Madrid, Spain, May 7, 2012 - World No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic attended his first press conference today in front of a jam-packed audience all eager to speak with the man himself. Yesterday the Serbian star withdrew from a scheduled press conference after citing that he was not feeling very well but returned today feeling better and ready to answer some questions with brutal honesty.
When the Australian Open champion was questioned about his health in regards to yesterday, Djokovic simply replied:
“Good. Apologies for missing the press conference yesterday.”
The defending champion has not played a tournament since losing to Rafael Nadal in Monte-Carlo and he withdrew from his home country tournament in Serbia:
“I’ve had time since my last tournament in Monte Carlo to regroup and to prepare for what is coming up. I had to withdraw from my hometown tournament because of the circumstances I was in. I didn’t find that it was the right time for me to perform in another tournament and I wasn’t emotionally ready, so I got that extra week to rest, prepare and practice.”
After a fantastic 2011, all the weight of expectation has been heavily dumped on the shoulders of Djokovic and he has a busy couple of weeks coming up to defend both Masters 1000 titles in Madrid and in Rome.
“I try to take one tournament at a time. I had a very good 2011 and especially winning here and in Rome back to back, so there are certain expectations, but I have learnt how to deal with it. I just want to take play very slow, step by step and see how I go here.”
This week has also been surrounded by talk of the blue clay and how the players are adjusting to it.
“This tournament has done a great job in the last couple of years as they have invested a lot in this complex as it was an indoor event and 2009 I think was the first year we had the clay court event in Madrid. It’s definitely interesting for everybody to see what is going to happen this week.”
Novak Djokovic is no exception when it comes to players disliking the change of colour, but more importantly, the world No.1 dislikes how the change occurred without the blessing or consultation from any of the players and he did not shy away from expressing how he feels:
“My opinion is that it’s different; there are certain differences in comparing the blue clay to the red clay. The only thing that is a little disappointing from the players stand point is that this was decided without players agreement. I hadn’t tested the court and from what I know most of the top players have not tried blue clay and if you don’t have especially the top players testing the court and at least agreeing the change that should mean something. They should have a value in what they say, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I’m not blaming the tournament because they are fighting for their own interest, I’m sure that the ATP should have done a better job in representing the players rights and protecting what they want and what they say. I just hope for the sake of all the players that we will not have injuries and that we can have a decent week of tennis.”
The mood lightened in the press conference when Djokovic discussed his up and coming charity match in July against Rafael Nadal at the San Bernabeu stadium in Madrid and laughed off any questions of it being difficult to play Rafa in Spain.
“No, look I don’t look at him in that way [as a rival], I never did. Yes we are rivals [on the court], but we respect each other and are good friends. I think this event is a good opportunity for the people to understand that tennis represents a sport of fair play, a giving attitude and obviously I’m very privileged to be part of this exhibition. I cannot imagine what it is going to look like if the stadium is full for our event! I’m always trying and always happy to help a good cause and the Real Madrid foundation and Rafa’s foundation are doing a good job in helping people in need.”
Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.