Novak Djokovic, a record six title holder at Bercy, is about to start the Parisian Masters 1000 with Rafael Nadal and world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz. The Serbian, however, took the time to talk only about his sad season at RMC on this Sunday evening’s Bartoli Time show before he hungrily kicked off the home race.
Novak Djokovic, your seventh, 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, how did you experience it?
Winning Wimbledon for different reasons came at a very important time in my career. It was my dream tournament. When I was little I dreamed of winning this tournament, it’s the biggest tournament in our sport. It is the only tournament that has succeeded in maintaining this tradition and tennis culture in the modern age and makes the sponsors proud. You just watch the players and the balls in the midfield, it’s really special. After this tournament, I found my mental balance. This year has been very tiring mentally, I have faced many challenges off the field. It affected my tennis. After Wimbledon, I felt much better on the court. I found the level I was looking for. In the last two tournaments I’ve played, the level has been very high in Tel Aviv and Astana.
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When you earn so much, what motivates you every day, what gives you the desire to reproduce so much effort every day?
This is a great question. To maintain this level, you have to sacrifice a lot and be completely devoted to your sport. The life of a tennis player is not easy because you are always on the plane, in the hotels, never at home. It’s even harder with kids. Like everyone else, there are days when I don’t feel very motivated with the idea of producing maximum effort with a racket in my hand. But now, I’m looking for inspiration every day to improve my game, that’s what got me playing again on the pro circuit 20 years later. Then I have the ambition to win the biggest championships and make a mark in the history of our sport. I am happy and honored to be in a position to mark the history of our sport at this very special time, perhaps the greatest motivation.
In Turin, during the Masters, you can equal Roger Federer’s record, is that part of your ambitions?
This is one of my biggest goals, but two weeks from now. I’m here in Bercy for the moment. It is one of the biggest tournaments on the ATP Tour. I have great respect for this tournament and I feel very positive emotions when I return here to Bercy. I’m confident. I can’t think too much about Turin right now, I still have time. I tend to focus on the present moment. It’s important for me.
What do you particularly like about Bercy?
I love the conditions here, I love the city. There is Roland-Garros and Bercy in Paris, the city is full of this tennis culture. The public watches and appreciates tennis in Paris and even in France in general. I feel this energy, it gives me even more motivation on the field. The tournament is also scheduled for the last weeks of the season and I want to finish well. It is one of my favorite tournaments.
“The discussion about the GOAT? I’ll leave that to others”
You always come to tournaments well prepared, what’s your secret?
We all have choices to make on a daily basis, if you want to devote your life to something specific, you will prioritize it and make the necessary sacrifices. This sport is not a job, it is a passion, I love tennis. My eight-year-old son Stefan plays tennis every day. He is very interested in tennis, he wants me to play with him every day. This is a new motivation for me that I didn’t have before. Every day I look for something new that gives me extra motivation and pushes me to keep going.
Which finale impressed you the most?
Physically against Nadal in 2012, at the Australian Open and mentally against Federer at Wimbledon in 2019, two finals for very special but different reasons.
Do you ever dream of these matches?
Especially this final against Roger at Wimbledon, with these two game points I saved. There were 40-15 of them. I remember him advancing his serve to close the away serve and he served on the T. I thought it was over, but there was a permit. A little luck is sometimes necessary.
Can you describe this emotional moment that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer shared on their retirement?
It was a special, unique moment. Everything he does on and off the field is incredible. I have a lot of respect for him. Frankly, on the field, he was first and foremost an opponent, an opponent, I’m a professional, I want to win the match. But that night, the rivalry faded into the background. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. Thank you Roger, thank you for everything you do for our sport. Our rivalry with Nadal is still alive, this moment is yet to come, neither for him nor for me. I hope one day I can leave like Roger, it was a really good moment.
When you saw Roger Federer retiring, did you consider yours?
To be honest, I don’t think concretely about retirement yet. When I retired during the Laver Cup, I mainly thought of having my biggest opponent on the field, it gave me the idea. I hope to recognize this beautiful feeling. Later, when that moment will come, I do not know. As late as possible. I feel good on the field, I won the Grand Slam again this year, it’s not time to think about retirement yet.
Who is the GOAT (note, the greatest player in history), are you?
There are many factors to consider in this GOAT discussion, I’ll leave that to others, but as I said, I’m very excited to make history in the sport.