Novak Djokovic’s hopes to repeat as the U.S. Open champ were dashed by a left shoulder injury, and his Grand Slam nemesis, Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic, the No. 1 seed who had already won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, retired after dropping the first two sets and getting broken in his second service game of the third.
“It’s never the way you want to finish a match. I’m really sorry for Novak,” the 23rd-seeded Wawrinka said in his on-court interview after topping Djokovic, 6-4, 7-5, 2-1, in front of a stunned crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday night. Wawrinka moves on to face No. 5 Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals.
“He’s a great champion,” Wawrinka continued. “I feel sorry for him. But I want to keep my level tonight. I think I was playing super tennis. I’m happy to be back [in the quarterfinals].”
Djokovic was bothered by his shoulder in the second round Wednesday, twice being attended to by a trainer.
“It is frustrating, very frustrating,” Djokovic said. “Not the first, not the last player to get injured, and withdraw from one of the biggest events in sports. Obviously, I just came off the court, so of course it hurts.”
After the victory, he said he had been playing with pain and was “lucky.” But in the third round, after not practicing the day before, Djokovic said the shoulder felt much better.
“The pain was constant for weeks now,” Djokovic said. “Some days higher, some days with less intensity. Obviously, taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. You know when you know, when you feel you’re not able to give it a shot anymore.”
It was clear he wasn’t playing at his usual world-class level against Wawrinka, notching just two aces, committing five double faults and a stunning 35 unforced errors.
Wawrinka broke Djokovic for the first time in the first set, to go up 3-2 and didn’t look back. After losing his serve early in the second set, Wawrinka got back on serve after a Djokovic unforced error to get even at four-all. He broke Djokovic again to go ahead 6-5, ripping a backhand passing shot Djokovic couldn’t get to at the net, and took the set when a Djokovic backhand drop shot came up short. He broke Djokovic at love early in the third set, and that’s when the Serbian called it quits.
“It helped me big time, knowing that I have that in me to beat him [here],” Wawrinka said. “Tonight, I was feeling great. I realized in practice when I came to practice here I was playing well, I was moving well. I was quite confident with the level I was going to bring tonight. But against the No. 1 player, you never know if you’re going to win.”
Wawrinka has now won his last four Grand Slam matches against Djokovic, including the 2016 Open final.
“I’m sorry for the crowd,” Djokovic said. “They came to see a full match. This wasn’t meant to be. That’s what it is.”
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