Return to Transcripts main page


Novak Djokovic on His Return to the Top of Professional Tennis; Interview with Martina Navratilova; Mark Philippoussis Discovers Surfing

Aired January 17, 2013 - 05:30:00   ET



PAT CASH, HOST: We're back in Australia for the first Grand Slam of the year, and everybody wants to get their hands on this. Coming up on the show -- world number one, Novak Djokovic, on his return to the top of the tennis world.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, WORLD NUMBER 1: All my life I have been dreaming to be the best in what I do, and my dreams came true.

CASH: Plus, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, agrees to meet me face to face.

The serve and volley is clearly back - well, for today anyway.

And from serving to surfing. Aussie great Mark Philippoussis takes his talent to the beach.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS, FORMER TENNIS PLAYER: I'm out there every day. So, it's just like tennis, if you are in good (inaudible), you'd be out there. So I am.


CASH: We begin at the Australian Open. The best players in the world are here in Melbourne, trying to get 2013 off to the best start possible. Novak Djokovic has two simple plans this year. Stay world number one, and win as many Grand Slams as possible.


DJOKOVIC: All my life I've been dreaming to be the best in the world in tennis. My dreams came true.

LEONE LAKHANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Novak Djokovic clearly likes the view from the top of this tennis world. Even those aspiring to beat the world number one know it won't be easy.

TOMAS BERDYCH, WORLD NUMBER 6: He is proving that yeah, he belongs to number one for the moment right now.

JANKO TIPSAREVIC, WORLD NUMBER 9: His goal is that he wants to stay there for a long, long, long period of time.

ANDY MURRAY, WORLD NUMBER 3: He has a lot of belief in himself, and that's why he's been at the top of the game the last couple of years.

LAKHANI: That belief has led the Serbian to five Grand Slam wins, including the 2012 Australian Open.

DJOKOVIC: Throughout the year, I had many great tournaments, you know. I reached the finals of French Open and I've never done that before in my career. I played the Olympic Games -- unfortunately, I didn't win a medal, but still, it was a great event, and exceptional experience to be part of. So, there was a lot of - a lot of expectations and I think hopes on my back, as well as the other tennis players, because tennis is, I think, now our most popular sport.

LAKHANI: The current popularity of tennis in Serbia is a contrast from the state of the sport when Djokovic was trying to make a name for himself. He credits his family for standing by him and supporting his dream.

DJOKOVIC: I remember as a kid, I was, you know, improvising and making little trophies out of - out of different materials and just going in front of the mirror and lifting the trophies and saying, I was the champion. So, you know, at that time in Serbia where tennis was nowhere, we grew up during the war and then there was a lot of struggle, difficulty, financially mostly to - to kind of travel to the tournaments. So we played many of the local, national tournaments. It was really hard to succeed, and I had - thank God, big support from my father and from my mother and from all the family, you know, and they believed in me, and then they gave me hope that I can really actually succeed.

LAKHANI: One person who believed in Djokovic's potential was his first coach, Jelena Gencic. She'd already coached Monica Seles and Goran Ivanisevic before turning her attention to the young boy named Nole.

JELENA GENCIC, DJOKOVIC'S FIRST COACH: I knew that Nole will be the best in the world. Somebody asked him, hey, boy, what do you want to be when you grow up? Only one thing -- be first in the professional tennis. First in the world. He was six years old.

Novak knew very much about tennis, because he was watching TV, reporting the TV matches, the games, the Sampras, the Agassi, Edberg. And once he asked me, Jelena, can I go tomorrow? Yes, of course. And can I do some hits like Sampras or Agassi? Of course, you can show me and I will explain you.

LAKHANI: Djokovic's two younger brothers have watched him turn from tennis protege to tennis sensation.

Both Marko and Djordje are trying to make it on the pro circuit, and while they don't get a chance to practice with Novak very often, when they do, he's in demand.

MARKO DJOKOVIC, 21 YEARS OLD: Right now my little brother is practicing, so we're changing day by day trying to - trying to notify who's going to play with him.

