Novak Djokovic’s US Open title defense came unstuck on Sunday when a nagging shoulder injury forced the world No. 1 to retire from his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka, prompting a chorus of boos from the crowd at Flushing Meadows.
Wawrinka was leading 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 when Djokovic decided he could not continue, the pair embracing at the side of the court before the Serb walked off with his head down low, but his left thumb stuck high in the air.
“The pain was constant for weeks now. Some days higher, some days with less intensity, and obviously taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly,” said Djokovic, who has won the US Open three times. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. You just know when you know, I guess, when you feel like you’re not able to hit the shot anymore.”
After dropping the second set, Djokovic immediately called for medical attention and sat without his shirt on while the trainer gave him a massage.
He returned to the court, but the 16-time Grand Slam winner was still clearly hampered by the shoulder and after being broken to love following a double fault decided he could not go on.
The shoulder injury nearly saw Djokovic retire from his second-round match on Wednesday last week, but the 32-year-old seemed to have recovered by Friday, saying he was almost pain-free after winning in straight sets to reach the round-of-16.
While frustrated in his bid to inch closer to Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 career Grand Slam titles, Djokovic was confident there would be plenty more chances to add to his collection.
“It’s a long road ahead hopefully for me,” he said. “I hope I can play for many more years. I’m planning to. I mean, I don’t see an end behind the corner at all. Now it’s a matter of keeping my body and mind in shape, and trying to still peak at these kind of events that are majors and that are the most significant in our sport.”
Wawrinka, who had not faced Djokovic since beating him in the 2016 US Open final, said he could see his opponent was struggling, but did his best to focus on his own game.
“For sure I could see some little thing that he was in trouble, but I was most likely, most of the time, focused on myself because I know how well he can fight,” said Wawrinka, who faces Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals. “I know how well he can come back, doesn’t matter how he’s feeling on the court, and that’s what I was focusing on.”
Earlier in the second round of the mixed doubles, Taiwan’s Latisha Chan and Ivan Dodig of Croatia cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Raluca Olaru of Romania and Franko Skugor of Croatia in just 53 minutes.
The fourth seeds saved all three break points they faced and converted five of nine to advance to a quarter-final against Raquel Atawo of the US and Fabrice Martin of France.
Chan was back on court after crashing out of the second round of the women’s doubles, with the Taiwanese and her younger sister, Hao-ching, falling to a 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and Anastasija Sevastova of Lativa in 1 hour, 47 minutes.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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