Selfies, suits and straight sets: the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London was full of exciting doubles matches, not-so-exciting singles matches, retirements and an alternate appearance. In the end, the Bryan brothers took home the doubles title, while Novak Djokovic nabbed the No. 1 year-end ranking and the ATP Finals trophy. In case you missed it, here’s a round up of the best quotes from the final group while in London:
Novak Djokovic may have won more titles if not for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, but would he have been as good a player? The No. 1 assessed his rivalries with the two: "First of all, their rivalry was amazing, and still is," he said. "They've been so dominant in men's tennis for so many years. Murray and myself, we got into that mix. I had great experience in Australian Open 2008, won my first Grand Slam. After that, I lost most of my matches I played against them in the major events. So I went through my doubts. But those two guys, and the matches I played against them, made me a stronger player. Made me realize what I need to do to improve, be in the position one day to be No. 1 and to win Grand Slams. So I do feel those rivalries have contributed to my success a lot.”
Roger Federer isn't worried about the state of the ATP given the tour's current talent. But what about the youngsters? "I think it's going to remain good for a while now because Novak and Rafa and Murray, they're way younger than I am. They're going to be around still for a while. Then the next generation, you know, Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov, et cetera, I think they're only going to get better and hopefully eventually going to win the bigger tournaments, like the 1000s, these kinds of events, as well, so forth, then the Slams."
Federer continued: "I think the next generation is the one I'm curious about to see, which sort of 16, to 17-year-old to 20-year-old is going to make the break in the next few years. It seems to be very hard to do as of late, but there is some talent there. I'm looking forward to see how that's going to go."
A Bulgarian reporter asked Djokovic for his best memories with Grigor Dimitrov this year. "He's got a lot of talent. He's good-looking. He speaks good English. He has Maria Sharapova for a girlfriend. What more can you ask for (laughter)? And he's Bulgarian."
Djokovic has been adamant that the ATP World Tour Finals should leave London. "I believe that this World Tour Finals is a kind of tournament that should be, I would say, exposed to more cities around the world. We should allow more cities to have the organization of this event, the best eight players in the world. In this way we can promote the tennis in certain areas and so forth. Now I understand the different points of view, different perspectives, people have different opinions. I understand they keep it here because of the success. But, again, I heard many cities who want to not just pay big money to have it, but also have a big interest. I'm sure that many cities around Europe, South America, Asia, would have a lot of success in having this event. Me, personally, again with nothing against London and so forth, I enjoy this tournament very much, and as I say it's a success, but it should be moved more often."
Federer saved four match points to beat Stan Wawrinka. It was the third time this year he's saved match points to win, after defeating Gael Monfils at the U.S. Open and Leonardo Mayer at the Shanghai Masters. He compared the three escapes: "This was maybe luckier than Monfils because Stan served three times and whereas Monfils served twice. Mayer, I was crazy lucky there. So maybe that was the most luck overall because I was out of the point and he had it.
Wawrinka when asked about an on-court dust up that turned out to be this: "Not much. Nothing special. Tense match. It's never easy."
Q. Would you tell us what Roger said to you after the game? It looked like he was very sorry.
Wawrinka: “I'm not sure he's sorry for me.” (laughter)
Djokovic wasn't too happy with how the crowd treated him in his match against Kei Nishikori, and he wasn't too happy to be asked about it after the match either:
Q. You just said you were emotionally a little more flat. I was a bit surprised knowing you as a showman that you reacted a little bit badly when the crowd applauded to Nishikori because you made a double-fault.
Djokovic: “Why did I react bad? In what way?”
Q. I saw that you were nervous.
Djokovic: “So I'm not allowed to be nervous on the court?”
Q. No. I'm just asking because normally doesn't happen to you. You lost a little bit the concentration.
Djokovic: “Yes, I did. It was my fault. It was my fault that I allowed it.”
Q. I'm trying to understand what happened.
Djokovic: “I mean, look, the end of the day, I cannot blame the crowd. The crowd has a right to do what they want, to cheer for whoever they want. Some individuals that were going over the line throughout the whole match, some provocations that I usually don't react on, but I did. It was my fault. I lost the concentration. I lost the break because of that. I allowed myself to be in the situation to lose the set, maybe even lose the match. So, yeah, generally it was my fault and I should know better.”
