(September 9, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Posting player interviews throughout the day as allowed.
Note from the US Open Media Operations Guide as why Tennis Panorama News is allowed to post transcripts:
Friday, September 9, 2016
N. DJOKOVIC/G. Monfils
6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Strange match out there in that it seemed like you were both kind of fighting your bodies at times. Talk a little bit about the elements out there and how you were feeling.
GAEL MONFILS: Strange match why?
Q. It looked like physically you guys were both laboring at times. Was the heat getting to you?
GAEL MONFILS: I think it was hot and humid, but somehow I think also at one moment of the game it was very physical; was good rallies. Whenever it’s like that it’s never easy to recover quick, like 25 seconds. For sure, the heat help, I mean, not really help us, but I think also that was the way the match goes.
Q. Starting early in this match it seemed at times you were having problems competing. What was going on for you physically and psychologically?
GAEL MONFILS: What do you mean, competing?
Q. You didn’t seem to be able to give it your full effort.
GAEL MONFILS: No, at the beginning I think, you know, Novak was playing good. I didn’t serve great, you know. It was very quick 5-0. I get to change a little bit, you know. I get to change. That’s a little bit tough, because for sure people are not really ready to see that. You know, because, you know, why I will stay and lose 6-0 and not change anything?
So, yeah, definitely I try to get in his head. You know, try to create something new for him, you know, to see. And that was it. When the guy is too good, you know, playing clean and you’re playing very bad, I mean, not that good, you know, you need to change.
At the end, that’s why I think it was necessary, and I almost get back to the first set.
Q. Were there any times that you were not able to try your best?
GAEL MONFILS: I think I try my best every time. He was just too good.
Q. Do you think that strategy of trying to upset Novak didn’t work, probably? Obviously in the first set, and yet later on you competed very well. The third set, for instance, seemed far more successful.
GAEL MONFILS: I think it work, you know. You just don’t want to see it. If no one is doing that, you know, everybody is like, Play tennis like this. You have to do like this.
It’s okay, you know. We can change a little bit. We can, you know — it’s not only one way to play tennis, you know. When the guy is hitting clean and you’re not serving good — and actually, I wasn’t returning good — yeah, you just show him. You stand in the middle of the court. Start to double fault a little bit.
Then you give him very slow ball, but could I run, you know. And then he come to the net. I pass him. Was great strategy. What do you mean? I think I started 5-0 and then I was like 5-3, 15-40, and was bad. I think I guess. When I try a little bit to play “original” tennis is where he kill me.
Q. Have you had opponents do that to you, as well, change up the tactics?
GAEL MONFILS: No, because everyone not doing it because of all the question they gonna receive and all the — is not natural, and I know it is not natural. Because first question is like you’re not competing. Fuck, yes, I’m competing, you know. Even I’m like at my best actually. The guy is too good. I just have to change, you know.
As I always say, the change is guts, you know. It’s like people told me, Ah… No, I think I’m gutsy to try that, you know, against the world No. 1 of the world, you know. 5-0, okay, I show you that I play none academic way.
And then I won’t win a match like that, but I can win maybe 15 minutes, maybe two more games, one more games. I can push him a little bit to defend also myself, more confidence, and put him out his balance.
You know, it was a great strategy, I think.
Q. Good US Open. Congratulations.
GAEL MONFILS: Thank you.
Q. You once said that my culture is to be very fun and to enjoy life. In the big picture of your career, how important is it to have fun and to be creative for you?
GAEL MONFILS: I think it’s natural, you know. It’s not how important I think is like this. I think everything I do in my life I try to have fun, and I try to be creative on the tennis court, outside the tennis court.
So for me it’s just myself on the court.
Q. How are you creative outside the court?
GAEL MONFILS: I create music; I create painting; I create whatever I want to create. I create, what you say, clothes. I create, I don’t know, dance move. I create anything.
Q. It sounds like you were prepared for this question about the competition and your strategy and everything else. Did anybody say anything to you when you came off the court to make you aware that so many people, including John McEnroe, including some of the commentators, were kind of angry and really disappointed about this whole issue?
GAEL MONFILS: Yeah, for sure. When I decide to play like that for half a set I knew it is gonna be different. But at the end I’m not playing for those people. I play for myself. I try to win, you know.
At the end, you know, everybody have an opinion of something that not in my body, not in my mind. They not see what I’m saying at that moment, you know.
They will tell me, Oh, he’s so talented, so physical. Look, he’s playing like this in the third set and he won it, blah, blah, blah, blah. But at the time and at 5-0, it wasn’t that. I tell you. I just change something, you know.
Is not academic, but I try to win. I’m sorry, every time, you know, to hear that I get destroyed. For what? At the end, for what? To tell me I’m so talented I waste my time.
Sorry, I’m not wasting my time. I think I know how to try to play the best, and to play the best sometime is to improve.
And when the guy is too good, you know, you change. Not academic, but I try to be better.
If those people talking, talking, come help me. You know, I’m more than happy to have them help.
