novak djokovic

Getty Images

Novak Djokovic, injured, ousted by Stan Wawrinka at U.S. Open

1 Comment

NEW YORK — The term Big Four faded from tennis over the last three years. Novak DjokovicRoger Federer and Rafael Nadal combined to win each of the last 11 Grand Slam singles titles. Andy Murray dropped out of the band with hip surgeries.

It is now Big Three. But Stan Wawrinka, the last man outside that group to win a Slam, looks closer to being ready to rejoin the fold.

Wawrinka, a major champion in 2014, 2015 and 2016, upset top-ranked and defending champion Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 in the U.S. Open fourth round on Sunday, with Djokovic retiring with his recent left shoulder injury. He received some boos leaving the court and refused to say how much and when it began affecting him during the match.

“I don’t want to talk about my injuries,” said Djokovic, who received treatment on the shoulder before the third set. “I did a lot of different treatments and diagnostics and everything the last couple of weeks. Obviously, I have to do it again and see how the shoulder reacts.”

Still, Wawrinka deemed his level of play “superb.”

“I was quite confident with the level I was going to bring tonight,” he said, “but against the No. 1 player you never know if you’re going to win or not.”

Wawrinka was ranked No. 3 when he played for the final time before two left knee surgeries — against Daniil Medvedev in the 2017 Wimbledon first round. (Medvedev, the hottest player on tour leading up to the Open, is Wawrinka’s quarterfinal opponent Tuesday.)

He missed the rest of 2017, plus two more months early in 2018. His ranking dropped to No. 263, due significantly to inactivity but also a year in which he went 4-4 at the Slams.

But Wawrinka showed grit at age 34, getting back into the 20 at the French Open three months ago. He outlasted 20-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in a 5-hour, 9-minute epic at Roland Garros, the longest match of his career. Two days later, he took a set off Federer and forced two others to tiebreaks. The knee held up.

“Maybe confirmed to you guys that I can still beat some top guys,” Wawrinka told media in Paris. “I know where is my level. I know what I have done to come back in that level physically.”

Djokovic’s shoulder has been volatile in New York. He said he was pain-free in Friday’s third-round win, but before that had some days of higher intensity pain.

“The pain was constant for weeks now, some days higher, some days with less intensity,” he said Sunday night.

His defeat has ramifications for the other Big Three members.

Djokovic, with 16 Slam titles, is closer to the totals of Nadal (18) and Federer (20) than ever. Now he will likely drop farther behind one of them. And faces uncertainty with that shoulder after winning four of the last five majors coming back from elbow surgery.

Federer’s path to a potential final with Nadal (they’ve never played at the U.S. Open) now no longer includes Djokovic. The three men left in his half are a combined 3-33 against him (the only three wins were by Wawrinka on clay).

Earlier Sunday, Federer needed just 79 minutes to take care of No. 15 David Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. That came two days after Federer advanced in 80 minutes out of the third round. And after he dropped the opening set of his first two matches at a Slam for the first time.

In Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Federer gets Grigor Dimitrov, who as he climbed to his peak (world No. 3 in 2017) gained the nickname “Baby Fed” for having a Federer-like game.

But Dimitrov is into his first Slam quarterfinal since the 2018 Australian Open and into the second week here after losing in the first round of three of his previous five Slams.

Federer is 7-0 against Dimitrov.

“I’m aware of the fact it’s a big match for him,” Federer said. “Yeah, I’ve done well against him in the past. But new match, new Grigor, new me.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Novak Djokovic, after shoulder injury, fan distractions, wins at U.S. Open

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Twice, Novak Djokovic batted away questions about his injured shoulder before Friday night’s match. Twice, he responded sharply to spectators. But on the court, ball in play, he was every bit the top-ranked, defending champion on Friday night.

Djokovic swept overmatched American veteran Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach a fourth-round Sunday showdown with 2016 U.S. Open titlist Stan Wawrinka.

“I managed to play almost pain free,” Djokovic said. “That’s a big improvement from last match. I didn’t know how the body [would] react.”

The Serb’s status going into the Kudla match was far from certain. Djokovic, who won four of the last five Grand Slams, has dealt with left shoulder pain for two weeks. He revealed that much after taking a medical timeout and getting the shoulder worked on repeatedly in his previous match.

