New York: Novak Djokovic’s bid to cap a halcyon two months of professional triumph and personal joy with an eighth Grand Slam title ended on Saturday with a shock US Open exit.
“Just wasn’t myself,” Djokovic said in the immediate aftermath of his semi-final loss to Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Although he was largely at a loss to explain why, the 27-year-old Serb was certain it had little to do with his recent marriage and impending fatherhood.
“Of course I’m in touch with my wife. Of course I am being part of her pregnancy,” said Djokovic, who married long-time girlfriend Jelena Ristic in July.
The couple are expecting their first child in less than two months.
“But it’s no different for me in terms of preparing for the match and for the tournament.
“I had all my dedication, everything directed to this US Open. I tried to give my best and I did. Now, my best today was not where I wanted it to be.”
Djokovic’s wedding followed his triumph over Roger Federer in a five-set Wimbledon final, a victory that saw him regain the world number one ranking for the first time since Rafael Nadal usurped him on October 7, 2013.
That was his first Grand Slam title since the 2013 Australian Open, and Djokovic called it the most special of his career.
But he has been unable to build on it, suffering early exits in Masters events in Toronto and Cincinnati before Nishikori denied him a trip to a sixth US Open final.
Djokovic said it was “too early” to say how the birth of his child might affect his playing plans for the rest of the year, although he insisted his season “is not over yet”.
One event that could fall by the wayside is Serbia’s Davis Cup World Group play-off against India that starts in Bangalore next Friday.
“Well, I have to speak with my captain and see if I’m going to go in India or not,” Djokovic said. “I still don’t know.”
He has already qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals in London and he’s slated to play for Dubai in the new International Premier Tennis League in December.
So he’ll try to regroup and in the meantime offered his congratulations to Nishikori and no excuses.
“It was not easy to play in these conditions, but also he had more hours spent on the court,” Djokovic noted of the difficulties both players faced in punishing heat and humidity.
“I wasn’t in the balance,” Djokovic said. “I thought it was just an overall feeling. My strokes just weren’t there.
“It is what it is. It’s sport,” he said. “I have to congratulate the better opponent and move on and try to finish off this year hopefully as close as I have last year.”