But I feel that, you know, they want to help me, he’s still Novak. He’s still Novak to play.
Q. Is there anything personal between you and John McEnroe? He’s been criticizing you all tournament, and today he was pretty tough on you in the first two sets. Called you unprofessional and said he never saw anyone lacking effort. Is there something in the past between you two? Are you surprised he’s so hard on you?
GAEL MONFILS: Well, I just know — I don’t know. You know, I like John. I think he’s a great person. I mean, I have nothing personal to him, so I’m very sad to heard that. I’m very sad to learn that such a legend criticize me, because at the end what I can say to John is, you know, John, I want to be the best. It’s tough, you know. And I try my best.
I’m sorry if you think I’m unprofessional, but I guess I’m working, I’m learning, you know. I think I’m failing, for sure, a lot, but I try to stand up. You know, it’s tough, because when he call me unprofessional he calls my coach unprofessional, calls my physio unprofessional, calls my physic — all my team, actually, unprofessional. Is a bit tough, you know.
And he knows what it is. I’m more than happy to talk with him, you know. For sure, you know, it’s easy to punish me because I not win anything, you know. Such an easy thing. I do different stuff. I’m happy. I’m always with a smile.
I make it easy. But I think John knows that if I want to be in the semifinal of the slam, anything he can say, if I not play top seed or whatever, you know, I won couple matches and I have been trained hard, you know.
So I just very sorry bring that, and tell to John that I’m more than happy to talk with him. You know, is someone that I always care about what he is saying, but I’m just sad that he criticize me that easy.
Q. Was it a spontaneous decision to change in the first set, or do you think that comment about Djokovic knowing how your match is going to go against him that would be something you could do?
GAEL MONFILS: Yeah, I knew definitely before the match is something I could do.
Actually, you know, I know it’s not good, but I made a sign to my coach and say, Okay, I’m going to Plan B, actually. (Laughter.)
I made it pretty clear, you know. And I knew it, because I have done that in the past against him, against Novak. You know, I played him, and actually, all the time I get little grip on him, you know, a little bit to get back in the game. Is always to play like that.
So, yeah, I was aware that if he was doing that in my way I have to play a little bit like that.
Q. How did you feel about being booed in the first game of the third set when you double-faulted?
GAEL MONFILS: It’s part of the sport, you know. I think for sure people was expecting a tougher battle, you know. And then, you know, it was strange, because as you say, maybe they will listen to commentary and say I’m unprofessional, I’m poor, whatever. So it gets very quick to people.
And then it’s tough, you know, tweeting during the match saying, and maybe John McEnroe say, Such a disgrace.
At the end, you know, if I have a mic, I would say to the audience that stop saying that, you know, I’m unprofessional. The guy is killing me, you know.
I’m just embracing the fact the guy is too good for me, and I try to switch strategy. Then somehow, you know, I had this small opportunity and I get it, and then I think the crowd was much better.
Q. You talked about changing things up. There were a few times late in the first set where on your return you came really far in. Was there anything that you saw in his serve that made you think, that would work, or was it just, you were trying anything?
GAEL MONFILS: When?
Q. On your returns, a few times late in the first you were coming — were really shallow halfway to the service line almost. Was that preplanned? Anything in his serve that made you think that would work, or was it just a random…
GAEL MONFILS: Because I know Novak somehow is not too confident with his serve now. I think closer you get, bigger the target, and it will force a little bit. And I think that’s why I have done it.
Q. Have there been other matches in the past where someone has tried a very different strategy and thrown off their opponent? Do you know about any of these matches? Does that inspire you? Arthur Ashe against Jimmy Connors.
GAEL MONFILS: And John McEnroe telling me it wasn’t professional? I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I wish I could, you know.
As I say, I have done it because I want to win, you know. I just want to find a solution. Sorry if it wasn’t, I mean, academic, but at the end, you know, when you change, you change with what you got. What I got is my speed.
I got a little bit my instinct and flair and to show down the game, to make him play, to make him come in. That was my flair, and I hit the shot. You know, at the end it was just too good.
N. DJOKOVIC/G. Monfils
6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Gaël just said he tried to get into your brain because he couldn’t get into your game, basically, and that he thought it was starting to work but in the end you were still too good. How did you see these first two sets and how did you win that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it was a strange match, as it always is, I guess, when you play Gaël, who is very unpredictable player. I could expect that in a way. I was 5-Love up in less than 20 minutes, and everything felt great; couple of close games there.
And then just that service game on 5-1, that’s when it started. I was completely caught off guard when he just stood there and chipped the ball back and didn’t do much. If I would get to the net he would go for the passing shot and hit some impossible gets and balls.
But that’s Gaël. That’s the way he plays now. That’s the way he played always. He loves to come up with a variety in his game, and the defense shots. He loves long rallies.
So, yeah, I think I should not have allowed him to come back to the match after two sets to love up and 2-love in the third. That was the momentum shift when I lost my service game. He started believing in himself, and I think the crowd disliked his efforts, I think, towards the end of the second set.
