Serena rolls ankle and US Open rival as Barty, Pliskova fall

NEW YORK: Top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic retired from his US Open match Sunday after dropping the first two sets to Stan Wawrinka, sending the Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion into the quarter-finals.


Djokovic, who won four of the past five Slam crowns and 16 overall, was in pain from a nagging left shoulder injury while 34-year-old Wawrinka, who also beat Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final, showed himself a true title contender.


“It helped me big time knowing I have the game to beat him on that court,” Wawrinka said. “It’s never the way you want to finish a match. I’m sorry for Novak. He’s an amazing champion.” On a day when Roger Federer cruised into a quarter-final against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev reached his first Slam quarter-final, Djokovic’s shocker stole the show.


“It’s frustrating. Very frustrating,” Djokovic said. “Obviously not the first, not the last player to get injured and withdraw from one of the biggest events in sport.” Djokovic admitted he has been hurting for weeks without detailing how or when the injury took place.
“The pain was constant for weeks now, some days higher, some days with less intensity,” Djokovic said. “Taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly. Sometimes it works. sometimes it doesn’t. “You just know (to quit) when you know, I guess, when you feel like you’re not able to hit the shot anymore.”

NEW YORK: Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland reaches for the ball from Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their Round Four Men’s Singles tennis match during the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. —AFP


Wawrinka has battled nearly two years to recover Slam-winning form after knee surgery and his performance, after a French Open quarter-final run, shows his journey is nearly complete. “Tonight was something special. I’m really happy with the level,” said Wawrinka. “I think I was playing super good tennis. I’m happy to be back.


“It has been really tough since my surgery. It has took me two years to be back at that level. It feels really incredible.” A strong warm-up told 23rd seed Wawrinka his game was solid and he took advantage of netted Djokovic backhands on both set points he won, some of the 35 unforced errors the Serbian star made.


“I was feeling great,” Wawrinka said. “When I came to practice I was moving well, playing well. I was quite confident with the level I had but you never know when you are playing the number one player in the world.”


Medvedev, a winner at Cincinnati and runner-up at Montreal and Washington in hardcourt tuneup events, advanced to face Wawrinka by beating 118th-ranked German qualifier Dominik Koepfer 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).


“He’s a great athlete playing super good tennis,” Wawrinka said. “I’m sure it will be a great match.” Medvedev won his only match against Wawrinka in the 2017 first round at Wimbledon.


Federer, a five-time US Open champion with 20 Slam titles, advanced to the US Open quarter-finals for the 13th time by routing Belgian 15th seed David Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in only 79 minutes. “Sometimes these scores just happen,” Federer said. “You catch a good day, the opponent doesn’t, then things happen very quickly… I found my groove after a while and was able to roll really. Never looked back.”


The 38-year-old Swiss third seed is 7-0 lifetime against 78th-ranked Dimitrov, who dispatched Australia’s 38th-ranked Alex de Minaur 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. “Feeling excited first to be in US Open quarter-finals for the first time. This is what I practiced for, to play those matches,” Dimitrov said.


“It’s a great opportunity for both of us. Hopefully we have a great battle and we can produce some great tennis.” Federer unleashed a dominant performance, improving to 9-1 all-time against Goffin.


“As soon as you get there, first match on Ashe against him, you can feel all the 20,000 people are behind him as soon as he hit the ball,” Goffin said.


Serena Williams overcame an injury scare to maintain her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the US Open on Sunday while Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova crashed out in the last 16.


Williams, a six-time US Open winner, romped to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Croatian 22nd seed Petra Martic to set up a quarter-final with China’s Wang Qiang, the conqueror of world number two Barty.


The 37-year-old American star required a medical timeout in the second set after rolling her right ankle as she approached the net but promptly recovered to reach the last eight in New York for the 16th time. “I feel fine right now physically,” said Williams, who received further strapping to an already heavily taped ankle.


“But I’ll see tomorrow. So far I’m good. I have been managing it. We’ll see tomorrow. She will play 18th seed Wang for the first time as the Chinese 27-year-old extended her best Slam run with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat of an erratic Barty.


The Australian, who beat Wang twice last year in their only prior meetings, was undone by 39 unforced errors at Louis Armstrong Stadium. It’s a tough day at the office today. But it has been a year where we’ve hit our goals,” Barty said. “We’ve had a great season in Grand Slams for singles. We’ve made the second week every single one, which has been really special.


Wang became the first Chinese player to reach the women’s quarter-finals since Peng Shuai made it to the last four in 2014. “I think I’m really focused on the court, really enjoyed the way I played. I’m so happy I won,” said Wang, whose breakthrough run has been fuelled by the memory of her late coach, Peter McNamara. – AFP