Novak Djokovic arrived in Argentina yesterday, after a stop in Chile on Wednseday, where he played an exhibition match as part of the farewell to Nicolás Massú.
After meeting with the fans at the airport, where he took time to sign autographs and take some photos with those present to greet him, the Serbian made his way to a school in Flores, where he gave a tennis clinic to 200 kids, before heading to La Rural to meet with the media.
An amazing end to his season
During his press conference, the World n°2 came back on his fantastic end of the season, which he finished on an impressive 24-match winning streak:
“It was a long year for me, and for Nadal especially. After the U.S. Open final I didn’t lose a match and I had definitely the best two and a half months in the whole season. I played great tennis lately. Unfortunately we lost the Davis Cup final, in Serbia, at home, even though I won my two matches but still, I have to be very satisfied with the way I played lately, and the way I handled pressure, and the way I confronted the big challenges, the big matches, especially against Nadal in the London finals and Beijing, and also against del Potro in the finals of Shanghai. I won some big matches then gained some confidence.”
“I think that the whole season was played, on my side, at a very high level, even though the three big matches in a period of three months, I lost: Roland-Garros semifinal against Rafa, U.S. Open final against Rafa, and Wimbledon final against Murray. Those three matches were tough for me, emotional losses. After I lost the U.S. Open final I sat down with my team and I was thinking about what it is that I did wrong and what it is that I need to work on mentally or game-wise in order to improve my game, in order to get myself to win these big matches again. I was working on it, of course, and obviously that work paid off. After I had the last two and a half months of the season.”
The dream remains the French Open
Djokovic lost the number one ranking to Rafael Nadal in China. However, despite joking that he will “train like Rambo in order to get it back”, his dream is very different, and so is his priority:
“I want to prioritise the Grand Slams”, he declared. “The Grand Slams are the biggest tournaments that we have in our sport. They carry the most value and I want to try and win every Grand Slam that I play.
“I know that the rankings are important but not as much as the Grand Slams for me so I know that if I win two or three Grand Slams, the rankings will automatically follow.
“I will try to set up my own form and prepare for these particular tournaments.
“Roland-Garros is the only Grand Slam I never won. Of course, I would be very happy to do that next year or any other year. But the biggest challenge, obviously, is to win against Nadal. He has won so many times in Paris. But this year we played a very long match. I was very close to winning. It gives me more confidence that I’m getting closer to win against him in this tournament. So I will keep on working and hope that I will, in the end, lift that trophy.”
Del Potro: a contender
If Djokovic is part of tennis’s Big Four, along with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, he doesn’t discard that one player could very well become a serious contender for Grand Slam titles: Juan Martín del Potro.
“I think that del Potro possesses a great quality”, said the Serbian. “He won a Grand Slam in 2009 at the U.S. Open. I think that after the top 4 players who were dominating the tennis for the last five, six years, that del Potro is definitely the one who can break into that top 4-top 3 in the world. He has that quality, he has the big game. He had problems physically for the last five, six years because he’s very tall. So to be able to consistently play well and not get injured and to get the same energy all the time throughout the year… that’s what’s necessary in order to get to the top of men’s tennis. But he has the quality, he has the game, he won against all of us on different surfaces. He has also a mental strength. The spirit of a champion on the court. That’s how I feel. So if he manages to keep on working and to be able to physically sustain without any injuries he can definitely be a big threat or actually one of the candidates to win Grand Slams, next year and every other year. “
Difficult to disagree with such a statement.
Today: the Calafate
If neither Djokovic nor Rafael Nadal will be playing exhibition matches today, they will be at the Calafate, part of the Perito Moreno glacier, to play an exhibition of mini-tennis on a boat, at 16:00 local time (14:00 ET).