TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – 22nd of January 2015. N.Djokovic d. A.Kuznetsov 6-0, 6-1, 6-4. An interview with Novak Djokovic
Q. A lot of top players seem to be suffering from heat, injuries. You seem very comfortable. What’s the secret for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Practice (smiling).
Q. Can you practice?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not only talking about practice on the tennis court, but practice the professionalism off the court. But injuries are part of the sport. That’s something that sometimes happens even if you’re trying to take care of every single aspect of your career and yourself, trying to have the discipline, holistic approach to everything. Professional tennis nowadays is very demanding in terms of commitment on and off the court. But, as I said, injuries happen. Especially for the tennis players, which are individual athletes, which have a lot of challenges they have to face for their bodies and their minds, traveling, changing time zones, surfaces, conditions of play. It takes a toll on your body, definitely.
Q. Were you surprised to see Rafa in such a physical state of distress last night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I watched a little bit of the last few games of the fifth set only. I haven’t seen the whole match. He knows to answer the best how he feels on the court. I don’t know. From what I have seen, he was out there fighting, you know, deserved to win because he fighted his way through. Now it happens that you have opposite the net an opponent that plays as well as Smyczek played, has nothing to lose. I don’t know about his health issues or physical state. Definitely was not expected to see him playing four and a half hours against Smyczek. People expect him and top players to dominate most of the matches that they play on, especially in the opening rounds of a Grand Slam. This is tennis. This is sport. People need to realize that other players are playing as well as the top players do. In the Grand Slams, you have motivation more. If you have a fight like they had last night, you just have to congratulate the better player. I’m sure Rafa spoke nicely and praised his opponent. I’ve seen actually the great gentleman gesture and sportsmanship from Smyczek in the last game. I think that’s something that people should talk about. This is something that is not very common in the sport today, you know, where media and people generally emphasize on the rivalries, feisty, aggressive kind of approach to matches. It’s nice to have something that is greater than sport itself, you know, the sportsmanship and fair play.
Q. Kuznetsov said he’s going to get a tape of today’s game and watch it to see where he has to go as a player. How well do you feel you played in the first two sets?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: First two sets definitely have been great. Overall I executed the game plan. Everything I intended to do, almost 100%, from every second in my game, serve, baseline play, aggressive shots and aggressive returns. He dropped his first- serve percentage a lot in the second set and obviously allowed me to have a lot of looks at the second serves. That, as well, gave me an opportunity to step in and just swing through the ball.
Q. Viktor was talking about how much you helped him. How happy are you that he is at the stage he is at?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s fair to say that he did a fantastic job reaching top 50 of the world, and he can go even further, with playing only six months, maybe even less, after more than a year of absence from the tour. As his great friend, I’m very proud of him. I’m very happy to see him win, to see him feel good on the court. We talk a lot, of course. He won now 10 matches in a row. He’s going to play now a top-10 player. Tomas, he doesn’t have a great record against him. Again, I think Viktor is a different player than what he was two years ago. This experience that he had in some way helped him to get stronger and change his approach maybe to the court and allows him to do things that he didn’t have a chance to do before. Sometimes a few months’ rest from tennis, from sport, from kind of a lifestyle that you’re basically following on a daily basis for many, many years sometimes is useful to kind of refresh, regroup, and get a different kind of philosophy and approach. So I wish him all the best. I think if he’s playing as well as he did in last two weeks, he has a fair chance.
‘I Know How To Get There’ – Karen Khachanov Targets Return To Top 10
The world No.31 has showed signs of his talent this season with a run to the Olympic final but a lack of consistency and changes to the ATP ranking system has hindered him too.
It wasn’t that long ago when Karen Khachanov was the highest-ranked Russian man on the ATP Tour and billed as the next big thing from his country.
A breakout 2018 season saw Khachanov claim three Tour titles with the biggest of those being at the Paris Masters which remains his most prestigious trophy to date. He also reached his first major quarter-final at the French Open during the same season and scored five wins over top 10 players. Those triumphs helped elevate him in the ranking to a high of eight.
However, since that breakthrough Khachanov has found himself on a a rollercoaster journey. He is yet to win another title since Paris but came agonisingly close at the Tokyo Olympic Games where he finished runner-up to Alexander Zverev. In his nine previous Grand Slam tournaments his best run was at Wimbledon this season where he reached the last eight before losing to Denis Shapovalov.
