Q. After the season you had last season, there’s only one way it can improve in terms of Grand Slams. Are you confident you can do that this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s only the beginning of the season. It’s too early to talk about what I can or can’t do later in the season. I’m here to focus on Australian Open. I think, as all the players taking part in this year’s first Grand Slam, I would like to do the best as I can and fight for the trophy.
2015 was the best season and best year of my life undoubtedly. I enjoyed every moment spent on the court. I’ll try to obviously carry that confidence and high level of performance that I’ve had, especially towards the end of the year, into the new season. The opening week of the year in Doha went extremely well for me. I haven’t dropped a set. I’ve been preparing well, taking some time to really work on certain things, get a good foundation, good base for the long season that includes Olympic Games, which of course is one of the top priorities for me and many other players.
Hopefully I can play many matches. That means that I would do well. If I am able to do the same or better, like 2015, I’m not sure. Honestly, as I said, it’s just the beginning. I try to take one tournament at a time.
Q. What are the good feelings you get here every year when you come here, having won five times?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think most of the players really enjoy being here in Australia, in Melbourne. It’s a country and city that nurtures sport’s values. Whether it’s professional athletes you see along the way, the sports facilities that are magnificent around here, or just the regular people that jog, spend a lot of time outdoors, take care of themselves.
So when you’re in an environment like this, you feel motivated, you feel inspired to be here, to actually perform at your best. This being one of the four most important and prestigious tournaments we have in sport, of course it always does in a way extract the best out of each player.
In my case, this has been the most successful Grand Slam tournament, and probably one of my two, three most successful tournaments of my career. I won it five times.
Every time I go back to Rod Laver Arena, I have these memories come back to me from the first win back in 2008, of course, some of the epic matches I’ve played on that court.
Again, I’ll try my best, as anybody else. I’m here to start from the very beginning, to start from the scratch, and see where it takes me.
Q. You said you’d been working on a lot during the off-season. What does the world No. 1 need to work on?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, there are times when you have to be able to switch off and not really work. I equally value the recovery and downtime as much as I value the work itself and the preparation and training for the performance.
So I think that right balance in understanding where is that balance, where is that optimum for you, is the key I think to every success.
I’ve tried to recharge my batteries, spend as much time with my family as possible. I basically finished the season in London. I had a couple weeks holidays, haven’t touched the racquet. That’s important. Obviously tennis is my life. I enjoy playing it. I play a lot of tennis. There are not many days in the year when I don’t have a racquet in my hands. I actually always look forward to that off-season period because it gives me some peace and serenity, allows me to do something different, direct my attention to some other passions and hobbies, just directions of thoughts.
That I think also then later on allows me to be fresh, to play at my best when I need to.
Q. What have you seen of your first-round opponent? Seems to be a star of the future.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, he’s one of the rising stars of the tennis world. I haven’t seen him play too much, honestly. I know that he’s a tall fellow. He hits pretty solid from back of the court.
He doesn’t have maybe as powerful of a serve as you would expect for his height. But I’m going to, of course, do a little bit more of analysis and research there and get myself ready.
I mean, we talk about the pretournament, pre-season kind of mindset and approach each year. Especially having an opponent who is young, who has nothing to lose, he wants to show to the world that he deserves to be there. Of course, that makes it even trickier for me.
I need to try to be going out on the court with the right intensity from the very beginning.
Q. An Italian former player Furlan became the director of the Serbian tennis. Did you suggest something like that? You had nothing to do with that? What do you think?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s too many questions, I’m sorry (laughter).
Yes, well, I participated in the process of finding someone who is adequate, who can be as good an expert and responsible enough to take care of the Serbian Tennis Federation from the expert, technical part.
We thought, after talking with many people around the tour, that he’s the right person to do the job that he accepted to do.
I have no other interest in the Tennis Federation of Serbia or with him personally. But to maintain this level of popularity and success in Serbia in the years to come, I’m just trying to contribute as much as I can from my side into the future of Serbian tennis because unfortunately we still don’t have the National Tennis Center, we still don’t have the system in place that actually would support that bright future for our sport.
The success that we are having now obviously didn’t have anything to do with any kind of system. So we’re trying to follow the models of other countries that had tradition and history of success throughout decades, like Australia, for example, that has I think a terrific junior development program, a structure in place that actually supports young players.
That was the whole purpose of getting Renzo in, trying to diversify the expertise in the Federation.
Q. The weather is supposed to be pretty hot tomorrow for the first round. Is it a bit of a concern for you when you have to play in the heat or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You got to get yourself ready for whatever is coming your way. I think Melbourne weather is very unpredictable. They call it a city of four seasons in one day. You spend the off-season training hard, getting your endurance level to that extent where you can actually handle these conditions.
Of course, sometimes it’s very difficult to handle them. If it goes over 40 degrees. Again, you’re not the only one on the court. There’s an opponent across the net. He’s, of course, handling it as tough as you are handling it. You got to keep that in your mind and try to be tough.
Whatever is coming our way tomorrow, I’ll try to be ready for it.
Q. If the seedings are right, it’s going to be you against Andy in a fortnight’s time. A big ‘if’. He says if his wife goes into labor between the semifinal and final, he would head back to the UK for the birth of his first child. If it was you, would you do the same thing? Does family come first? What do you think of his intentions?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: First of all, I think it’s very difficult to talk about what can happen in two weeks’ time. We have to be respectful of all the other 126, plus Andy and me, players that are in the draw here willing to do equally as well as we do.
Considering his situation with AmÃ©lie, of course I support and I agree with his decision. I would do the same. I just became father almost 15 months ago. I understand the position that he’s in.
I was not in the Grand Slam. I was still kind of in dilemma whether my wife would go into labor not. I was actually in China. It was 2014. I didn’t know actually whether it was going to happen or not. I was ready to pack my bags and go.
Again, it’s a very sensitive subject to talk about. It’s very individual. You got to respect the decision of an individual, especially of somebody who is in his position.
Of course, he’s one of the favorites to win this trophy. Australia, he’s been playing really well last season. But yet again, he understands that there are some other priorities in life. I’m glad he’s thinking that way. I wish his wife and him all the best.
Q. You speak many languages. How has that helped you grow as a person? When did you learn English? Would you encourage English-speaking players to learn other languages?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely, I would. I think it serves well. In life, especially if you’re traveling a lot, if you are having a kind of a lifestyle that a tennis player does, you get to see many different countries, places, cultures in the world.
I think it’s very respectful in a country where you are going as a visitor to learn at least the basic phrases. It changes the kind of energy and vibe that you get to feel from the people who are communicating with you.
It’s one of the reasons I think that motivates me to actually try to learn at least basic things of certain languages. I don’t speak too many languages. But kind of to communicate, I speak a few. It helps mostly from like the human relations point of view. I think that’s the whole point.