I think he felt like he needs to step it up and start to play better, which he did, and then crowd was behind him. They wanted to see, you know, the long match.
I think we both physically struggled a little bit towards the end of the third and fourth set, beginning of the fourth especially. Long rallies; tense moments, obviously.
But he did try many things. You know, second serve, serve and volley. You know, just a very slow chipped ball in the middle of the court, and then, you know, invites me to the net basically and comes up with some good passing shots.
Sometimes you don’t understand the game, but that’s who he is. I think he actually played best tennis of his life on hard courts this season and the results are showing that.
So it was a good win for me today.
Q. You called him unpredictable and that’s how he always plays. Do you think that’s deliberate and effective strategy or just a personal preference? Is it a compliment to your game that he feels he needs to change it up to throw you off?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Compliment or not, I mean, that’s who he is. As I said, it’s not the first time that he comes out and just tries different shots and different splits and, you know, puts himself in a position to defend and come up with some intriguing points and entertaining points for the crowd.
You know, he loves that entertainment part. He loves to go left and right and jump and slide and all these things. He’s very athletic. I think he’s basically putting everything on the display on the tennis court.
But that’s the way it has been for so many years.
Q. John McEnroe was very critical through a lot of the match about Monfils as being unprofessional, lack of effort. Would you ever characterize a tactic like he used in that sort of way?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, again, it’s a question for him, really. I thought at times that he was, you know, maybe behaving a little bit –you know, for some terms and judgments unacceptable — but, again, I guess that was part of his tactics. If he said that you have to believe him, I guess.
He was 5-Love down with his game and he mixed it up. It seemed like it was a bit of a lack of effort, but then he started playing great. He started playing aggressive. He took chances. He came to the net.
In the end of the day, I thought it was a good match. We played a four-set match. I think the crowd enjoyed it in the end.
Q. How exactly does it feel to be serving at 5-1 in a slam semifinal and then to see your opponent returning your first serve from inside the baseline, slicing everything?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, as I said, you know, again, it was my fault for really — that game was 40-Love — and allowing him really to, you know, just disturb me, you know, with that kind of movement and just a different approach, I guess.
I don’t know how to call that. But, again, I made some double faults and just some — just really wasn’t myself at that game and the next game. I put myself in a really awkward position, you know, to allow him — from 5-Love up to allow him to come back to the set.
But I managed to hold my nerves in 5-3, close the set out; second set was good. Served I think 88, 89% first serves in. Everything was working. Started off the third well.
Then the momentum shifted. He felt his chance was there. He got it. Crowd got into it. Physically we both felt, you know, the humidity and the tough conditions today. So it was a tough one to be part of, especially in the third and midway through the fourth set.
But it’s semifinals. Again, you can’t expect just somebody to hand you the win. Just very glad to overcome that.
Q. Do you think he got inside your head at all during that set?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, that one or two games I allowed, yeah. But, again, it happens, I guess, because it was just so uncharacteristic and very unusual to see a player in the semifinals of a Grand Slam at the beginning, basically first set, just start to, you know, move around and play like that or behave like that.
But, again, it shouldn’t be my concern. What my concern is, you know, is my side and what I need to do. I allowed myself to drop the concentration and to lose the momentum for a little bit, but luckily I got back.
Q. We’re talking about Gaël’s play. Talking about your own, how do you assess the way that you played the match today? Thoughts going into the final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, I thought I played a very solid, very sturdy, 2-love in the third. And then, five games lost, two service games lost. Just all of a sudden wasn’t, you know, as effective from the baseline. He stepped it up, I think. That was the difference, that he started going for his shots rather than just putting the ball back in play.
And, yeah, that’s when the momentum shifted. But, again, in the fourth I just managed to hold my nerves and be patient and close out the match in good fashion.
So, you know, I have an extra day now to recover and get ready for the finals, which is, you know, where definitely I desire to be whenever I come to the Grand Slam. You know, I want to be able to put myself in position to fight for the trophy, and everything that has happened in the tournament so far is behind me now.
My thoughts are only on Sunday’s match.
Q. You’re an imaginative, free-form kind of guy, but he’s something else. You have known him since you were kids. He brings a lot of joy to people. What makes him special? Dances to his own drummer, talk about him as a guy, a free-form spirit.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, you know, he’s one of the most charismatic guys on the tour. You know, he brings a full display of athleticism. Just different variety in the game. He’s an all-round player.
In the end of the day, he enjoys playing in the big stage. Enjoys playing tennis. And you can see that. That’s why the fans love him. That’s why he gets the crowd involved. You know, sometimes, as his opponent it’s not easy to handle his up and downs, but, you know, he’s very important asset to our sport. He brings that joy, as you said.
Q. Do you ever say to yourself, What do I do now? Get a little frustrated?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have played him 13 times, I think, in our professional careers, so I know him well. I know what to expect. But again, even having that kind of awareness and coming into a match, it still happens that, you know, these kind of things that he does don’t go away unnoticed, you know.
