US Open 2019

Wimbledon finalists' hangover

Novak Djokovic receiving treatment in between games against his second-round opponent Juan Ignacio Londero. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Novak Djokovic receiving treatment in between games against his second-round opponent Juan Ignacio Londero. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Djokovic hampered by bad shoulder while Federer is having slow starts in New York

NEW YORK • Maybe, just maybe, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are feeling some lingering after-effects of their historic Wimbledon final last month.

For Djokovic, it is in the form of a left shoulder that is hurting and probably contributed to his slower-than-usual serves in the US Open's second round on Wednesday.

For Federer, it is in the form of slow starts. He has lost the opening set in each of his first two matches at Flushing Meadows for the first in 19 occasions he has entered the Grand Slam tournament.

If they are going to reprise their rivalry late next week in the semi-finals, both will need to improve.

Djokovic was repeatedly visited by a trainer for shoulder massages at changeovers during a ragged 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 win over 56th-ranked Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina.

The Serb is right-handed, but he uses his other hand both for ball tosses on serves and on his two-fisted backhand - and both were less effective for stretches.

"I was definitely tested. This is something I've been carrying for a quite a while now," said Djokovic, who repeatedly shook his left arm between points while serving in his first-round match on Monday and did that again this time.

FAR FROM SMOOTH

I've been experiencing some days of higher intensity of pain, some days less. It wasn't easy playing with the pain and you have to fight and hope you get lucky with some shots.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, US Open top seed, on playing through pain.

"I've been experiencing some days of higher intensity of pain, some days less. It wasn't easy playing with the pain and you have to fight and hope you get lucky with some shots."

Even though he won for the 35th time in his past 36 Slam matches, including a fifth-set tiebreaker against Federer at the All England Club, he looked uncomfortable and dropped off for stretches, trailing 3-0 in the second set.

Asked how he plans to prepare for today's match against either fellow Serb Dusan Lajovic or American Denis Kudla, he replied with a laugh: "I'll probably freeze my arm for 48 hours, not do anything with it, and then see what happens.

"I'm hoping that with proper medical help and treatment, I'll be able to get myself in a better state."

Federer, meanwhile, will not start trying new tricks, despite needing to come from behind twice already. He got to the third round on Wednesday by beating Damir Dzumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

"Can only do better," said the Swiss, who also ceded the first set to 190th-ranked Sumit Nagal on Monday. "I don't think there is a secret to a good start, other than warming up well, being well-prepared mentally, not underestimating your opponent. I did all of that."

Off the court, he is prepared to champion the cause of lower-ranked players on the men's tour.

Having been elected to the ATP's player council this month, he said a higher percentage of tournament revenue could be used to improve the earnings of players who fail to make it to the main draw.

"If there should be increases it shouldn't be at the top any more. I feel like we have reached a pretty good level there," the Swiss legend said.

The US Open men and women's champions earn US$3.85 million (S$5.34 million) each, while the first-round fee is US$58,000, up by US$4,000 from last year.

Players on the second-tier Challenger Tour and the Slam qualifiers often struggle to sustain their careers owing to a lack of steady sponsorship as well as high expenses for coaching, travel and accommodation.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2019, with the headline 'Wimbledon finalists' hangover'. Print Edition | Subscribe