Tennis fans in New York didn’t take kindly to Novak Djokovic ending the match early on Monday. Djokovic, the number 1 tennis player in the world in men’s singles, was down two sets and a break to Stan Wawrinka when he decided to retire from the match and call it a night.
Boos were heard across Arthur Ashe Stadium as Djokovic called the match and embraced Wawrinka at center court. Wawrinka had won the opening two sets 7-5, 6-4 and was on his way to an upset when Djokovic called it quits.
Djokovic’s left shoulder was clearly bothering him throughout the match. After the first two sets, he had his trainer working on it as he grimaced in pain on the side of the court.
The crowd reaction eventually went back to cheering from the booing but the initial reaction was harsh. Fans seemed to be upset that Djokovic was quitting the match because he was losing rather than his injury.
Several sports journalists and tennis enthusiasts took to Twitter and called the booing “shameful’ and “disgraceful” among other things.
“Question Djokovic’s form but don’t question his toughness at this stage of his career.” said New York Times Tennis Correspondent Christopher Cleary, “He has proven his resilience repeatedly: best recent example the 2019 Wimbledon final. He didn’t stop tonight simply because he was losing.”
“Djokovic retires with injury down 6-4 7-5 2-1 to Wawrinka in #USOpen 4R. Many boos as he was leaving the court, Novak with sarcastic thumbs up. I don’t think he deserved that.” Said sports journalist Sasa Ozmo.
Djokovic isn’t taking any chances with this shoulder injury after learning from his past mistakes. He was in a 2-year slump due to an elbow injury that he never let heal fully from 2016 – 2017. He finally went out for the season in 2017 but played a 18 months through the injury and didn’t look like he was 100%.
Stan Wawrinka now has the second-most wins against ATP World No.1’s at the grand slam level with 5. He will face Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
You can watch video of the crowd booing below.
Djokovic has yet to comment on the incident.
Social Media “Disgusted” at the Novak Djokovic Being Booed
The reaction from social media was swift and almost unanimously in defense of Novak Djokovic. It was similar to the reaction to Andrew Luck‘s retirement with most people defending the Djoker.
One user pointed out how reigning champion Rafael Nadal retired last year in the semi-final during the second set and was met with “sympathetic applause”.
Djokovic gave a sarcastic wave and thumbs up to the crowd before walking off the court.
Djokovic says Shoulder is Almost Healed After Round 3
During a press conference following his victory over Denis Kudla in Round 3 of the US Open 2019, Djokovic said his “shoulder is almost pain free”.
“It has a little bit of pain but I’m really pleased with the way it went” he continued, referring to the round 3 match.
He refused to talk about the injury in detail with the press and rebuked them several times as they continually asked for updates.
One journalist asked “Did you have some sort of pain killing injection or treatment?” but didn’t finish as Djokovic cut him off “As I said I really would appreciate if you respect me not talking about it in details. I understand you guys want to know but I made a decision not to get into details and not to speak about it.”
He also said his shoulder was “the complete opposite of two days ago” and that he “did a lot of things in the last two days to be able to play.”
It would have been foolish of him to reveal the exact extent of his injury prior to the match against Wawrinka because his opponent could have easily taken advantage of it. But it may have given fans the wrong impression who took him at his word and didn’t believe he was as injured as he appeared to be during the match.
Djokovic has played injured several times in the past and is not the type of player to shy away from competition.
Stan Wawrinka Comments on the Boos
“It’s never the way you want to finish a match,” Wawrinka said on court following the match. “I’m really sorry for Novak. He’s a good friend. He’s an amazing champion. We’ve played some amazing battles all my career. I feel sorry for him. I want to keep my level (from) tonight. I think I was playing super good tennis. I am happy to be back.”
The 34-year-old Swiss is used to beating No. 1s. With his victory over Djokovic, he moved into the #2 spot for “Most wins against World No.1’s at grand slam level”. He currently has 5.
He’s also won titles facing each of the “Big 3” in this era of tennis including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.