El­bow in­jury means Djokovic’s sea­son is over

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - HOWARD FENDRICH

For more than a year, No­vak Djokovic’s right el­bow hurt when he hit serves or fore­hands. The pain kept get­ting worse, and now he’s go­ing to give his arm a chance to heal by sit­ting out the rest of 2017.

Djokovic will miss the U.S. Open, end­ing his streak of par­tic­i­pat­ing in 51 con­sec­u­tive Grand Slam tennis tour­na­ments, and aims to re­turn to the ATP Tour in Jan­uary. He made the an­nounce­ment Wed­nes­day — ex­actly a year to the day af­ter Roger Fed­erer said he would be side­lined for the sec­ond half of last sea­son.

“This is one of those in­juries where noth­ing can re­ally help in­stantly. You just have to al­low nat­u­ral re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to take its course,” Djokovic said. “Pro­fes­sion­ally, this is not, ob­vi­ously, an easy de­ci­sion for me.”

Since en­ter­ing his first ma­jor tour­na­ment at the 2005 Aus­tralian Open, Djokovic has never missed one, the third-longest ac­tive run among men and sev­enth-longest in his­tory.

In that time, the 30-year-old Serb has won 12 Grand Slam ti­tles, in­clud­ing the U.S. Open in 2011 and ’15. Only three men have won more ma­jor tennis sin­gles cham­pi­onships: Fed­erer (19), Rafael Nadal (15) and Pete Sam­pras (14).

“The re­mark­able se­ries has come to an end,” Djokovic said. “My body has its lim­its, and I have to re­spect that and be grate­ful for all that I have achieved so far.”

He said that Andre Agassi, with whom he re­cently be­gan work­ing on a part-time ba­sis, will be his coach af­ter the hia­tus. Djokovic plans to start with a tune-up tour­na­ment ahead of the Aus­tralian Open at the start of 2018.

“He sup­ports my de­ci­sion to take a break and re­mains my head coach,” Djokovic said about Agassi, also not­ing that he’ll be look­ing for a new fit­ness trainer. “He is go­ing to help me get back into shape and bounce back strong af­ter the re­cov­ery pe­riod.”

Djokovic made his an­nounce­ment via Face­book, his web­site and at a news con­fer­ence in Bel­grade, Ser­bia.

His last match was on July 12, when he stopped play­ing dur­ing his Wim­ble­don quar­ter-fi­nal against To­mas Berdych be­cause the el­bow was too painful. Djokovic said then he had been strug­gling with the el­bow on his rack­etswing­ing arm for about 1½ years, which he re­it­er­ated Wed­nes­day. He said he does not need surgery.

Since win­ning the 2016 French Open to be­come the eighth man to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam and the first man in nearly a half-cen­tury to win four con­sec­u­tive ma­jor tro­phies, Djokovic’s form has dipped. His rank­ing dropped from No. 1 to No. 4; he failed to de­fend any of those ma­jor ti­tles.

He ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day that he “felt worn out” and “flat” af­ter the run of suc­cess that cul­mi­nated at Roland Gar­ros in 2016.

“I was search­ing for my­self, for mo­ti­va­tion,” he said.

Djokovic made it past the quar­ter-fi­nals at only one of the past five ma­jors: last year’s U.S. Open, where he lost in the fi­nal to Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic, who also men­tioned Wed­nes­day that his wife is ex­pect­ing their sec­ond child, reached at least the semi­fi­nals at Arthur Ashe Sta­dium each of the past 10 years. That in­cludes seven ap­pear­ances in the fi­nal.

Henri Laak­so­nen of Switzer­land, who is ranked 95th, will get Djokovic’s spot in the field at Flush­ing Mead­ows.

This year’s U.S. Open starts Aug. 28.

“All the doc­tors I’ve con­sulted, and all the spe­cial­ists I have vis­ited, in Ser­bia and all over the world, have agreed that this in­jury re­quires rest. A pro­longed break from the sport is in­evitable,” Djokovic said.

“I’ll do what­ever it takes to re­cover,” he added.

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

No­vak Djokovic will sit out the rest of this sea­son due to an in­jured el­bow.

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