And then there was this:
Q. Millions of television viewers saw your gesture at the end of putting that dot or full stop. Why are you so reluctant to share what it meant?
Djokovic: “Because I don't feel like.”
Q. So it's a message, is it?
Djokovic: “No. There was nothing. It's just a dot.”
Nishikori was asked whether the secret to Asian success in tennis is moving to the west to train. "I don't think it's the only way," he said. "But for me was very good opportunity because there was a lot of top players in IMG Academy, and I was able to hit with them. I was always look up for those top players, like Tommy Haas, I was hitting with, and Max Mirnyi. I felt really close to them. That's why I can see the goals, you know. I don't know. It's tough situation for Asian players because all the tournaments in Europe and U.S."
Murray weighs in on Nishikori's improvement in 2014: "I think he hasn't made big changes to technique or any of his shots particularly, but he's playing with more confidence. Because of that, he's able to take more chances and be a little bit more aggressive than he was previously. But he's always been a tough guy to play against because from the back of the court, he's able to take the ball early. He can change direction of the ball. Yeah, he's got a lot of talent in his hand."
Federer thinks it's more than just confidence. "I think he is a more complete and better overall player. I think the confidence alone is a bit too simple to put it, to be quite honest. I think he's improved as a player."
Nishikori on his newfound belief: "I try not to think, you know, I can't beat these guys, because I've been beating those top 10 guys already."
Milos Raonic on the ATP Finals round-robin matches:
Q. Is it strange losing a match, knowing you're going to have to get over it right away and prepare for the next one?
Raonic: “Yeah, it is. I get pretty angry when I lose, so... I'm going to have to learn how to slap myself out of it.”
One of the basic tenants of Japanese and Asian culture is the respect and deference to elders. So how did Nishikori reconcile that with his goal of beating the best to become the best? "I was struggling with that actually, because when I was junior, I wasn't thinking too much, so I was able to play good tennis with anyone," he said. "But after turning pro, I was feeling a lot of respect to everybody actually, especially top players. Like first time I play Roger, couldn't play anything 'cause I respect too much. I wasn't go for win actually. I was just, you know, play tennis against my idol. That was one of the problem I had."
Nishikori continued: "But after couple years, I got mentally strong. I have to be strong to beat them. Maybe that's one of the reason we Asia players has to be really strong. "You have to believe yourself. Yeah, I think one of the reason I see Li Na and Srichaphan, I was looking up to them. I felt a lot of motivation from them. I think the key was I think you have to be really strong mentally to beat those top players."
Federer surprised himself with how quickly he was able to find some of his best form early in the season. "Honestly, I didn't put any target I think on the rankings. I was putting more rather a target on trying to win an amount of titles, because last year I had only won one. That was quite disappointing actually, so I was trying to get maybe three to five at least. That was the goal. I have five now. I think I made another five finals, then also now we're in the Davis Cup final, so it's been a very successful year. Better than I thought it was going to be. I figured I was going to struggle up until about March this year. Success kicked in quite quickly with Brisbane and the Australian Open."
Djokovic hasn't lost a match at the O2 in three years. He is riding a 31-match indoor win-streak. Why is he so good under a roof? "They were asking me how do I feel returning indoors comparing to outdoors. It is different and it's better for the returner. It's better for the server, but I feel it's better for the returner because the ball more or less bounces the same every time, so you can anticipate better."
Raonic says the “Federer effect” on Davis Cup will be fascinating: "I think people are going to be very patriotic up in the north of France, and I think the thing that's unique about Roger is people will support the home players when they face Roger," Raonic said. "But Roger is very tough to cheer against. Whereas quite a few other players, people will try to sort of get on top of them, get down on them. I have not seen a situation where people have tried to do that, at least since I've been on tour, to Roger."
Cilic on Federer’s career:
Q. For Davis Cup, Federer winning or not winning, would that have any effect on how you would view his career as a whole?
