Djokovic: “Beating Thiem was a huge challenge”

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

Novak Djokovic gave a press conference at the Mutua Madrid Open after progressing to the tournament’s final by defeating Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals (7-6[2], 7-6[4]). Here’s what the world number one had to say:

Match analysis: “It was a very important match for me, a very important win against one of the best players in the world this year, especially on clay with wins against Nadal and Federer. And winning the tournament in Barcelona. He’s in great form. They were very difficult conditions to play in. These are the fastest conditions that I’ve played in this tournament so far. Very heavy balls were coming from his side and next to Rafa he probably is the player with most spin and rotation on the ball, so it’s very hard to dictate the play and stay close to the line which was obviously the tactic coming into the match.

I knew that I needed to be closer to the line and try to dictate the play, mix up the pace. I didn’t want to give him too much time. If he has a lot of time, he is as good of a player as you can get on this surface. So, it worked, it worked well, especially in the important moments. I thought I held my nerves well. It was a very close match. It could have gone either way, absolutely. And it would be deserved if he had won the match. He was a break up in both sets. Maybe I should have closed it out when I was serving for it at 6-5, but I got a little bit nervous and made some unforced errors. Then we got into a tiebreak and in both tiebreaks I thought I was calm, I was composed, I played the right shots and I read his serve well. So my serve percentage dropped in the second set and I wasn’t serving that well. But when I needed it in the tiebreak, I got it, so that was obviously very encouraging”.

Beating Thiem on clay: “It was a huge challenge because he was in form, he beat Roger (Federer) yesterday, and won Indian Wells and Barcelona playing great and beating Rafa on clay. So, I thought coming into the match that he was the favourite to win it. That’s why it’s a great win for me. I’m really pleased that I won against Dominic who is in top shape and in the semi-finals of a big event like this, in conditions that are quite favourable to someone who plays his style with a lot of spin. As I said I’m very satisfied and, hopefully, I can have another great match tomorrow”.

His lob shot in the game: “Yes, that was definitely one of the most exciting shots I played under the circumstances. I mean, the ball kind of passed me already and I just managed to kind of do a flick of the wrist and basically place it perfectly in the corner, so it was the point of the match for sure”.

Possible final against Nadal: “With the tennis that I’ve played today, I feel like I’m ready, I’m ready for that challenge, and Rafa is always an ultimate challenge in any tournament on clay. I think if I get to play him, this match was a good lead-up to that because Dominic also plays with a very heavy spin. Of course, Rafa is a lefty. But the pace and rotation of the ball is similar to Rafa’s in style. So, I’m looking forward to it. Obviously, he’s got to beat Tsitsipas tonight, who is also not an easy opponent to play against. He’s in form. A young player who is already top ten. It’s a final. Playing Rafa in the finals of Madrid is as big of a challenge as you can get right now. And I’m looking forward to it. I already had the experience of playing him in the finals here. Hopefully I can be at my best because that is what is going to be needed to win”.