Sometimes it can disturb you; sometimes it can bring a smile to your face. It really depends on you, how you react to that.
Q. Obviously as the first into the final we don’t know who you’ll face next. First with Stan, when you go against him, what is the biggest challenge for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I haven’t played Stan in some time now. He’s a big match player. He loves to play in the big stage against big players, because that’s when he, I think, elevates his level of performance in his game. Just gets much better.
I think he was very close to lose in second or third round in this tournament some match points and he was struggling with his form.
But the last couple of matches he’s getting in that shape that is, you know, winning him big matches. I lost to him in finals of French Open and I lost to him in quarterfinals of Australia when he won, as well.
So both of these Grand Slam trophies that he has he won against me on the way. So I know right now, having two Grand Slam titles and Olympic medal and Davis Cup under his belt, he believes in himself more. He doesn’t get, I think, too stressed by the bigger occasion. He actually likes playing in big matches.
So, yeah, he’s very powerful, powerful player. Big serve. Probably the best, most effective one-handed backhand in the world now. You know, he can play it all. You know, he has that variety in his game. He can be very dangerous for everybody.
Q. And if you do face Kei, how would you assess his game and the challenge it poses for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, Kei is in form, and winning bronze in Rio, playing finals in Toronto, and winning here against Andy Murray who was in tremendous form for last couple of months.
Kei is now very established, top 5, top 7 player in the world for last couple of years. He’s always there. He played in US Open finals; he won against me in semis that year. He also doesn’t really get too frightened by the big occasion. He’s actually looking forward to play the big matches. He’s very committed daily.
You can always see him in the gym or the practice courts. Michael Chang is there. He’s got a full squad of experts around him to, you know, to perfect his game.
It’s good to see that. He’s the best Asian tennis player in history of Asia. He’s got a lot of support. Yeah, he’s hungry for success, no doubt. He’s never won a Grand Slam but he’s always there. You know, he’s very close. I’m sure that, you know, he would be very, very motivated to play in the finals if I get to play him.
Q. Given what you said about Gaël, did he piss you off today or were you aggravated at your inability to see what you had to do to solve the riddle?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I had different phases, I must admit. (Smiling.) I had phases when I was pissed off, phases when I was entertained by what he’s doing, and phases where I was upset with myself for allowing him to — you know, whatever he does to disturb my game and my rhythm.
So I went through it all. It was a great theater experience today.
Q. Could you ever see yourself doing that to an opponent?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, we’re all different. You know, it’s hard to speak about — I don’t think that — I know Gaël for a long time so I don’t take things in a bad way from him. He’s a good guy, and just probably tactically tried a few things. That’s all.
Q. You said on court immediately after the match that the description was humid, but I’m wondering, how would you characterize or describe this trip to your seventh US Open final.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I obviously — I always wish to get to this match, the final match, whenever, as I said, come to a Grand Slam. I have those kind of ambitions. But specifically, before this Grand Slam there were things that were happening, you know, with my health and physical state that were, you know, making me a little bit skeptical about how the thing is going to go during the tournament.
I just wished for myself to be able to play on the level that I can. I hoped and I believed that as I progressed in the tournament that things would get better, in which they did.
So I was, of course, blessed to have more days off with no match so I could focus on the recovery and work things in my game and take things easily and to get to this phase.
You know, I’m very, very pleased to have achieved this result.
Q. How would you characterize this journey to the final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I just characterized it, but not in one word. It’s hard for me to find a headline. I think you have to pick up from the transcript. Yeah, this time I don’t really have that word. I’m sorry.
Q. 42 years ago, Muhammad Ali invented the rope-a-dope strategy against Foreman; the famous Rumble in the Jungle. Were you familiar with that? Did you recognize possible tactic? Did you have any concern about possibly punching yourself out in the fourth set? Early in the fourth looked like both of you were leaning on the ropes a couple of times. Secondly, and again, speaking of Muhammad Ali, what are your views and thoughts about the role of athlete as entertainer, as well?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Wow. Okay. Thank you for your questions. Trying to make them as short as possible. Very interesting questions.
Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes that ever lived. He was one of the most appreciated athletes that ever lived. Not just because of his achievements, but because of who he was and what he stood for and, you know, the values that he shared with people. He was a people’s champion. That’s what they called him.
So of course it makes me no different than other people towards, you know, the respect of the legacy that he left behind.
But it’s not really I think comparable, boxing and tennis. I mean, it’s one on one, but I wouldn’t like to be in the ring with Muhammad Ali and going with the punches.
But today there was a lot of punches on the tennis ball back and forth. It was really exhausting because, you know, the opponent today I played with loves to stay in the back of the court and always bring another ball back.
Physically we were taking each other to the limit. And, you’re right, that at times it looked like we were really in a tough battle. And The role of athletes as entertainer, yes. I mean, I think, you know, not just entertainment, but the whole picture, you know.
I think athletes have such a privilege to be always in the spotlight. Today’s world of media, you have a lot of attention. You know, you need to use that in a positive way, try to take that as a responsibility to kind of do something valuable with that rather than just spreading that kind of awareness about yourself being a champion and wanting to achieve.