DJOKOVIC: It's not easy, you know. They have a lot of expectations and pressure because they have a brother that is at the top of the man's tennis, and obviously, everybody expects them to play well and to do even better. And I'm trying to help them in every possible way. We have (inaudible) on several occasions, do they really want to play tennis? They like it, you know, it is a big challenge for them, and they - I think they want to prove it to themselves in the first place and also to everybody else that they can succeed.

DJORDJE DJOKOVIC, 17 YEARS OLD: Very tough for me, you know, with the pressure of being a brother number one that I'm trying to handle this as best as I can. He gives me a lot of advice, he knows about how - how hard it is for me now to break into the ATP.

DJOKOVIC: Hopefully, we can have three brothers playing in the Grand Slam very soon.

LAKHANI: Djokovic doesn't shy away from the attention that comes with being the top player in the man's game.

DJOKOVIC: I accepted this a part of my - part of my work, part of my life, but I do enjoy it as well.

I do prefer televisions more, to be honest. I like camera.

LAKHANI: From rocking the red carpet, to rubbing shoulders with royalty, he also makes time for the many charities close to his heart.

DJOKOVIC: There are many kids around the world who don't have an opportunity to realize their dream. From my personal experience, I can proudly say that I have realized my dreams, but I was very fortunate.

All of us, we were kids, and I know how they feel when they see somebody that they look up to, you know, as a role model or as a successful tennis player or an athlete, and it's nice, I try to dedicate my time and have fun with it.

LAKHANI: And it's rewarding moments like this that help keep him motivated for all the hard work ahead.

DJOKOVIC: I know that especially at this time of year, just before the season starts, everybody starts from scratch, you know. You know, whoever gets the better start gets the more mental advantage, I guess, over the others, so it's a long year. You know, it's a long process, but - and I'm 25 at this moment, I believe that I have many more years to come, hopefully.


CASH: View from the top, courtesy of Novak Djokovic. But what about the players aiming to take that title? Well, "Open Court" sat down with four of his closest rivals for a quick-fire quiz.


DAVID FERRER, WORLD NUMBER 5: Thank you for having me.

LAKHANI: Thank you for coming.

FERRER: Ready.

LAKHANI: Who is the toughest player you've played in your career?


LAKHANI: You liked playing him?

FERRER: Not too much.

LAKHANI: What's your favorite song on your iPod?

ANDY MURRAY, WORLD NUMBER 3: I don't actually have an iPod.


MURRAY: No. Didn't get one for Christmas.

LAKHANI: What's the food you miss most when you are on the road?

BERDYCH: The weinerschnitzel.


Who's your favorite team?

TIPSAREVIC: Barcelona. And not just because they are good now. I've been following them also when they didn't play so well.

LAKHANI: Who do you think has the best forehand in the game?

FERRER: Roger Federer.

TIPSAREVIC: Roger Federer.

MURRAY: Nadal.


LAKHANI: Nice. Best backhand in the game.


MURRAY: Djokovic.

FERRER: Andy Murray.

LAKHANI: Who is the loudest in the locker room?

BERDYCH: Daniel Nestor.

MURRAY: Daniel Nestor. He never shuts up. And then when he goes on the court, he doesn't say a word.

TIPSAREVIC: The loudest player?


TIPSAREVIC: My vote goes to the Serbs.

When we are together, we are so freaking loud. At one point somebody comes - we have to play a match.


LAKHANI: Funniest player?

FERRER: Monfils, probably (ph).


MURRAY: Monfils is a very funny guy. Monfils.

LAKHANI: Best dressed player?

MURRAY: Roger.

LAKHANI: I knew you were going to say that.


TIPSAREVIC: I can say maybe Feliciano Lopez or even Novak Djokovic.

LAKHANI: Who's got the toughest serve?

FERRER: John Isner.

BERDYCH: John Isner.

MURRAY: Isner.

LAKHANI: Best volley?

FERRER: (inaudible).

TIPSAREVIC: Leander Paes, by far.

MURRAY: No one comes to the net anymore.

LAKHANI: Favorite movie?

BERDYCH: I like James Bond.

TIPSAREVIC: "Donnie Brasco."