Now ranked 31st in the world, the 25-year-old is aiming to claim back up the ladder after the ATP changed their ranking logic to the method used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The rankings turned out to be a big pun, it was frozen for a year and a half, only now normal counting has begun. I am not fixated on this,” Khachanov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. “My main goal is to get back to the Top10. I know how to get there. And the intermediate goals are to be healthy and motivated.”
Khachanov has been ranked outside the world’s top 20 since February and hasn’t been in the top 10 since October 2019. He is currently coached on the Tour by Jose Clavet who has previously worked with a series of top Spanish players such as Feliciano Lopez, Alex Corretja, Tommy Robredo and Carlos Moya.
“He travels with me everywhere, for which I am grateful to him. I trust him as a specialist, as a coach and as a friend,” Khachanov said of Clavet.
Khachanov has returned to his home country this week where he is playing in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup. A tournament he won three years ago by defeating Adrian Mannarino in the final. Seeded third in the draw this time round, he began his campaign on Wednesday with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, win over James Duckworth. In the next round, he faces another Australian in the shape of John Millman which he believes will be a far from easy task.
“He is a fighter, a complete player, he does everything well, forehand and backhand with good intensity. He does everything at a good level, but the main quality is that he fights till the end, so it will be hard for me,” he said of his next opponent.
Moscow is the seventh tournament this year where Khachanov has reached the quarter-final stage.
Filip Krajinovic To Skip Australian Open If Required To Quarantine For More Than Five Days
The world No.34 says he ‘sees no reason’ why vaccinated players should have to go through a long quarentine in Australia.
The second highest-ranked Serbian player in men’s tennis says it would be ‘unacceptable’ for organisers of the Australian Open to require players to quarantine for more than a week if they have been fully vaccinated.
Filip Krajinovic has become the first player to publicly state that they will not be prepared to travel to Melbourne at the end of this season if they have to go through strict quarantine measures once again. All the players who participated in this year’s Australian Open were required to be quarantined in a designated hotel for 14 days upon arrival in the country. During their stay they were allowed to use training facilities but that was the only time they could leave the premises unless there was an emergency.
There is no final decision regarding the travel requirements for the 2022 tournament but there are concerns that unvaccinated players may not be allowed to enter the country. The Victorian government recently issued a mandate ordering all essential workers to be vaccinated, including athletes. However, the regional government will not have the final say concerning tennis players arriving in the country with the national government being the ones in charge of that decision.
“They are very rigorous there and honestly, if I have to be in quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne, I will not go to Australia,” Krajinovic told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“I was vaccinated, I did everything in my power to protect myself and the people around me, so I really see no reason to sit there for 14 days in a room.’
“If they (the organisers) say that after arrival I need, say, five days to be in isolation, that’s OK for me, but anything beyond that is unacceptable to me. With the season ending late, I will have 20 days to get ready and go. Charter flights will be organized again and the last one is planned for December 28 for the players and that is the final date when I can go to Australia. I will see what the final decision from Melbourne will be, so I will cut what is the best thing to do.”
Earlier this week Victoria’s Sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to be vaccinated because it give them ‘the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open.’ It is expected that if unvaccinated players are allowed to attend, they will be subjected to stricter restrictions. This might include a longer quarantine period upon arrival and limitations of where they can go during their stay.
“Last year, all of those players had to do their 14 days of quarantine. Right now there looks like there will be different rules for people who enter this country who are vaccinated as against unvaccinated and I don’t think the tennis will be any exception to that.” Pakula told the Sports Entertainment Network (SEN).
“In terms of what rules apply for people to enter Australia, whether unvaccinated people are allowed in at all, I don’t the answer to that yet. That’s going to be the subject of discussion at national cabinet and among the federal cabinet … those rules are not set by state governments.” He added.
Krajinovic is currently ranked 34th in the world and has a win-loss record this season of 18-18. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells he reached the second round before falling in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev. His best run so far this year was at the Hamburg Open where he reached the final.
“When we look at the whole of 2021, I played one final, one semifinal, there were good victories, but also worse results,” the 29-year-old commented.
Krajinovic is currently without a coach but is currently in ‘negotiations’ with somebody without elaborating further about who that person is.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
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