Sure, people want to see you perform at your highest and fight for trophies, but you also can use this platform as an opportunity to share something different, something valuable, something that young kids around the world can use as a great example.
So I think it all fits in, right? Entertainment, the responsibility, human responsibility, the things that I guess have the same direction and same issue.
Q. You mentioned the physical concerns you had coming into the tournament cast against you. Do you have any concerns going into the final, or do you feel like that’s behind you as far as injuries?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Thankfully it’s behind me, so I don’t have any concerns. I have lots of excitement for the finals.
Q. The ripped shirt, how much did that surprise you and how much did it give you an opportunity to kind of forget about tennis for a while?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I can’t blame Uniqlo for that shirt. The quality is very good, by the way. I did rip it once, and then the second time just got out of hand, I guess, in heat of the moment.
But, you know, it felt nice, because my body could breathe a little bit more. (Smiling.)
But, yeah, I guess, you know, these things happen. Sometimes you’ll seen a thrown racquet here and there, a ripped shirt. It’s all in the heat of the battle.
Q. Is it in the garbage?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I guess so. I haven’t seen it ever since.
S. WAWRINKA/K. Nishikori
4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How much did the match the other day take out of you?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I mean, definitely I was a little bit tired, especially in the end. Last two set was really tough.
But I think also he was stepping up a little more from the second set. I think he was missing a lot the first set and also I was playing good tennis, but I think he made some changes and he was start playing better.
I mean, yeah, it’s not easy after playing Andy five sets, but I’m physically — I was almost there. Yeah, I’m disappointed, but I’m really proud of myself, you know, playing four sets again with this condition.
Q. Novak described him as a big match player. He’s come up obviously winning a couple Grand Slams and playing big matches. Talk about facing him today and assessing his performance.
KEI NISHIKORI: You mean Stan?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah, like I said, he was playing much better last couple sets. Well, yeah, I stop moving a little bit. Also, you know, he was playing much powerful tennis.
You know, he start using his backhand a little bit more down the line and angles. I think that was really working for him. For me, I think I was hitting too short and wasn’t making enough first serve.
Yeah, he step up, you know, really in the end. You know, there is reason, you know, he’s been top 5 for a long time now. Yeah, he played some good tennis today.
Q. I have heard quite a few big-named players, including Novak, when we were talking to him earlier, talk about you as a player that really can be a Grand Slam winner. You came close; went to the final. How much does getting this close make you want to go that extra mile to do whatever it takes to win? How hungry are you to get back in the finals?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah, there was only two more matches to go, so I felt really close and playing good level I think these two weeks. Especially beating Andy, you know, this big tournament I think gives me a lot of confidence.
I mean, it’s not easy when you have to play No. 2, No. 3, and, you know, Novak was waiting in the finals. It wasn’t easy job, but, you know, if I could win little easier last few matches I could have little more chance today and maybe in the final.
I think, you know, playing really good, especially big tournaments, the final in Toronto and good in Olympics and semis here, it was good summer.
Q. You mentioned Stan’s backhand and how he used that tonight. Can you describe what it’s like to face Stan’s backhand, which is known as being one of the best shots in tennis.
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah. I think I went too much, little too much to his backhand. He was start using backhand down the line. He can hit angle really well with topspin.
Yeah, definitely I was a little bit struggling with his backhand.
Q. How difficult were the conditions? How grateful were you when they closed the roof?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah, today was really humid. That made me really tough first few sets. Won in second set, but after I think temperature little down and it was little easier.
But still, yeah, it was tough conditions today.
Q. In the second set you have many chances to grab it but end up giving away. How did that affect you emotionally, mentally?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, definitely I had to win the second set if I wanted to win today. I had so many chance with my serve and with his serve games, too.
Yeah, that’s really disappointing, especially second set, I think that was the biggest mistake I did. Yeah, after that he was playing better, so I think gave him little confidence.
But even though, you know, if I win two sets, I had to still win one more set. So with this condition and my condition, it was really tough.
Q. How do you see the final?
KEI NISHIKORI: I don’t know. I think, yeah, Stan is playing good again, but still Novak is No. 1. I mean, yeah, we’ll see.
S. WAWRINKA/K. Nishikori
4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. First US Open final against an opponent you have had some epic battles with. How excited are you?
STAN WAWRINKA: Yeah, I’m really excited. Really happy to make the final. Something amazing for me.
To play Novak, the No. 1 player, it’s always really challenging. But we had some many big memories together, especially in Grand Slams, so it’s going to be an excited match.
Q. You have the beautiful words of Samuel Beckett inscribed on your left forearm. That seems to match your philosophy and inspire you. Now that you’re one match away from being one Wimbledon away from a career Grand Slam…
STAN WAWRINKA: I am too far though. Why we should…
Q. Perhaps the poet Kipling’s words, If you can meet with triumph as well as disaster; and treat those two imposters are just the same…
STAN WAWRINKA: Yeah, it’s good, but you’re going too far with if I win and if I play Wimbledon well one time. No, so far I’m just really happy. I’m enjoying the moment right now after a tough match today. It’s something very special.
