Defending U.S. Open champion Novak Djokovic’s decision to retire during the fourth round of this year’s tournament due to a nagging shoulder injury was met with a chorus of disappointing boos from fans in New York City.
On Sunday, Djokovic, 32, was trailing Stan Wawinka 6-4, 7-5, 2-1, when he decided to call it quits because of left shoulder pain that had been bothering him for weeks.
The star athlete hugged his opponent and the two exchanged several words before he left the court to a loud stream of jeers.
“I’m not being offended, mistreated by anybody. I don’t really pay too much attention on that. I like to respect others and I hope that others can respect me and my decision. I’m sorry for the crowd. Obviously, they came to see a full match, and just wasn’t to be,” he said later at a news conference. “I mean, a lot of people didn’t know what’s happening, so you cannot blame them.”
Djokovic called his injuries “very frustrating,” and said that while he was not the first to withdraw from a match and would not be the last, it still “hurts.”
“I congratulate Stan. He’s a great player,” said Djokovic. “I really wish him all the best the rest of the tournament. I don’t want to talk about my injuries. I said that in the past. I’m sticking to that. I retired, I told you it’s [my] left shoulder, and I have nothing more to talk about.”
The Serbian tennis star had started complaining about pain in his left shoulder on Wednesday and had received many massages from trainers in an attempt to push through. He felt better by Friday, but regressed again on Sunday despite leaning on painkillers.
“[I’ve been] taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “You just know when you know, I guess. When you feel like you’re not able to hit [a] shot anymore.”
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Sunday marked the 13th mid-match retirement of Djokovic’s career, according to ATP.
Despite his most recent setback, Djokovic has been on a tear as of late, having won 36 of his last 37 Grand Slam matches and four of the last five major titles.
Moving forward, he hopes to break Roger Federer’s record of 20 Slam trophies (he currently has 16).
“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,” he said. “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.”
Djokovic said he plans to return to the court in four weeks at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.