LAKHANI: Good one. Who's your favorite actor then?

TIPSAREVIC: Al Pacino. You can guess. He's kind of what (ph) I feel.

LAKHANI: If you were going to have an actor play you in a movie, who would it be then?


LAKHANI: Pacino.

Favorite actor?

FERRER: Robert de Niro.

BERDYCH: Denzel Washington.

MURRAY: (inaudible).

LAKHANI: No Sean Connery there?

MURRAY: I love James Bond as well. He was the best Bond.

LAKHANI: Who do you think is the toughest player you've ever faced in your career?

MURRAY: Nadal.

FERRER: Rafael Nadal.

TIPSAREVIC: Rafael Nadal on clay. Almost a mission impossible for most of us. No matter how good you feel that day, it's - it's not (inaudible) I promise you that.


CASH: Still to come, serve and volley tennis at its finest. One of the very best in the business joins me on court after the break.

Now you're just showing off.


CASH: Welcome back to Open Court. I've traveled to Adelaide, Australia, to get with one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Martina Navratilova has agreed to meet me courtside at the World Tennis Challenge.

We' have the privilege here to have 18-time Grand Slam single champion. Versus one.


CASH: And doubles, zero for me. How many for you?



NAVRATILOVA: I played here in '74. It was my very first tournament in Australia, actually, it was in Adelaide. Then, a couple years - a couple of weeks later I got to the finals of the Australian Open, but I was pretty unknown here then.

CASH: You were very young, yes.

NAVRATILOVA: And as I said, I was way before my prime when I won here first time, and I am way past my prime when I won here the second time.

CASH: You won three Australian Opens. '81, '83, '85.

NAVRATILOVA: Yes. (inaudible).

CASH: I remember as a kid, my parents saying to me hey, come and watch this girl. Watch her serve and volley. Yes. And they were big on you.

NAVRATILOVA: Very simple. The volley is a very compact shot.

CASH: Now you're just showing off. I'll tell you what, I played with a lot of guys, and a lot of - a lot of girls around the world, you don't see anybody, male or female, volleying as well as her.

Your attacking style, was that a style that you grew up playing, I mean in the Czech Republic?

NAVRATILOVA: I know. I grew up on clay, but I was always like coming to the net. My dad always had to say, come on, let's go hit some groundstrokes. I was always wanting to hit volleys and you know, and play games at the net. Loved playing reflex games, you know, people hit the ball as hard at me as possible. Always loved that challenge of where you need to react quickly.

Here's the one -that's the one to come in on. (inaudible).

CASH: We want to look forward to - to this year, 2013. Do you see any new players coming through?

NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think the young guns, Raonic, Dimitrov and Bernard Tomic. The three that could really make their way into top ten and make some waves, particularly Milos Raonic. I love the way he plays, he's got a huge serve, and a really good attitude. The other two, Dimitrov and Tomic, I think need to work on their head a little bit, but they certainly have the talent. And overall, I think Murray could end up being number one. I see him - he's just so overpowering physically now. He's in amazing shape, he's - you know, he's got a couple of inches on Djokovic, and he's got an amazing confidence now. He got that monkey off his back, and so he can relax, and for Djokovic I think it will be increasingly difficult to stay motivated and stay at number one. But I think if I had to put any money on anybody being number one, I think it would be Murray.

CASH: You don't see that every day, folks. You do not see that every day.

(on camera): And what about the girls? We've seen Serena come back?

NAVRATILOVA: At her best, she's the best player out there. And that's been the case really for about ten years now. She just hasn't been at her best very often. But this last year, when she played after she lost in the first round of the French Open, which really motivated her, she got in a much better physical shape and now she's happy on and off the court, and also even though she's 31, she is - 30 - 31, I think she's played about half the matches I played when I was 31. So she's fairly young 31 as far as the body is concerned. You know, the way she is going, if she stays healthy, I think she could break all the records.

CASH: Oh, you missed one!

Very good that's on camera, yes. She's missed a backhand volley. First time in ten years I think - 20, 30 years.

Crystal ball, here is your crystal ball.


CASH: Look into the crystal ball and tell me who do you think is going to win the Australian Open?

