Djokovic out for year

Ten­nis star from Ser­bia to rest in­jured el­bow, re­turn in 2018

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

PARIS — July 26, 2016: Roger Fed­erer an­nounces he is shut­ting down his sea­son to rest a knee in­jury and will re­turn in Jan 2017.

July 26, 2017: Novak Djokovic an­nounces he is shut­ting down his sea­son to rest an el­bow in­jury and will re­turn in Jan 2018.

Same day of the year, sim­i­lar in­jury-con­nected sto­ry­lines — but iden­ti­cal out­comes?

Djokovic, struggling on and off for 18 months with a right el­bow in­jury, and with­out adding to his 12 ma­jors since com­plet­ing the ca­reer grand slam at the 2016 French Open, an­nounced on Wed­nes­day he won’t play again in 2017.

It will rule him out of the US Open, where he has twice been cham­pion and made six of the past seven fi­nals, as well as Ser­bia’s Davis Cup semi­fi­nal against France.

His ab­sence from New York will be the first time he has missed a Slam since 2004, end­ing a run of 51 suc­ces­sive ma­jors. When Fed­erer skipped the 2016 French Open, it ended his ma­jors streak at 65.

Djokovic, 30, will even­tu­ally see his world rank­ing slip to around No 15 — his first dip out­side the top 10 since March 2007.

Fed­erer, five years his se­nior, was No 17 when he won the Aus­tralian Open this year and is now No 3.

So there is plenty of in­spi­ra­tion there for Djokovic, who will be a dan­ger­ous last-16 opponent for one of his top ri­vals at the 2018 Aus­tralian Open where he has won six ti­tles.

“My body has its lim­its, and I have to re­spect that and be grate­ful for all that I have achieved so far,” Djokovic said, adding that his on-court trou­bles are a bru­tal legacy of over­play­ing.

When Fed­erer called time on his 2016 cam­paign, he had played just 28 matches.

While the Swiss su­per­star rested up, Andy Mur­ray and Djokovic bat­tled over three con­ti­nents for the No 1 rank­ing.

Bri­tish star Mur­ray ended the year hav­ing fought through 87 matches while Djokovic played 74 times.

In 2017, Fed­erer has played just seven tour­na­ments, win­ning the Aus­tralian Open, In­dian Wells and Mi­ami Masters, the Halle grass­court ti­tle and his record eighth Wim­ble­don.

Avoided clay

His win-loss record for the year is cur­rently 31-2.

Fed­erer also skipped the 10-week clay­court sea­son en­tirely, which cul­mi­nated in Rafael Nadal strolling to a 10th French Open ti­tle.

Mur­ray, whose Wim­ble­don ti­tle de­fense ended in a quar­ter­fi­nal loss to Sam Quer­rey, has taken part in 11 events this year with a record of 25-10.

The world No 1 is also deal­ing with a hip in­jury that could yet see him also sit out the US Open.

Djokovic has slugged through 12 tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing two trips to the Davis Cup. He has 32 wins on the sea­son and eight losses.

Fed­erer, who might play just one warm-up event be­fore the US Open which he has won five times, be­lieves his 2016 sab­bat­i­cal has helped ex­tend his ca­reer de­spite his 36th birth­day fast ap­proach­ing on Aug 8.

But he doesn’t ad­vo­cate lengthy breaks for all play­ers.

“Some play­ers just need to play. They need to play ev­ery other day, oth­er­wise they feel like they com­pletely lose touch with the rac­quet and the ball, the body goes all funny on them,” said Fed­erer.

When Djokovic re­tired from his Wim­ble­don quar­ter­fi­nal against To­mas Berdych with the right el­bow in­jury which has now ended his sea­son, it com­pleted a mis­er­able year at the ma­jors for the Serb.

He was a sec­ond-round loser at the Aus­tralian Open and a quar­ter­fi­nal­ist at Roland Gar­ros.

For­mer coach Boris Becker told Djokovic at Wim­ble­don that he needed to step back from the sport.

“Fed­erer is play­ing the best ten­nis ever at the age of 35 be­cause he has got ev­ery­thing right in the rest of his life too,” said Becker.

“Maybe that is a les­son for Andy and Novak to re­ally take care of their bod­ies — take their time and get healthy, and don’t play when they can’t.”

Djokovic has now heeded the Ger­man’s ad­vice al­though he will still have his hands full with wife Je­lena soon to give birth to the cou­ple’s sec­ond child.

“It is very im­por­tant for me to re­cover, to be able to play in­jury-free for as long as pos­si­ble, and to com­pete in the sport that has given me so much, the sport I love,” said Djokovic.

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / REUTERS

Novak Djokovic speaks dur­ing a media con­fer­ence in Bel­grade on Wed­nes­day. The for­mer world No 1 said he will not play any tour­na­ments for the rest of the year.

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