TENNIS US OPEN 2014 – 24th of August 2014. An interview with Novak Djokovic
Q. Can you talk about the depth in men’s tennis right now and how that may differ from, say, a year ago at the US Open?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Depth in terms of…
Q. More quality players, more players who are able to win major events?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Well, I have been saying before that it’s positive to see that there is a new generation coming up of young players who are challenging and also winning against top players in the big events and who are contenders for big titles. Raonic and Dimitrov are on top of that list, and they have been playing some really good tennis. They played semifinals of Wimbledon. So I’m sure that people who care about the sport and follow this support love to see new faces. The dominance of the top four players has been in this sport for a long time already, you know, last decade or so, so we didn’t have many young players who were able to challenge for top spots and win Grand Slam titles. So this is something that is happening now, but it’s still a long way to the Grand Slam title, you know. It’s not something that, you know, can happen overnight. Of course it can. Nothing is impossible. But, you know, tennis has become more physical nowadays. It’s a very demanding sport. You need to be playing consistently well on a high level in order to break into the top 5.
Q. What is the mental approach to a first-round match against an opponent you have never played?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, get as much information as I can on his game. Obviously his strength and weaknesses in the game and tactically to be prepared before I come to the court. Obviously it’s never easy when you play against somebody you have never played against. He’s a young player from Argentina, and, sure playing on the center court for him is a great experience. He has nothing to lose. So my team is going to do scouting as much as possible and analyze his game and try to prepare myself.
Q. Your wife travels with you throughout the year. With a lot of the lower-ranked players who can’t afford to have family come with them, they are away from their kids, their partners, 25, 30 weeks out of the year. Have you ever felt what your life would be like on tour if you had to travel by yourself?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s a good question. Well, that’s, you know, one of the issues we have in sport is that players who are ranked, you know, 67th and lower are not able to afford unfortunately their spouses traveling with them. It’s an effort, you know. It’s really expensive nowadays. The airline tickets, the accommodation and everything, the prices are just going up. You know, it’s not staying the same or not going down, you know. So of course that’s why, you know, players are trying to get prize money raised in the big events. You know, for the top players I think we understand the struggling of the lower players and we understand it’s not only about us, but it’s about these guys who are trying to make a living and trying to break through the top 50 where it gets a little bit easier. Obviously I have been there, but when I was much younger. I was not married when I was 50 or lower ranked, so I cannot imagine having that. But it is what it is, you know. Everybody has some difficulties in life. It’s our profession and it’s something that obviously is a big part of our lives, but it’s important to make the right balance. It’s family life, and love is more important than work, you know, in my eyes.
Q. Obviously you didn’t have the sort of leadup preparation to the US Open. Lost pretty early in Canada and Cincinnati. How has your prep been the last couple of weeks and how you are feeling now on court after those losses?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m feeling better and better as the days go by. It’s something that is encouraging me for this year’s US Open campaign. Obviously I want to peak with my form in the US Open. Yes, I wanted to do better in Canada and Cincinnati. Unfortunately I wasn’t even close to my best. But, you know, a lot of things happened in the last two months, and it was very emotional period. You know, I just felt a little bit flat on the court. I wasn’t managing to find that intensity and the perfect mindset. But, you know, it’s all normal. It’s something that I’m experiencing for the first time, right? So I’m trying to talk as much as I can to, of course, first of all my coach that has been through similar experiences in his life more than one time (smiling). So I’m trying to get as much information as I can, valuable advices that I can use in my case.
Q. Many of us in this room know what a momentous event of a first child can be. Do you think it will be as hard to focus on the tennis as ruthlessly as you normally would while you’re here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that’s a question I cannot give you answer to because I’m going to find out. I’m going to see how that feels. Obviously I talk with people who are around me who have children. As I said before, my coach and people who have been in similar situations like I am and how they dealt with that, how that has affected their careers, their mindset, their, you know, just overall life. I with no doubt have only positive and joyful feelings approaching fatherhood, and hopefully — it’s going to happen in less than two months. Then I’m going to enjoy it and try to take as much energy as I can, positive energy to, you know, after kind of transfer that to the tennis court. But without a doubt, life changes. You know, priorities change. My priorities, you know, my family, my wife, my future kid. You know, tennis is not definitely not No. 1 anymore.
Q. Rafael Nadal is not playing here this year. Do you ever reflect why he has to have so many injuries in his career? Quite a lot. Maybe because of his game style?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, probably. He has a very physical game. He slides a lot and spends a lot of energy on each shot. His joints, his body suffers a lot, and it’s not easy. He’s been playing this particular style of the game for over ten years on the highest level. He has won so many Grand Slams, so many tournaments. He has improved over the years on hard courts, and he has — you know, hard court probably for his body and his joints is his least-preferred surface. But, again, he has found a way always to come back. After he has been absent from the tournament for seven months he has had the best year of his year in 2013. So I expect no less, you know, when he comes back to the tour to see him strong, to see him motivated. He he’s a great competitor, a great fighter. As I said, I’m sure that if he had a small percentage of coming here and playing he would do that, because he just loves the game. I have a lot of respect for him. It’s probably because his game style is so physical that that’s why the body suffers a lot.
Q. You spoke a moment ago about Rafa’s physical style and his injuries. How would you describe Roger’s style and his durability by contrast?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think it’s obvious that Roger has a different kind of movement and different kind of game from Rafa. Myself, as well. I would rate my game and my movement physicality closer to Rafa. I know we do a lot of slides and so forth, so it takes a lot of energy to do that. Where, you know, on the other hand you have Roger who sometimes plays so effortless and so smooth. But, again, that doesn’t mean that he’s not spending any energy. Of course it’s not easy, because the game has become more physical nowadays. Especially on the Grand Slams. It’s not only physical energy that is necessary to be on high level. It’s also emotional. It takes a lot of effort emotionally and physically to be on top of your skills and game to perform well.
Q. What do you make of his streak of appearing in majors, 15 years straight, 60 straight majors?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What can I say? It’s an incredible achievement. Everything he does is remarkable. I have lots of respect for everything he does.
Q. Novak, over the last two months you have been saying it’s been emotionally draining. Does that affect your expectations at all going into this tournament? Are you still the favorite here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, it doesn’t. I have high expectations for myself. I always have. Especially at this stage of my career where I feel like now is the time that I’m at my peak physical strength. I want to use this time of my career as much as I can to win as many matches as possible. Obviously I know I’m not the only one that has this kind of mindset, optimistic mindset. There are many players who are fighting for the same trophy. This is the last Grand Slam of the year, and this is where you want to play your best. This is where all the attention of the tennis and sports world come to. It’s going to be a long two weeks’ journey for all of us, but I was getting ready for it and looking forward to it.
Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games
A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro
For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.
In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck” in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.
After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.
The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.
Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”
Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.
The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.
Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?
Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?
By Roman Bongiorno
“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive. Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.
The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.
Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside. And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.
Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.
Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.
The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.
What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad. He survived the morning-after syndrome after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.
The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.
Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.
A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.
Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.
Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.
Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner
Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.
Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.
The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.
After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.
However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.
If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.
Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.
“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.
“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”
Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.
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