Djokovic said Wednesday that he didn’t know if he could finish that second-round win over Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero. He said he would get a further assessment of the injury, consulting with sports medicine experts. He didn’t practice Thursday.

“I’ve been experiencing some days of higher intensity of pain, some days less,” Djokovic said after beating Londero. “What happened [Wednesday] on the court, actually how I felt, was quite rough and unpredictable.”

Concern grew Friday evening when Djokovic’s pre-match practice time was moved from 5 to 6 and then to 7. He finally arrived on site around 7, just before the Arthur Ashe Stadium match preceding his was to start.

Then, in that tardy practice, Djokovic paced to a screen shielding spectators from him and said, “Trust me, I come find you.”

“Just had a little chat,” Djokovic said later, smiling and joking that he would buy the man a drink. “We’ll keep it between us. But he definitely helped me. He doesn’t even know, but he did help me.”

He entered Ashe Stadium soon after and was asked twice about his shoulder in the perfunctory pre-match interview.

“Let’s talk about it after. I’m giving myself a chance. I believe it’s going to be fine,” he said. He was asked again. “I’m here,” Djokovic said. “Let’s play.”

In the first set, Djokovic used an obscenity in telling at least one spectator to shut up after there was audible noise from the crowd during a point.

“Night sessions, New York, crowd gets into it,” he said. “A couple guys that had a couple of drinks more than I guess they were supposed to. But it was all good after.”

The second week figures to bring more major challenges for Djokovic on the other side of the net. Wawrinka, possibly followed by red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal potentially waiting in the last two rounds should he make a 12th straight U.S. Open semifinal.

Wawrinka won their last head-to-head in the 2016 U.S. Open final and kept Djokovic from a calendar Grand Slam in 2015 by winning their French Open final.

“We had some great battles over the years everywhere, but especially here,” Djokovic said. “Let the better player win.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Serena Williams, Roger Federer roll at U.S. Open with Wimbledon behind them

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Serena Williams and Roger Federer, each coming off stinging Wimbledon final defeats, are on form going into the second week of the U.S. Open.

Williams, in her seventh try to match Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, swept Czech Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-2 on Friday afternoon, two days after rallying from a set down in the second round.

Federer, eyeing his 21st major title and some cushion on the all-time list over Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, won the first set for the first time this week. He dispatched Brit Dan Evans 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the fourth round.

Top-ranked Djokovic looks to join them in week two. He plays Friday night against American Denis Kudla.

Williams gets Croatian Petra Martic on Sunday with second-ranked Ash Barty potentially waiting in the quarterfinals. Federer will also play Sunday, against No. 15 David Goffin. Federer caught a break when No. 7 Kei Nishikori, a possible quarterfinal foe, was upset by Australian Alex de Minaur.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Both Williams and Federer, born within two months of each other in 1981, continue to go into Grand Slams facing similar questions. Can Williams go the distance in a two-week event after withdrawing from her previous tournament with a back injury?

“I’ve always been really mentally strong. I’ve always been really physically strong,” said Williams, also slowed by ankle, knee and pectoral injuries since returning in 2018 from life-threatening childbirth. “I think just putting those two together at an event would be the biggest obstacle for me.”

In the Wimbledon final, Williams ran into a lights-out Simona Halep, who routed her 6-2, 6-2.

“There’s really not much you can do. You just have to understand that that was their day today,” Williams said after that loss, her third time losing a Slam final since coming back from childbirth (she hasn’t won a tournament in the comeback). “Hopefully I can raise the level of my game sometimes.”

“Seems like every Grand Slam final I’m in recently has been an unbelievable effort to get there.”

Can Federer get past Djokovic and Nadal to lift his first major title since the 2018 Australian Open, especially after such a heartbreaking loss to Djokovic in the epic Wimbledon final?

“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed,” Federer said after squandering two match points on his own serve before Djokovic prevailed 7–6 (5), 1–6, 7–6 (4), 4–6, 13–12 (3).

The bigger picture: Djokovic reached 16 Grand Slams. Nadal is at 18. They are closer to Federer’s men’s record 20 than ever before.

“I take motivation from different places,” Federer said at Wimbledon. “Not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that’s great for them. You can’t protect everything anyway.”

MORE: Serena Williams has terse reply to question about chair umpire

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!