THE MODERATOR: Questions in English, please.
Q. Welcome back to Doha. You are starting a new campaign in a few hours. How excited are you? And what are your new challenges for this new season?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m glad to end up 2018 with a win with my brother on the court. That was a very special moment. We played so far I think maybe four or five tournaments together, doubles, and we’ve never won a match, so today was a day we will remember together.
And yeah, just starting the new year with a good intention, good energy, trying to be present, be happy with everything that I have that is happening to me. You know, I’m obviously very blessed to play the tennis. I love this sport. And I keep on striving in a way to accomplish great things and see how far I can really go you know with my career.
Obviously, main focus and objectives are Grand Slams. That’s where I want to be able shine and play my best. And the top ATP tournaments, of course, I will try to play with full season as I have in the past, but things are different nowadays with two kids and a family. That is obviously a priority for me. So, I have to always try to find a balance between the two and kind of try to satisfy both the professional needs, but also the private ones.
Q. Two quick questions. In terms of the Grand Slams as you’ve mentioned, how big a deal was it for you to get past Sampras on 14 Grand Slam overall wins and to become the third, or even overtake Rafa? And every year – second question – every year people talk about the next generation of stars coming through and every year they don’t. It’s the same names pretty much winning the Grand Slams. Do you think that will be the same for this year? And because you’re in such a dominant position after last season and Murray and Nadal have injury concerns, still, do you think you are well ahead of the rest of your rivals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ll start with your second question first. I don’t think I’m well ahead of my rivals. I think – I try to focus on what I need to do in order to get myself in the best possible shape and form to perform at my best because when I do that, I know that I can really be a contender for all the titles. And how others play or feel like doesn’t concern me too much because I believe in myself, in my own qualities and I focus on that.
And in terms of the next generation, the next generation is already there in terms of the rankings. You have Zverev that is now an established top five player in the world. For several years in a row he’s been winning Masters events. He’s won the Masters Cup, the World Tour Finals, which is a great win. And for someone of his age. And then you have Tsitsipas and Coric and guys like that proving they can win against the top players of the world. And it’s a matter of time when we will see some of them competing in the last stages of Grand Slams. Whether that’s going to happen the next season or not, nobody knows, really.
But judging by the last ten years and the dominance of the four guys in the Grand Slams, I think still if we are healthy and if we are playing well, I think the four guys still have probably the best chance to always win Slams because of the experience and just understanding of what it takes to win that title.
But again, I think we waited long enough to see new faces competing at the highest level of tennis and so I’m really glad as a tennis fan to see new guys and talents and players with a lot of potential who are actually fulfilling their potential and proving that they deserve to be top of the men’s game.
Q. When you were a young player coming up, what was your biggest hurdle? And what do you think was the key that made you go from contender to champion?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, if I have to draw the line and tell you one thing, it was probably more mental than anything. But it’s really hard to simplify that way. I probably tried to simplify it the most I can to you, but it’s not that simple, it takes time, it’s a process and obviously everyone goes through a different trajectory and different way to the top. So, for me, I was very fortunate to be very young when I got to the top 100 of the world. And I kind of have risen to top ten pretty quickly, fairly quickly, within two years on the tour. So, I had some turning point and some big wins like Miami Open and Canada where I beat top three players at that time in the world. And those particular tournaments or certain wins that you make against the best players in the world affect your confidence and have a great impact on your career, you know. All of a sudden you feel like you belong there, that you can actually do it.
So when I won my first Slam in 2008, I was 20, 20-year-old, and it all came to me pretty quickly. And then for three years, I was unable to get another Slam and that’s probably due to the newly-occurring circumstances for me and challenges and obstacles, mental obstacles, that I had to face they have never faced before.
So, as I said, everyone goes through a different way in coping with certain things differently, so you just have to understand yourself on a level on what really is, what are your strengths and your weaknesses, if I can call them that wait, or things you can improve. And work on yourself rather more than anyone else, really. That is the bottom line. The more quality time and attention and effort that you put into developing yourself as a player and a person, strengthening your character, I guess the more successful your life will be in any way possible, you know.
But nowadays, the society is such that we pay attention more to other people’s lives than ours. So, it’s quite challenging for young athletes to keep the focus in their own garden, but that’s probably one of the most important things.
Q. Just a quick question. Are you surprised that you finished 2018 so well considering the first six months were not so good for you? You could turn things around so quickly. Are you surprised how well you did?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, in a way I am. But at the same time, there was always part of me that kind of believed that I can make that breakthrough and say if you want to call it a comeback very quickly and I think because of that kind of a mindset I probably was a bit impatient after my surgery of the elbow earlier this year in February and it obviously required more time for me to get back on a desired level and I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t, you know. I was ready in terms of pain. I didn’t have pain so I could play. But in terms of a level of tennis, it took me several months to get on that level on which I am on right now.
Yeah, it was a great learning curve for me. I really appreciate the process and I am very grateful that I have been through that.
Q. I come from Geneva, I have to ask this question. Will you play the Laver Cup next September?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not sure. We still don’t know.
THE MODERATOR: Serbian questions, please.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports