World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic’s stay at the US Open has ended abruptly with an injury retirement during his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka.
- Novak Djokovic was trailing 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 against Stan Wawrinka when he was forced to retire
- Djokovic had complained of pain in his shoulder earlier in the tournament
- He was chasing a fourth US Open title in New York
Djokovic was trailing 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 and being thoroughly outplayed when he withdrew from the match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, shaking his head as he walked over to the chair umpire to say he was conceding because of pain in his left shoulder.
He embraced Wawrinka before some spectators booed as he left the court to head to the locker room. Djokovic responded with a thumbs-up.
“I’m sorry for the crowd. Obviously they came to see a full match, and just wasn’t to be,” Djokovic said.
“A lot of people didn’t know what’s happening, so you cannot blame them.”
Djokovic said he had been “taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly”.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.
“The pain was constant for weeks now.”
Djokovic had won 36 of his past 37 matches at majors, and four of the last five major titles, in one of the most dominant stretches this sport has seen.
But he began complaining about his shoulder during a second-round victory last week, when he repeatedly got massaged by a trainer during changeovers.
Djokovic declared himself mostly pain-free after winning in the third round, although he refused to disclose any details of the injury or what type of treatment he had received.
“It’s never the way you want to finish the match,” Wawrinka said immediately after the match.
“I am really sorry for Novak. He’s a good friend, he’s an amazing champion.”
Djokovic’s bid for a fourth US Open championship and 17th major singles title suddenly dissipated against Wawrinka at the conclusion of what for him amounted to a listless and ineffective effort.
Djokovic struggles early against Wawrinka
Against Wawrinka, a three-time major champion himself, Djokovic never quite had the usual verve on his shots or range on his formidable service returns.
He was out of sorts on all manner of shots, accumulating 30 unforced errors and only 12 winners through the first two sets.
The Serbian managed to lead 3-0 and 4-1 in the second set, but that was just about all he had in him.
When that set ended, Djokovic had a trainer on for a massage, but soon thereafter, his title defence was over.
“You just know when you know, I guess,” Djokovic said.
“When you feel like you’re not able to hit [a] shot anymore.”
Djokovic entered the night with a 19-5 head-to-head edge against Wawrinka across their careers. This, though, was their first meeting since the 2016 US Open final, won by Wawrinka.
It scuttled the possibility of a semi-final between Djokovic and 20-time major singles champion Roger Federer, which would have been a rematch of their historic Wimbledon final in July.
Djokovic won on that occasion in an unprecedented fifth-set tiebreak after nearly five hours.
Wawrinka will face number five seed Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals.