Novak Djokovic defeated Gilles Muller 6-4 7-5 7-5 on Monday night in two hours and eight minutes.
In a moment Nole stumbled on the baseline, he scuffed his knuckles on the ground and had to call for the trainer to have two miniscule grazes tended to. Novak had a sorely-poorly, hurty hand and he needed a sweetie to make it better.
“I just tried to make him play an extra shot,”. “He has a very difficult serve to read. It’s difficult when you haven’t played someone, it took me some time. It was a good performance tonight and what stands out is the serve – I got a lot of aces and a lot of free points.”
Nole will face Milos Raonic in QFs on Wednesday: “I played Milos finals of Bercy last time,”. “I know what to expect. We practice a lot. We live in the same place. We’re good friends. He’s very confident. He’s been playing some great tennis in last 15 months. He deserves to be where he is now, top 10, coming closer to top five of the world. Tough one. Definitely a tough one. I need to be at my best, top of my game, in order to win that match.”
Press conference Transcript:
Q. Strange that you’ve never played him before, you’ve both been on the tour for years. Was it difficult for a little while to work him out?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it was. I got the crucial three breaks at the important moments, especially in the second and third at 5-All, managed to play some good passing shots. I was trying just to make him play an extra shot. He takes away the time from the opponent. His serves and volleys, very difficult serve to read. Nice slice serve. I approximately knew what was expected of me. I tried to analyze his game. I did watch him many times. But it’s different when you haven’t played somebody on the court. On the court you actually get to feel what his rhythm is and style of play. So it took me some time. But, you know, overall was a good performance and I think I have to take the positives from tonight and definitely what stands out is the serve. I got a lot of aces, got a lot of free points there. That’s something that obviously encourages me for the rest of the tournament.
Q. What is serve and volley’s future in your opinion? Because he did it tonight successfully.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I go to the net to shake hands (smiling).
Q. What is the future of the tactic?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s a good question. It really depends how the technology is going to advance, what are we going to do with the balls as well. Are they going to become faster or slower? My subjective feeling for the Australian Open, I talked to many players, the last two years the courts or the balls, something out of these two elements have speeded up the game here in Australia. It plays faster. It allows the servers to have more free points, come to the net. On a cold night like tonight, the ball didn’t bounce very much. He tried to chip and come in. He played smart. Made me uncomfortable in some moments on the court. That’s what serve-and-volley players do. You don’t get to see that many serve-and-volley players these days. The future, it’s hard to say if it’s going to go back to what it was 20, 30 years ago. I highly doubt that. Depending on technology and certain changes, if the game becomes a bit faster, the players will adjust to it.
Q. Four matches into your Australian Open campaign, is it fair to say you’re going as well as you would hope for? What is your feeling?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Generally is a positive feeling. I haven’t dropped a set, I’m in the quarterfinals. Yes, I had tough matches the last two rounds, but I had quality opponents. I think I dropped serve only once during the whole tournament. That is a very encouraging fact. I have to motivate myself and obviously use the off days to work on a few things. There are a few things I think I can do better. Overall it’s a positive feeling going into the quarters.
Q. Seven of the top seeds are in the quarterfinals. Only guy missing is Roger. Does that surprise you in an age of great depth and talent?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s not the first time. Most of the big events you expect the top players to go far. So I don’t think it’s that surprising a fact. But obviously it’s surprising not to have Roger in that mix because he’s been there for basically every Grand Slam last 10 years. But, again, all the players who are in quarters have been playing great tennis and they deserve to be there. It’s going to be a good last eight.
Q. How does playing Muller set you up for the next round against Raonic, another big server?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, obviously it helps in terms of having this commitment and focus for the return. But it’s just that he’s right-handed and Muller is left. I’m going to have to adjust to that. But I played Milos finals of Bercy last time. I know what to expect. We practice a lot. We live in the same place. We’re good friends. He’s very confident. He’s been playing some great tennis in last 15 months. He deserves to be where he is now, top 10, coming closer to top 5 of the world. Tough one. Definitely a tough one. I need to be at my best, top of my game, in order to win that match.
Q. Rafa senses that the younger generation coming up are taller and they’re just focusing on serving big and they’re not thinking much. Do you agree?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don’t think only with the serve you are able to be consistently successful and a top player, honestly. Of course, it does help a big deal in your game. Of course it is an advantage if you are able to serve as well as Milos does or Karlovic or Isner, these guys that have big advantage. But again, depending on which surface you play, you got to have at least another shot that is kind of a weapon in your game. I think serve and forehands, those are the two shots that some of the guys like Milos is focusing on. Obviously, if he serves as well as he does, 20, 30 aces average per match, puts a lot of pressure on the opponent’s serve. You take a chance, you double-fault, the set is gone. These kind of matches are very challenging mentally for us to play against servers like that.
Q. About the top seven of the eight coming through, the one that isn’t a seed is Nick Kyrgios. It was Australia Day. What have you made of his progression?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Fantastic job he has done here in the tournament first round, going through some physical pain on the court, then managing to win in five last match against Seppi. I watched a little bit. It was high-quality tennis. He’s showing some emotion on the court and the crowd gets into it. He has a lot of support. He’s also showing some mental strength in the tough moments. That’s a virtue that he possesses and he’s got to nurture that in order to be where he wants to be. I’m sure he has high ambitions in his career, in his life. He’s got the shots. He’s got the game. Especially here in Australia, he’s got home-court advantage. Anything is possible with Nick.
Q. Do you think Milos has improved the intangible things as well? For a while he was considered not as good an athlete as you guys.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He’s very disciplined player, always works out. Always spends a lot of time in the gym, off the court, preparing himself, his body, for tough battles. Does spend a lot of time for the recovery, as well, preparation, prevention. He’s got a very good team of people around him. I know the people who are around him. I’ve worked with them as well. It’s a good team. Sooner or later if you have quality, you have a good team of experts around you, you have that discipline and commitment to what you need to do on a daily basis, the results are inevitable.
Q. I don’t know if you knew, but Goran Ivanisevic was helping out Jaziri here because he needed help.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Because we were on the same team for IPTL. Go Royals, Dubai Royals.
Q. Talk about that.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s great from Goran that he was helping him out. Jaziri is a fantastic fellow. He’s a friend of ours. We all got closer during the IPTL league. We had fun, good moments on the tennis court. Every time I get to see the team members from the team we played for, we always kind of remind ourselves of those moments. I guess that was one of the reasons why Goran was there, because they got close, became friends. He did great. I think he’s the first Tunisian player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam. He has a lot of talent, just needs to work a lot more.