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Novak Djokovic retires in 3rd set of U.S. Open clash against Stan Wawrinka with ailing shoulder


Sunday night’s clash between world No.1 Novak Djokovic and three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka had the potential to be another big-time slugfest between the two rivals, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Djokovic, the defending U.S. Open champ, retired at 2-1 in the third set because of his ailing left shoulder, and was subject to a throng of boos from the crowd at Arthur Ashe stadium as he made his way to the locker rooms.

“I hope others can respect me and my decision and I’m sorry for the crowd obviously they came to see a full match and it just wasn’t to be,” Djokovic said with a look of disappointment on his face. “That’s all it is. I mean, a lot of people didn’t know what’s happening, so I cannot blame them and it is what it is.”

Djokovic dropped the first two sets of the match to Wawrinka, 6-4, 7-5, and before the start of the third set, he called for the trainer to receive treatment on his shoulder.

Novak Djokovic retires from his match against Stan Wawrinka with a shoulder injury. (Andrew Schwartz for New York Daily News) (Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

It seemed like the treatment did the trick, much like it did when he requested treatment during his match against Juan Ignacio Londero. Djokovic stepped on the court and held serve with a quick love game. But then he dropped the next two games, sending a number of balls over the baseline, and called it a night after he was broken in the third game.

Djokovic, who initially did not want to talk about his shoulder after the match, later explained the pain he had been playing through.

“The pain was constant for weeks now,” he said. “Some days higher, some days with less intensity and obviously taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

And for the 16-time Grand Slam winner, who had nabbed two majors this year, and is trying to surpass Roger Federer’s mark of 20, it was not the end to the Slam season he envisioned.

“Yeah, it is frustrating. Very frustrating,” Djokovic said. “Obviously not the first, not the last player to get injured, and to, you know, withdraw from one of the biggest events in sport.

“But obviously I just came off the court, so of course it hurts.”

On the surface, Djokovic did not seem to be overly affected by his shoulder in the first set, which featured big hitting and a handful of extended rallies. And even in the second set, he was serving with his usual amount of pop.

But by the end of the night, he only had 2 aces and 35 unforced errors.

After going up 4-1 in the second set, Djokovic let Wawrinka level the set at 4-4, and then was broken at 5-5, which allowed Wawrinka to serve out the set.

Stan Wawrinka advances to the U.S. Open quarterfinals. (Andrew Schwartz for New York Daily News)
Stan Wawrinka advances to the U.S. Open quarterfinals. (Andrew Schwartz for New York Daily News) (Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

At that point, the crowd was amped up for another match on the level of the 2016 U.S. Open, when Wawrinka edged Djokovic in a tightly-contested four sets. But as the boos suggest, perhaps they were too amped up by the time Djokovic had to retire.

“Yeah. Always surprised when you play the No.1 and you hear the fans booing him when he had to retire, that’s for sure,” Wawrinka said after the match. “He’s an amazing champion, and if he has to retire, it’s not the best for a tennis player to have to leave the court like that.”

Djokovic was the favorite to advance to the final from his side of the draw, and now Roger Federer has to be feeling a little better about his path to the final after cruising against No. 15 seed David Goffin today, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.

But Federer will still have to get past Grigor Dimitrov, and the winner of Wawrinka and No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev before he can start thinking about a potential finals clash with Rafael Nadal.

As for Djokovic, he said that he plans to take some time off to let his shoulder recover and see how it responds.

“Obviously not playing is going to help speed up recovery,” Djokovic said. “I’m planning to play Tokyo, and hopefully I’ll be able to do so.”