Cilic: “It can only be a plus, I mean, not a minus. If he wins it, it's amazing success. If he doesn't, I mean, he still had an incredible career. So it can be a cherry on the cake.”
Murray rebounded from a bad loss to Nishikori to beat Raonic and give himself a chance to qualify. It helped having a coach who had been through the oddities of the year-end format: "You know, Amélie was saying one of the times she made the final of the year-end championships. She lost her first match 6-2, 6-2 against Petrova. Obviously wasn't feeling great. Then went on to reach the final. It's nice to have those sort of discussions, having someone that's experienced having been in a tough situation after the first match."
Wawrinka on his record against the top 10:
Q. You have the best record on tour against the top 10 this year, you're 7-1. Against everyone else, you win two-thirds of the time. You're winning more against the top 10. Why is that?
Wawrinka: “I had, what, six win against top 10 in the first three months of the year, then I never played them again because I lose early in the tournament, so it was a tough six months after (smiling).”
Cilic had a terrible tournament. Sometimes that just happens. "In some matches, the score just keeps running. You are sinking a lot. You are always trying to find something. But whatever you try, it's not working. That's what I felt today."
Cilic on his emotions:
Q. A great server like you who doesn't win one service game in the second set, are you more angry, more sad, or more embarrassed?
Cilic: “No, none of those (smiling).”
Tomas Berdych had no problem beating Cilic in group play. When asked to assess Cilic's performance, Berdych kept it simple: "Let's put it this way. With the way he played, he would never won a U.S. Open."
It's hard to lose sleep after going 0-3 at your first ATP Finals when you have the U.S. Open trophy in your house. "I mean, of course, it's a little bit of a disappointment to lose the matches like I did," Cilic said. "But, I mean, I played against the guys who are at the top of the game. Considering everything, I didn't play well, and the outcome is not going to be much different. But having won a U.S. Open is going to make this season look amazing. So that's always a huge, positive part to looking into the things."
The last time Berdych played Djokovic before last week was a 6-0, 6-2 loss in the China Open final. His goal for their round robin match? "I'm going to try to, you know, win maybe three, four games. That would be better from the last time (laughter)." He would win four.
Wawrinka said fans were right to expect blockbuster matches at the ATP Finals. "The expectation are right because that's the top eight, actually nine, players of the year who are playing the best tennis," he said. "If you look all the past years, it was always some good match, some tough one, three-setter match. This year is really a big surprise I think for everybody to see those match so quick."
Does tennis have a match-fixing problem? According to Wawrinka, yes and no. "I think we had some few problem in the lower level," he said. "Already some guys got caught for that. I think at the top level, I don't think some player are doing this. I'm pretty sure about that."
Raonic assessed his season: "The year was consistent. I wish I would have had a few more breakthrough moments throughout the year, but I feel like I did a good job in giving myself an opportunity to do well and to pretty much play every weekend of the big tournaments that I entered in. So I'm happy with that. I know that's only going to get better."
Federer on playing one of his biggest competitors, Murray:
Q. What does it feel being up 6-0, 5-0 on one of your toughest rivals?
Federer: “Yeah, not so cool because I wouldn't want to be in that position. I was happy to get it done. At the end I was happy I didn't win the second to last game to be quite honest. Yeah, it's uncomfortable. I don't know. I don't like it.”
Murray goes into the off-season fueled by his 6-0, 6-1 loss to Federer in his last match of the season. "I'm not going to try and forget it, no," he said. "When I think about what happened, I'll try to use it I'm not saying I'm not ever going to look at that match positively, but I need to use it as whatever. If it's motivation for the offseason, you know, to make some changes to things. Whatever it is, clearly I need to make some adjustments to my game. Yeah, that's the one positive is that I now have six, seven weeks before the next tournament. I have time to work on some stuff."
Murray on his tough year coming back from back surgery: "The first three, four months were tough," he said. "It was hard. Going through surgery isn't easy. Maybe I didn't appreciate that so much at the time. I found it quite frustrating at the beginning of the year. But then once I accepted that it's a hard thing to go through, and obviously in the middle of that period I switched, obviously, stopped working with Ivan. The first three, four months were difficult."