The feeling is amazing for me to tell myself that I’m going to play a US Open final. I watched it almost every year, so it’s going to be excited.
Q. When Novak was here before he said that you play your best tennis in the biggest of matches. How are you able to do that?
STAN WAWRINKA: Because the biggest matches, it’s the end of the tournament. Final, semifinal, and I had matches to get confidence to play well match after match.
Yes, I know I have some up and down during the year. I’m not playing my best tennis in every tournament, but I’m trying to work as hard as I can to give me the chance to play well every time I step on the court.
And in Grand Slam is where I want to play my best tennis. Is where I want to be the better player. Always find a way to find my game and to put everything together.
Q. When you’ve won majors you’ve had to go through Novak. What has been the secret to how well you’ve done against him in those situations?
STAN WAWRINKA: Was some amazing match, for sure. The secret is simple: I have to play my best tennis, my best game. He’s the No. 1 player, amazing fighter, amazing player, but I have enough confidence in myself that when I play my best level I can beat him.
Hopefully I can bring that Sunday. But it’s the biggest challenge. When you play Novak, the No. 1 player in the final of Grand Slam, it’s the biggest challenge you can have.
Q. About today’s match, from beginning until beginning of second set Kei seemed dominating, and then you made everything a turnaround. How did you make it? Could you talk about your backhand? How much are you confident and comfortable with your backhand?
STAN WAWRINKA: Yeah, I think Kei start really well the match. I think he was moving really well. He was playing really aggressive. I didn’t find any solution to put my game. He was always dictating. I was feeling uncomfortable on the court. He was coming at the net. He was changing a lot.
I just tried to little by little play a little bit better, a little bit faster, a little bit heavier. I tried to make him run. I think in the middle of the second, that’s when I start to change a little bit who’s the player on the court. He was already inside the court at the beginning, but I turned that little by little.
I saw in the first set that he could also struggle with the heat and humidity today. It was a tough battle physically, and I know if I’m make him tired he’s not going to be as fast or aggressive as he was at the beginning. That was my goal, to play a little bit more aggressive.
Q. You mentioned humidity. We saw the racquet come right out of your hands at one point. Wet, was it, out there?
STAN WAWRINKA: It was really wet. It was tough conditions. I think the four players today, we suffer a lot on the court, that’s for sure.
I was struggling. I was suffering on the court first set, second set, and all the match.
But I just knew that it was important not to show it, to stay there, because I also know that in a five-set match there is some up and down. It’s important to not spend energy by being negative and show the opponent that you’re struggling.
I think today it make a big difference for myself.
Q. Novak lost one final in the last couple years, and that was to you. Will you think about it before the match?
STAN WAWRINKA: Not the match, but the victory. I think for sure he’s gonna give me confidence to tell myself that I know I can do it, because I did it at the French Open final. He knows also that I can play my best tennis in the final of Grand Slam.
But it’s gonna be completely different match. Also the way I arrive in the final, the way I arrive, hopefully we can both play great tennis and make a big final.
Q. You were already 28 years old when you lost 12-10 the Australian Open to Djokovic. Is that the moment when you realized that you were competitive with the top players? Are you surprised that you were the only one who won outside of the Fab Four two slams already, and you could win three?
STAN WAWRINKA: Yeah, for sure that match was something special in my career, especially in the month outside. That’s when I start to believe and realize myself that, yeah, maybe I can beat top player in Grand Slam.
It took me little time, and step by step, I did it step by step by coming back into the top 10, by making first quarter, French, first semifinal.
But for sure this match was important for my career. Then if I’m surprised, yes and no. I’m surprised for sure with what I did winning two Grand Slam. For me it’s… (Discussion about Evian bottle of water.)
Yeah, I’m surprised what I have achieved, for sure, by winning two Grand Slam and being in final again. If I’m surprised? I’m not really surprised to see that the big four have won everything, because it’s been more than ten years.
So if you take out two years it’s still eight years. So during eight years I was looking at them, semifinal, final, every year. So I’m not surprised, because they just — they have been in different level than every other player.
Q. After the match against Del Potro you mentioned that you were a bit tight in your adductor. How was that tonight? Because, if I’m right, I think you have been on the court double the time in this tournament.
STAN WAWRINKA: Yeah, no, I feel good. I feel good. I was quite tired after Del Potro match. I had some, yeah, normal — I was tired the next day, but I didn’t practice. I did just some fitness. I did what I do when I spend too much time on the court. That mean no tennis and just focus on recovery.
But today I was feeling good. I had no pain so far. I’m quite happy with my body where I am, and we will see now in two days. It’s always gonna come later. Hopefully I’m going to be fresh enough with Novak who didn’t have too much time on the court.
Q. You played twice as long as Novak, but today he was compromised by the weather situation; physically was troubled by it. Do you think that stamina will have anything to do with Sunday’s final?
