Novak Djokovic shanked a regulation forehand, shook his head, tucked his racket under his arm and trudged to the net. Thus ended his Wimbledon, as the pain from a right elbow injury that has been troubling him for 18 months became too much to bear.
The 30-year-old Serb was trailing Tomas Berdych 7-6, 2-0 in their quarter-final when he retired, prompting a smattering of boos from a few cruel souls on No 1 Court. He admitted after the match that he must seek a long-term solution to the problem, and may have to take some time off from the tour.
‘It’s the elbow that keeps bothering me for over a year and a half,’ said Djokovic.
‘It’s unfortunate that I had to finish Wimbledon this way. But I tried. I tried what I could do to get in the condition where I’m able to play.
‘I was able for 30 minutes to play with some pain that was bearable. The serve and forehand were the shots where I could feel it the most.
‘I spent about two, two and a half hours today on the table in between the warm-up and the match, trying to do everything I possibly could to make me fit. But it wasn’t to be.’
The world No 2 withdrew from the Miami Open in March citing this elbow issue, but had looked in imperious form here, reaching the last eight without dropping a set.
Djokovic was not helped by the fact that this was his second match in a row, after his fourth round against Adrian Mannarino was held over from Monday night, rather than being finished under the Centre Court roof. Wimbledon put this decision down to security concerns, but Djokovic was critical of the decision on Tuesday and said on Wednesday that the scheduling hampered his recovery.
‘The intensity and the level of pain was not decreasing. It was only increasing as the days went by. I started feeling it more or less at the beginning of the tournament,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately today was the worst day. Probably the fact that I played on yesterday, days adding up, it wasn’t helping at all.’
After looking close to his usual self for much of the first set, Djokovic began shaking out his right arm and called for the trainer during the tiebreak. He received some treatment but looked far worse in the second set, rolling in first serves at 92mph.
‘For any athlete it is really hard to swallow when you have to retire, especially when you’re playing well. I was playing really well, probably the best tennis I’ve played in the last 10 months or so. I haven’t dropped any set in Eastbourne or coming into the quarter-finals. I felt really good on the court.
Djokovic added that he had received contradictory medical advice from specialists on how to deal with the injury. Asked whether in the last year he had considered taking a break to work on the issue, he replied: ‘To be honest, I was. The specialists that I’ve talked with, they haven’t been too clear, mentioning surgery, mentioning different options. Nobody was very clear in what needs to be done.
‘As long as it kind of comes and goes, it’s fine. But it worked for seven, eight, 10 months, but now the next seven months is not working that great. Obviously it’s adding up more and more. The more I play, the worse it gets. ‘Yeah, I guess the break is something that I will have to consider right now.’ Djokovic added in Serbian that he wants to avoid surgery if possible.
As for Berdych, this was his first victory in his last 13 matches against Djokovic. The 31-year-old Czech will play Roger Federer for a place in Sunday’s final.
Muguruza beats Magdalena Rybarikova to reach final
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza thrashed unseeded Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova to set up a Wimbledon final against either Britain’s Johanna Konta or five-time champion Venus Williams of the US.
Muguruza, 23, won 6-1 6-1 in just 64 minutes on Centre Court to advance to her second Wimbledon final. The 2016 French Open champion will try to win her second major title in Saturday’s final. Konta hopes to become Britain’s first women’s singles finalist since 1977. The Briton, seeded sixth, is up against a Wimbledon legend in Williams, seeking her first Grand Slam title for nine years at the age of 37.
Muguruza strode onto Centre Court with heavy strapping on her left thigh, but appeared anything but restricted as she reeled off the first five games in 25 minutes.
Rybarikova, ranked 87th, went into the match with an 18-1 record on grass this season but the 28-year-old appeared nervous in her first Grand Slam semi-final. A sympathetic round of applause greeted her first game at 5-1 down.
Rybarikova won just 10 points on serve in the entire set as Muguruza attacked off the return and was confident enough to dominate from the net. When Muguruza crushed a backhand winner off a 79mph second serve to lead 3-0 with a double break in the second set, Rybarikova was reeling.
There was more appreciation from the crowd when Rybarikova held on in a long service game to get on the scoreboard for just a second time, but Muruguza was in ruthless mood and confidently served out the match.
Djokovic out of Wimbledon after retiring due to injury as Tomas Berdych progresses to semi-finals