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Roland Garros: Novak Djokovic, May 25, 2008

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Roland Garros
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Interview with Novak Djokovic

Q. Gremelmayr is better than his ranking. A very undervalued player. But did you perhaps make it a little bit easier for him today until you finally got control of the fourth set?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I wasn't underestimating my opponent, even though it looked like that in the first set, the way I was playing. So I agree with the fact that his game is better than his ranking at this moment, and he's recently been playing some good tennis.

He played a couple of semifinals in good tournaments, and he played some three sets with Roger Federer. So I knew that he's a tough player to play against on this surface.

But, you know, this was one of the days when you just can't put your game in the direction that you want it to be. And always those first rounds on the bigger events are the tricky ones, a lot of expectations, pressure.

It wasn't easy, you know, but it's good to go through.

Q. How did you prepare this week? I read you had to do an appearance at the Eurovision contest. Did that maybe take something off of your concentration, or did you have enough time to practice?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I think I had enough time. I feel good, even though I had a tough match, two‑and‑a‑half hours. Physically I feel well. I've been working hard in last six, seven weeks on my physical strength just to prepare well for the Roland Garros. Because this is the most important event for I think every player on this surface. But, you know, it's understandable sometimes to have pretty bad performances.

I'm not happy with the way I played, but, you know, you always have to look positive and try to think in the right direction and hope for the best.

Q. You did well last year, obviously, at the Grand Slams and things. A year ago you had been hoping to be maybe No. 1 or one of the best. What does it feel like now that most people consider you and Roger and Rafa pretty well even? How do you feel about that? Did it change your life very much?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. It's good to hear that the people are talking about more than two ‑‑ only two players. I mean, last couple months I've been playing some great tennis, achieving fantastic results in the most important events and the major events, Masters Series and Grand Slams, which is the aim for me.

I'll just try to be consistent, you know. I know that there is a lot of, of course, media attention and attention from a lot of tennis lovers. They're hoping for, you know, some changes in the rankings, of course.

There was some opportunities in Hamburg already, but I don't want to pay attention too much on that, you know. I'm going to lose the focus if I do that.

Q. How does it actually feel now? Is it different to be one of the best three or maybe even the best player...

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sure. People appreciate more. Pay you more respect. As a Grand Slam champion, you gain a lot of positive things and confidence on the top, so you approach things much easier.

Q. When he broke back at 5‑4 in the third, you lost six points in a row. Were you nervous at the time?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, sure. I wasn't on my top level, as I said before. And when you're not playing the way you imagine to play, then there's a lot of things going on in the head, of course.

He came from 5‑1 to 5‑4, and then suddenly I started serving bad and he started going for the shots. He started playing well. All the credit to him. He was being really aggressive.

He surprised me a little bit on the start of the match. He used his opportunities, so I managed to come back through. So it's an encouraging fact for continuation of the tournament.

Q. Do you have memories of Guga when he was winning French Opens?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, sure. Especially the one when he drew the heart on the court. It was really emotional for him, of course in the first place, and for everybody watching. He's a very positive, very positive guy, great personality, and just everybody loves him. I don't know even one guy who says something bad about him.

So the sport is going to miss him, of course, and I wish him all the best. Hopefully he can get far in the tournament.

Q. A moment ago you said you didn't feel like you played very well. When you feel like you're not playing well, what does that mean? Does that mean not striking the ball well? Does it mean not winning certain points? What does that mean to you?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: A lot of things combined, you know. But the most important thing is that you win when you play bad, so there's not many players that have that.

Q. Would you rather play well and win 4 and 4, or play poorly and win 2 and 2?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Next question, please.

Q. Do you feel extra pressure because you are first in the race and you won the first Slam?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, pressure is always there. But as a third player of the world and Grand Slam champion and first player in the race this year, of course there is a lot of expectations.

It's normal. But now it's a matter of my mental ability to cope with that pressure in the best possible way. So far I've been doing great. Pressure is a challenge, so you just have to accept it.

Q. This the first day. First day we see the conditions and things. Can you describe the conditions just in terms of the balls and the court and stuff, and also, in comparison to how it would be for anybody, not just you playing against Nadal? He's viewed as the toughest guy. What are the conditions like for playing against him?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's quite different than the last couple of tournaments I played on clay. We played with ATP, had balls, and they're much different than the ones we play here, Dunlop, at Roland Garros.

It's tough to control, honestly saying, here. The balls are bouncing, they're smaller, and that makes them much, much faster. And then the conditions are different at Roland Garros than in Hamburg and Rome, because here it's pretty fast comparing to Hamburg where it's pretty slow.

So you just ‑‑ you just need time. I think I still didn't, you know, didn't get used to it 100% the way I should. But it's good to win the first round and to play a bit tougher match longer with longer rallies so you can get used to the conditions.

Q. Gremelmayr's speed can make you a little impatient sometimes on the court. But on one point when you were not impatient, I think it was the second set long, kept retrieving everything you hit. Finally you hit the overhead and flopped across the net. What were your emotions there as you lay across the net at the end of that point?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I was happy to win the long point, you know. I think you're always are ‑‑ you always are happy to win such a great point, and it's nice. You know, the crowd saluted in a great way.

But, again, there was a lot of those rallies. In the most important moments I managed to stay calm and just play the way I imagined to play, so it's good.

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