NAVRATILOVA: I think the favorite at Australia is Djokovic. The surface really suits him well. It's just the right speed for him. And he's done well, he's very confident there.

And on the women side, of course, Serena. I mean, you can't go against her. She's going to be as tough as nail. She wants it really badly. So Serena is the overwhelming favorite in every slam. For the guys, if Nadal is healthy, that's perhaps the biggest unknown for the French Open, because he's a huge favorite for the French. But he didn't play -- by the time he plays it might be close to a year. And on the grass, I would say more the edge to Federer and Murray. And the U.S. Open, that's wide open.

CASH: You missed one there.


CASH: Great pleasure to play with you. It really is, really is an honor. I learned from you back when I was a kid and I'm still learning from you. It's a nice shot you can hit. I'll tell you what, (inaudible). Thank you very much for being here.




CASH: Still to come, the surf's up as Open Court continues.


PHILIPPOUSIS: When I'm in the water, it's one of the only things, along with tennis, where I really feel like I'm in the moment, and it's so hard to explain until you go out there and you surf. You can't really explain what surfing does to you.



CASH: Welcome back to "Open Court." Local boy Mark Philippoussis brought Melbourne tennis fans to their feet, when as a teenager, he thrashed Pete Sampras in straight sets and caused the biggest upset of the year. The man known for his thundering serve now spends his spare time on the waves. And we caught up with him on a beach near San Diego.


PHILIPPOUSSIS: I love this place, I love the vibe. I love the energy it has. I get to do this every single day, so it's - life is really good.

Every day we like - as soon as I drive in the parking lot, or wherever I am walking on the beach, and I see the waves (inaudible), I just have got to get in there, you know, I got (inaudible) first, because he's like my child, so he can let me surf. So once he is tired, I am allowed to surf.

When I'm in the water, it's one of the only things, along with tennis, where I really feel like I'm the moment, and it's so hard to explain until you go out there and you surf. You can't really explain what surfing does to you. For me, it's my mediation. People do yoga, people go and they run, it's a way for them to release, and mine is getting in the ocean.

I can't really say that I - (inaudible) - I didn't even say that. It's just that one surgery, my first surgery on the right knee, it's my fourth surgery and my fifth, and my mind was like OK, I'm done, I don't want to play tennis anymore, I don't even want to think about doing other rehab day. It was more mentally exhausting than physically. And I did that for a year, and I just - I missed that. And then an opportunity came along for me to play on the Champions Tour, and that was just an absolute blessing, because I'm back playing the sport that I love, fell in love with as a kid, without the politics and the added pressure of just going out there for the reason of why I started playing this sport in the first place, and that's enjoying myself.

Yeah, it's a lot of memories that I can look back and that I'm very fond of and very proud of.

Definitely two of them were both Davis Cup wins in 1999 on foreign soil against France in Nice, and the Davis Cup in Melbourne against Spain in the finals. And the two Grand Slam finals, the first one being so young at the U.S. Open, and the Wimbledon final. I think one thing that sticks out in that whole event was the walk from the locker room to the Centre Court. You know, being surrounded by the security guards. Just taking that walk where you see so many champions in the past, so many incredible matches. I mean, Wimbledon was my event, that's the thing I dreamed about when I was a kid.

Nothing to me is as beautiful, as perfect as the final at Wimbledon. And the grass was nothing out of place, the crowd was incredible, the vibe, you had the royal box. I mean, everything was just amazing, and it was a beautiful day, and unfortunately, I finished one match short, but had some opportunities, but, you know, that was a very proud moment for me.

One amazing thing about surfing is every single wave is different, every condition is different, every time you get up on the board, it's different. So we are out there every day, so it's just like tennis. If you're going to (inaudible), you're going to be out there, so I am.


CASH: For more on these stories, plus the feature on the rivalry between Djokovic and Murray, log on to our Web site, it's

Thanks for joining us from Melbourne. It's always great for me to be back in my home town. The next month, we head to San Francisco, where we catch up with American stars past and present, including Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and young gun Ryan Harrison. Until then, it's good-bye from Australia.