STAN WAWRINKA: Let’s see. I think the fact he didn’t spend too much time on the court compared to myself, I don’t think it’s gonna change much for what I’m going to do and who I’m going to be.
Was struggling with some injury problem before the tournament, so it helped him to be a little bit better. Also didn’t give him in so much time on the court, match time. You can practice as much as you want. Match is not the same.
And we saw today, it was interesting match to see, but Novak is a strong guy. He’s mentally a beast. Is not easy to play him. I’m sure he’s gonna bring him best tennis for the final.
Q. In recent years you and Djokovic are the most exciting matchup in tennis. Why do you think is it? Styles of play match or do your personalities match?
STAN WAWRINKA: Well, I think a little bit of the style of how we play. I think the matchup always been interesting to see because the way we are playing. I’m trying to be aggressive. I can play really hard.
He is amazing defender. And also, where we start. We started with five-set match in Australia a few years ago, 10-8. I was maybe one of the only player who start dominate in two sets and didn’t finish it. I was dominating the match.
And then if you look, then I played my first semifinal in Grand Slam against him here and again five sets. So for sure the fact that we play some long match and some crazy battle puts something different.
Q. Your matchup is not only a particular matchup, but matchup for life. He made you better and you make him better. (Indiscernible.)
STAN WAWRINKA: I’m not sure if I made him better. I think he only lost against me in French Open. I think he’s so good that he always find a way to be better. For sure he made me better. That’s for sure.
Him, because that’s the player I played that well in crazy match in the Grand Slam the first time. And not only him, but the big four, for sure. They made me better. The fact that I tried practice always with them, tried to see what they are doing.
My goal is to push myself until the limit where I can go to be the better player I want. I can. With them, every time I step on the court, even if they are way better in their career, I always have something I need to tell myself. Maybe I can beat them. You need to find a way. If you lose, it’s okay. You go back to practice.
That’s what happened with them. I saw so many players not even thinking they can beat them when they step on the court. I always try to believe in something, that maybe one day I can beat them, and that’s what happen in the past few years.
Q. When you play in a big match at a Grand Slam like today or Sunday against Novak, how important is it for you to be able to rely on your backhand?
STAN WAWRINKA: I don’t see that way. I feel it when I step on the court, how I feel, how I’m going to play, is my backhand going to be there.
But for sure when I play my best tennis my backhand is there, because that’s where I put a lot on my game, on it. But it can happen that sometimes at the beginning of the match my backhand is not there and I need to find other solution.
So I don’t expect my backhand to be at the top since — from the beginning.
Q. You won ten finals in a row.
STAN WAWRINKA: That’s good.
Q. What that means? Is that you’re so confident? And also, you’re so concentrated that every time you play an important match, not just because you put your finger in your head, that you’re concentrated. You do well. Is that the reason, or… Coincidence? Confidence?
STAN WAWRINKA: I won 10 in a row the last two years, and before that I lost many.
So I think it’s part of my career, the way I became a better player. I start to believe better in myself and take more confidence.
Again, as I say, normally when I arrive in the final, I’m full of confidence with myself and what I do during one week or two weeks in that tournament. I know that I can play my best tennis.
Again, I can lose Sunday. It’s still gonna be good to be ten and lose the eleventh one. But in general I know when I arrive in final I’m ready to play my best tennis, and that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I’m trying to do.
But, again, now, when you play Novak, even playing your best tennis you can also lose. So it’s gonna be, I hope, a big match, and hopefully I can keep winning.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Congratulations. I have heard it described as a blind date. I don’t know if you know what that term means, but start out first, can you each tell me what it means to be a Grand Slam champion?
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Well, at this point, yeah, me personally I can’t really believe it yet. It hasn’t really hit me.
I mean, I’m just stunned a little bit at this point. I’m very happy. I think we played a great match today. We did play a great tournament. All the other matches were, yeah, very solid also in the important situations, although we never played together.
So it’s just amazing that even in the finals we could just play the same, you know, stay focused and stick to the system that was working the whole week.
He was, as the British say, cool as a cucumber. He was cooler than me maybe at times. (Smiling.) I was very glad about that.
Q. And your thoughts on being a Grand Slam champion?
MATE PAVIC: Well, it still has to settle down a little bit. I’m still kind of not feeling it at the moment. But, no, I mean, like she said, it was a great week for us. Maybe the story how we ended up playing together, you know, maybe that helped a little bit, because we had no expectations at all, you know.
We just kind of not sure we were gonna play or not. Maybe that helped a little bit.
Yeah, we played all the matches very solid, very good. It was a fun week. It was great.
Q. Can you talk about how you guys came together? I have heard the story, but I’d like to hear it from you guys. Like I say, it’s almost like the perfect blind date.
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Yeah, it’s really kind of a blind date. Honestly, I didn’t know him before. We don’t have too many combined events and I’m just starting to play the big ones, combined events. I have never seen him or heard his name.
I was not sure if I was gonna play because I wasn’t feeling very well at that point. But I still — I mean, I love the game of mixed, so I really wanted to play.
