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An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic | 2019 Australian Open (R1)

Q. How did it feel to be out there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It feels great to be healthy and back on this court again. 12 months ago it was quite a different sensation on the court with the elbow injury. 12 months forward, obviously things are quite different.

I had a tremendous success in the last six months. It got me to a great position. Hopefully I can follow up on this victory tonight with a good performance. Hopefully another good match in a few days.

Q. Not sure if you saw Rafa’s comments yesterday about the council situation, Chris Kermode.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I have not.

Q. He kind of said no one had approached him from the council to ask him about this decision. He was a bit confused why. Did you know he’d not been asked? Why wasn’t he consulted?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: First of all, we have to clear up the decision is not made, so… The decision has not been made and we still have time.

The representatives on the council, player board representatives, will talk with Roger, Rafa, anybody who is interested to have a discussion about this.

Now, what is very important for everybody to understand is that Rafa has always been involved, no question about it. Whether he was part of the political structure, council or not, he always tries to contribute to the game. And I need to credit him for that.

Not many players want to be involved. That’s the thing. That’s something that we as players council members are trying to evoke in players, more of an interesting, more of a willingness to be part of all of these discussions because it’s important.

It’s not just about the president. It’s about the future of the sport. I think in terms of communication between the players, it is much better than it was, say, five years ago. I’ve been now in council, this is my seventh or eighth year. It’s probably my fifth in a row. The last year and a half, there’s been quite a significant improvement in terms of communication between the players, which is great. That’s what we need.

In the end of the day, our primary job is to play tennis, whereas everybody else has a different priority. They have more time to have meetings, to go through these particular subjects and information, filtering.

For us, it’s an additional energy and effort. But I think, at least from my perspective, I do it because I care about the sport and I care about players. I want to be able to use my status to contribute to positive changes.

No one is getting paid for this in the council. We are all doing it because we care about the sport, we care about each other. That’s all it is.

Q. Roger said he was keen to speak to you during the Australian Open.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We will speak. As I said, we didn’t have a chance to speak so far, but we’ll see each other here. If not here, then it’s going to be after that. We have each other’s numbers. Of course, in person is quite different.

I’ve talked with Roger in the last six months several times, in Laver Cup, US Open, Rafa as well at US Open. I’m trying to create time for these things. They are not part of the council, but they are extremely important, essential, players in this kind of big decision making.

Q. Yesterday Andy said he regrets pushing himself so hard, playing when he shouldn’t have. I know you talked about that in regards to your elbow. Given all the competition, how difficult is it to stop and have a break?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s hard to stop. We all have our individual choices that we make that have certain consequences, whether they’re positive or negative.

For him, I understand why he said that. I also had those kind of particular situations, kind of circumstances where I was questioning why I’ve played so much or whether I should have played differently.

At least in my case, I try not to have any regrets. I think everything really happens for a reason. I just have to accept it, embrace it.

In his case, he’s really unfortunate to go through things that he went through in the last two years, the way it seems he’s going to end his career this year. This is really sad for all of us. We talked about it. It’s sad to see him go that way, that is not on his terms. Injuries are the greatest obstacle that an athlete can have.

Q. Did you watch any of Andy’s match yesterday?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, of course. I think everyone watched it. After two sets, I think no one expected him to really come back, considering how he feels. He showed once again his amazing champion spirit, why he’s such a fighter, why he’s so respected and appreciated around the tennis world, and sports world in general.

You could see everything that he is in that match yesterday. Unfortunately, ended up him losing. He can be proud of what he showcased.

Q. Do you ever see the ATP players represented by a union in the future?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, it’s quite different for us because the unions in other sports are focused on particular countries. For example, in NBA, the union of players has to comply to the legislation of American law. I mean, in tennis, it’s quite different. We travel all around the world. We have 63, I think, tournaments, probably that many countries.

We are trying to make the most of what we have at the moment. We have this kind of structure and system that is not perfect, but we are here and we are trying to do our best to improve the system, as well.

I think there are definitely certain aspects of the system that need to be improved, without a doubt. But tennis is a bit complex sport in terms of interest sides. You have ATP, you have ITF, you have Grand Slams as independent entities. You have multiple, 10s of different tournament owners around the world. You have to deal with everyone.

In the end of the day, ATP is an organization that is 50% players, 50% tournaments, which in most of the cases is conflict of interest, so…

I think it’s far more complicated than it actually seems. But it is what it is. As I said, you have to deal with it.

Q. You’re playing Tsonga next. He had the upper hand at the start, you turned it around. What is the mindset going into a court against Tsonga?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s funny, I mean, 11 years after our first Grand Slam final here, it feels like a lot has happened for both of us. He also struggled with injuries lately. It’s good to see him playing well. It’s good to see him back.

He’s another great player, champion, someone that has been very successful in the past, established top-10 player, played Grand Slam final. Just very powerful, serve, forehand, big weapons.

I know what to expect. I’ve played him many times. I lost to him, as well. In this court, as well, in Rod Laver I think back in 2010.

Yeah, I’m going to approach it as any other match, to be honest. Really optimistic, but also respectful, trying to do whatever I can to win it.

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