many people lost everything that they have, that they possessed, and even the loss of the close ones.
So it is one of the biggest tragedies that the countries of Serbia and Bosnia and Croatia had in their history, so the positive thing is that these nations who had conflicts very recently, 20 years ago, have at least for certain time now forgot about that and they show their solidarity and support to each other.
There is this unity that defines these nations at this moment, which definitely helps all three countries to recover as fast and most efficient as they can. Obviously floods, as they are backing up now, the process of recovery is just starting. It’s going to go for a long time. We are talking about many years depending on the help that we get from abroad.
That was, in a way, my mission and mission of the people who have certain status and certain opportunity internationally to spread the awareness. Wasn’t easy because I was playing a tournament in Rome, so part of me was focused on the tournament. Part of me was with my thoughts and with my people back home.
You know, first thing I did is obviously try to raise the awareness internationally as much as I can within the media, get the attention going to what’s going on. Hopefully it worked, because I see that there is, you know, many media now that are interested in what’s going on down there.
If it’s because of me or somebody else, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that people are starting to talk about it. We need help, of course, all three countries. We need help, and we need as much as we can get.
You know, in these difficult times, there is no really priority except trying to do your best to save the people and the nation, because natural force and natural disaster is something that is just a higher force.
It’s something you can’t fight. You have to just pray and hope that it can go fast.
Q. You have been knocking on the door of this major for a few years now. How does it feel different this time coming to Paris to try and win the Open maybe compared to 2011 which, you came in undefeated or last few years?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Last few years have been quite successful for me in Roland Garros, especially the last two where I played finals and semifinals and lost in both of the matches against Nadal, who has the best record on clay and best record here in Roland Garros, and obviously still No. 1 favorite to win the tournament this year.
But, you know, I have played some epic matches against him, especially the one last year in the semifinals. We went the distance. I think it was 10 8 in the fifth. So even though it was a tough loss on me and, you know, I was putting a lot of emotional effort into winning this event last year, I still take the positives from that tournament. Knowing that I have gotten closer and closer each year to the title gives me enough reason to be confident for the start of this year.
As I said, the Rome title and the Rome win in the finals against Nadal is something that, you know, winning against Nadal on clay is something that doesn’t happen every day.
So it definitely helps my confidence, my self belief. And I’m healthy and obviously very motivated and inspired to play my best tennis here.
Q. Any thoughts on playing Soasa the first round? And how maybe more nerves for favorites in tournaments when it’s about starting.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sorry, the second part?
Q. Makes you maybe more nervous when you have to play the first round of a Grand Slam like this because of the expectations?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s not the first time that I have to face the kind of pressure or expectation of being a favorite and going far in the tournament.
Soasa is a specialist for this tournament. I have played him I think last year in US Open on hard court, but obviously, as I said, he loves playing on clay. That’s his most preferred surface.
Especially in the early rounds it’s important not to underestimate any opponent and not take anything easy, and, you know, with not maximum of dedication.
Because going back to the story from before, all of the 128 players are extra motivated to perform the best they can on the Grand Slams, because all the sport’s attention is directed to this tournament.
So this is where they want to shine. That’s where for us top players, it’s always tricky to face the opponents who have nothing to lose in the opening rounds.
So I will try from the beginning of the tournament in that first round to, you know, play my best game regardless of who I play against. I will not try to save the energy for later, because it’s anyway, there is always a day between the matches.
I know what to do. I have played many Grand Slams in my life, and I look forward to it.
Q. Can you just confirm that this week you’ll have Marjan and Boris together as your coaching staff.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. Can you elaborate a little bit as to how they work together, why you prefer for them both to be here for the tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Again, I think I answered this question a lot.
Okay. As I was saying before, I’m really glad to have Boris, a legend of the sport and a champion and somebody that knows exactly what kind of pressures and mental challenges I encounter on the court, especially in big tournaments like this.
That’s one of the biggest reasons he’s part of the team.
The transition from Marjan to Boris will, in my opinion and their opinion, as well that’s why they are here together. It will be more efficient and smoother and better if they are both present in the tournament. Because Marjan is not just a coach to me, he’s a friend. He’s somebody that knows me very well.
We traveled and worked with each other for over eight years. I won my first and then now the last title with him in my box, so there is this special connection that we have.
That’s why he can help not just myself but also Boris to understand how we work. I was very glad to win the title with both of them in Rome. Definitely helps before coming into Roland Garros, that is one of the priorities of the season.
Q. It used to be always about the Big 4 before the Grand Slam. After what happened at the Australian Open and also in Monaco, do we have to consider Wawrinka one of the favorites? Maybe you played him a lot. You can talk a little bit what made him so much stronger in the last, say, one year or ten months.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely. I think we should and he deserves to be considered as one of the favorites to win the title because of the fact that he had one of the best results of all the players this year.
He won first Grand Slam; he won the Monte Carlo tournament in great fashion winning against some top players.
He proved to everybody that he is one of the contenders for Grand Slam titles. He already won one Grand Slam, so now from the mental perspective he’s going to be, let’s say, more familiar or easier for him to approach Grand Slams because he knows how, what it takes to win it.
I think his game was always very powerful. He always had a game that he could hurt any player on any surface, but it was just a matter of his self belief.
I think now mentally he’s gotten stronger and more experienced in the big matches. You can see the reflection of that and the results that he has.
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career
Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.
Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.
Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.
Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.
“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.
“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.
David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati
David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.
Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.
The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.
Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open 2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.
Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.
“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”
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