It was still a week till the first match of mixed, so I was hoping that someone would, you know, trust me that I would maybe get better. He was the only one that was very relaxed about the situation and also didn’t have a partner yet. So he didn’t have a lot of options. The cut is kind of high. Weren’t really a lot of girls around that were looking, so… (Smiling.)
MATE PAVIC: I was stuck with her.
LAURA SIEGEMUND: It turned out quite well in the end. So, yeah, that was the situation. And then even when I played my other matches — I had to retire from doubles. It was a day I couldn’t move.
And then singles was hard on me. And even after the singles he thought, I think, that I was maybe just gonna retire and just go home to get better.
MATE PAVIC: Yeah.
LAURA SIEGEMUND: I remember the text like the next — or after my singles. He’s like, So, are we gonna play tomorrow? I was like, Yeah, let’s do it. (Smiling.)
Q. Laura, until a year or two ago you were still juggling tennis and school. Now you are able to focus completely on tennis. How much has that helped your game?
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Honestly, I really think it always helped my game a lot if I had not only tennis on my mind. I kind of need some balance is what I found out for myself. So this season was a little bit tough for me because it was the first time after a couple of years where I had only tennis. Only thing I focused on.
So a great year, of course. Looking at the rankings, also and this title now.
But it is difficult for me. I feel like I need some time off, and if it’s not studying or coaching what I did before, I kind of, you know, make hobbies or whatever. I just take time for other things, which is really important for me.
But, yeah, the first season back full-time pro, it’s a good season.
Q. How do you celebrate winning a Grand Slam? What are both of your plans for tonight?
MATE PAVIC: I don’t know. I have a flight tomorrow evening, so I have the whole night to think about it. Probably go somewhere and celebrate. I don’t know. Don’t know yet.
LAURA SIEGEMUND: I trust his crew to have a good location. They said they have a good location; we just need to win. So we did it.
Q. Celebrating with strangers, right?
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Well, no. I mean, we kind of got to know the Croatian crew a little bit through the week.
Q. What do you think? Is this the beginning of something beautiful together?
LAURA SIEGEMUND: On my side, yes. I don’t know how you feel about it.
MATE PAVIC: Of course, yeah.
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Well, I think we should definitely play more together, and is also the matter of the cut.
MATE PAVIC: Hopefully we will get in Australia and maybe try there also to play.
Q. Just talk about the match today, also.
MATE PAVIC: I think it was a good match. It was very good. They are good. They are solid. They both serving good. Coco is also serving good for the girl. All the other matches the girls were not really serving that good or hitting the ball that good.
I think we were — like I said before, she’s returning very good for the girl, you know. So all the matches that we played, we broke the guy’s serve a lot of times. Like even today Rajeev was serving and we broke his serve twice.
Was putting the balls back, returning good, makes the guy feel pressure and he has to win those games and then it’s not easy to make the point. So I think that make a huge difference in all the matches that we played so far.
Q. Do you guys think the cut system needs to be changed? To me it sounds ridiculous that the US Open champions might not be able to play the Australian Open.
MATE PAVIC: Yeah. Yeah, maybe right. I don’t know if they should change it or not, but usually the cuts are very strong because they always look at the better rankings.
Also depends on a lot of singles guys and girls also, if they sign or not if they want to play.
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Me, personally, yeah, I think it’s hard. I had the situation for quite sometime that I really wanted to play mixed, but I was just out of the cut.
The group of people that have the ranking for that, they are kind of set with each other for a long time already. So if you’re coming from outside it’s very hard to get into that group unless you’re like pushing your own ranking up so much.
So, yeah, I really think it’s a little bit sad, yeah, that even we would have to see now if we get in in the Australian Open, for example. Yeah.
Q. Winning a Grand Slam, what does this do for your confidence moving over to men’s doubles tournaments going forward for the rest of the season?
MATE PAVIC: Well, I don’t know. We will see. It feels great. Of course it’s gonna give you confidence winning a Grand Slam. Even if it’s a mixed doubles, it’s still amazing feeling, you know.
So I had a good year so far. I won like four ATPs. So we’ll see. I hope to just continue like that. Get my ranking a little bit better. My goal is to get top 30 by end of the year to get to the majors of Masters 1000s and all these events. We will see how does it do.
Q. Laura, the same question. Just in terms of obviously being a Grand Slam champion now, what does this do for your confidence and also your goals going forward?
LAURA SIEGEMUND: Um, well, yeah, as he said, it’s always a push in the confidence winning a big thing like that. I think you learn — as a girl, I learn a lot about doubles playing the mixed. I mean, it’s just — everything is faster, even faster than if you play girls doubles, for example.
So you really learn to pick the spots and not be afraid at the net maybe. I mean, I learned a lot this week also where to move and all that, so I think I can use that in the women’s doubles.
Although it’s still a different game. I mean, it is different. But I definitely try to take that, you know, swing into the last tournaments of the year, yeah.
More to follow as the day progresses….