Murray needs to look no further than Federer for belief he can return to his best in 2015. "A lot can change in a matter of weeks and months in tennis," he said. "Roger is a good example of that. Obviously last year he was having some struggles and some tough times with his body and whatnot. A lot of questions were asked about him. He's responded and gone into the last tournament of the year with an opportunity to get to No. 1. There's guys that have, I don't know, Raonic, Nishikori, I was hearing some figures and stats of their results against top 10 players before this year, and then you get a bit of confidence, things can change very quickly in sport. I'm not happy to finish the year with that record (0-9 against the Top 3), obviously. But hopefully next year, if I get the right work done now, I can get myself off to a good start next year. Over five sets I tend to play I would say better tennis in my career. I hope that come Australia I'll be a much better player."
Federer understands what Murray went through this season. It's not easy when you can't back yourself. "You just tend to be up and down, especially against the top players," Federer said. "There's just that little bit of doubt maybe that you need to play unbelievably well and the other guy you hope he doesn't play his best. Only then maybe you can get it done. Maybe he has those kind of confidence issues. I went through exactly the same last year. It's like an up-and-down battle. Every point is complicated. Every day is complicated. At the same time you do have your good days, you have your okay days. But they're not so often. So I think the offseason is going to be big for Andy."
Nishikori handled this exchange with a young fan pretty well:
Q. I really like sweets. If I want to become a professional tennis player, would I have to give up sweets?
Nishikori: “Well, that's tough question for me because I love sweets, too (smiling). I think little bit is fine. If you don't eat in front of your coach, I think that's fine.”
Federer politely asked reporters not to rag too much on the poor matches at this year's tournament. "I hope that you guys don't kill it, because you guys have a bit of a say in this," he said. "Don't write negative about it because we've seen some good tennis. If you write too much about it, then we might see a reaction. But if you guys stay positive, it would be very helpful. So thank you (smiling)."
Djokovic was asked to talk about margins in tennis:
Q: You had a great season. But really if you had lost one set in the Wimbledon final, maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Djokovic: “If I would win one or two sets in Roland Garros, maybe we would have this conversation again (smiling).”
Nishikori is only now beginning to understand the amount of pressure a top player, like Roger, Rafa, and Novak, deal with every day. "I really think about what they do," he said. "Is really amazing. Like Novak, Rafa, Roger, they win couple times a year in a row all the Grand Slams. Even for me, I had so much, like, stress, pressure in US Open, playing seven matches. I couldn't imagine how they handle the pressure and everything through the whole year. Especially the people staying No. 1, I bet they have a lot of pressure. They have to always fight, not even on the court, but off the court, too. I think I need little more experience to get there."
The one word to describe Djokovic's third-straight ATP Finals trophy: Awkward. "As I understand, [Federer] retired a match maybe three times in his career in over a thousand matches. You cannot blame him. I'm sure he would play World Tour Finals if he could. This is probably the first time in the history that this happens. It's very awkward situation to talk about it, to be honest, today. You never like to win, especially these big matches against big rivals, with the retirement. But that's the way it is."
Federer was asked about how he came to learn about the British tradition of wearing a poppy in honor of those who died in World War I: "I've been aware of it for a long time," he said. "It's nice how people in this country remember all those people, all the heroes, as well. It's something that Switzerland can't really grasp."
Djokovic talked about why the ATP 250 event in Belgrade struggled. "It was a big success for the first year or two," he said. "After it was a little bit less. It was very difficult to economically sustain this level of a tournament at home because you need players for that. You need top players. Serbia, up to maybe five, ten years ago, was not a country of tennis. Now it became. After a big success in men's and women's tennis, they want to see big names in their country if there is a tennis event. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford to have the big names because of the week in the year. We were just between the events on clay. Most of the big names were playing those big events and they were not playing in between."
Novak Djokovic, 2015 Roland Garros champion? "Roland Garros is and was and still will be, you know, one of the biggest goals that I have," he said. "I'll keep on trying, of course."