TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – 30th of January 2015. N.Djokovic d. S.Wawrinka 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0. An interview with Novak Djokovic
Q. Can you go through this match because there were a lot of ups and downs. You came through at the end, but it looked like a huge struggle for you.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I did not play on the level that I intended before the match. There were parts of the match where I stepped in and played a game I needed to play, but parts of the match where I played too defensive and allowed him to dictate the play from the baseline. He has great depth in his shots. Once he has control of the rallies it’s very difficult to play against him. So, yeah, it was very emotional, very tense, as it always is against a top player in semifinals of a Grand Slam. Of course, judging by the last two matches we played here in Australian Open last two years, we could expect something like that, five-setter. So the battle was great. It was no different this year from the previous two years in terms of, you know, fighting from both sides. The only difference was that the fifth set went completely my way. But, again, it was a tight first opening game of the fifth set where he had some breakpoint opportunities, missed an easy ball. Yeah, I mean, a couple points decide a winner in these particular matches when you’re playing for Grand Slam final. I can say I’m glad, of course I’m happy and satisfied to go through. I’m proud of the fighting spirit that I had. But the level of performance was not where I wanted it to be.
Q. When Jim Courier spoke to you after the match he asked you if you had any physical issues, but then you sort of talked tactics.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, in terms of I think it was more mental in a way because once you back up and start playing defensively you spend a lot of energy. He was the one that was dictating the rallies. There’s no question about it. Some points of the match I did struggle physically to recover for the next one because I run a lot and he was getting a lot of balls back in play. I didn’t have many free points on the first serve as I did throughout the tournament, so that was a significant change. But, you know, nothing that will worry me. You know, I’m sure that I’ll be fit and ready for finals.
Q. Is it hard to keep your concentration and positivity when the level of play is much below where you want it to be?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course. You know, you have days when things aren’t going your way. I thought first set was pretty solid; second set not so much. The third, again, I had my moments and made a break in the fourth. I felt like I had him on the ropes, and I thought that this is the moment where I need to step in and capitalize on the opportunities and consolidate the break, but I haven’t. I made the break and 2-Love in the first, lost my serve again right away. Had love-40 the next game. Haven’t used those opportunities, and he was back in the match. This is what happens if you’re not using your opportunities one, two, three, four. The player like Stan with the immense quality that he has and power in his game will get the best out of you. That’s why that match went to the fifth set. After that I thought the crucial turning point in the fifth set was opening few games, two, three games. That’s when I felt a little bit more relaxed and not as pressured from his side.
Q. Did you feel different coming into this with how classic and epic the last two matches were, knowing you had to live up to that standard?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, well, I’m sure everybody who came to watch the match live and watched it on TV were expecting a five-set match. It’s what we delivered for them. Of course, it was not intentional from our side to play five sets, I’m sure. But, again, very, very few details, very few points, very few shots can decide a winner of these matches. That’s what happened tonight.
Q. You said the crucial moment was the first games of the fifth set. When he had a breakpoint on the first game of the fifth set, what was going through your mind? Were you really worried?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was playing on the side that is against the wind, so it was harder to play on that side. It was a long game. He missed one backhand that was not difficult for him to make, but he missed it on the breakpoint. I was just hoping and trying to stay in the moment and focus on the next point and trying to win that game. I knew that if I do hold my serve that it’s going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the set. That’s what happened.
Q. Where do you feel you are after this match going into the final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think I have much more positive things to reflect on in my game and then all the matches that I played so far in the tournament than the negative. I’m in the finals. In the end of the day, that’s why I’m here, you know, to try to get far in the tournament. Getting to the finals in any way possible is a great achievement. I’m going to try to use that for build up of the confidence for finals.
Q. You go back 15 years. Are you happy to see Andy back in the Grand Slam final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sure. He deserves to be there. With the game that he has, he has a winning mindset. He’s a great fighter, great competitor, and somebody that commits to this sport. You can see that on a daily basis. He has a great team of people around him. He puts a lot of hours in the practice, gym, so forth. It pays off. I know him for a long time, so it’s great we are able to challenge each other now in another Grand Slam final.
Q. You have a special rivalry with Rafa; another one with Roger. What is the special part with Andy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The fact we know each other since 11, 12. There is only week difference between us. Very similar game and very similar role to professional tennis. So I think that’s what makes it very special.
Q. Do you still have problems with his accent?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. His accent is fine. He spends a lot of time in London. I know he lives there. He’s trying to talk very clear and slow to everybody. I thank him. He’s got couple of guys around — we have a very good relationship, my team and his team, so we always joke around. There was a physiotherapist from Scotland that was with him I think a couple years ago. It was very hard to understand what he was saying. But his accent is absolutely fine. He speaks very clear.
Q. After tonight Wawrinka drops down to No. 9 in the rankings. For the first time since 2013, July, the fab four are back, the top four. Are you surprised about that? Would you believe that could happen?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, of course, there was naturally a lot of talks about the change of generation, new players coming in with Wawrinka and Cilic winning Grand Slams last year, that the four guys that you’re referring to will not be the top four anymore. But it’s the case, as you mention now, again. So I still think that the four guys still have the best chances to win all the Grand Slam titles. Even though we had the two different Grand Slam winners last year, those are the top four favorites. Then you have the other guys. But, of course, men’s tennis is in a different place than it was a few years ago. Now we have Cilic, Wawrinka, youngsters Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov, that are showing their qualities and are able to challenge the best players in the world.
Q. I don’t know how much you’ve watched Andy this year, but if you have watched some of him, what do you think has changed in his game since last season?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think he’s going for the shots. He’s one of the best defenders in the game, no question about it. He is an incredible counter- puncher. He’s got a lot of variety in his game. He’s got also a big serve. I think if he serves well, that’s a huge, let’s say, confidence boost and advantage for him. He feels that he’s more relaxed on the court and he can swing through his shots from the baseline. I think forehand has improved, judging by the matches he has played the matches during these couple weeks compared to a few months ago. The courts are playing a little bit faster in the last two years than it was the previous years in Rod Laver Arena as we mentioned before. Because they are faster, because the ball is bouncing a bit lower, that’s pretty suitable to his style of the game. He likes that. He has a flat backhand and moves around the court pretty well. So it’s going to be a very physical match, no doubt about that. It’s finals, so I’m sure that we both are going to go out and give our best.
‘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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