Defending champion Novak Djokovic retired with a shoulder injury after dropping the first two sets of Sunday’s US Open last-16 match against Stan Wawrinka.
Swiss 23rd seed and 2016 champion Wawrinka led Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 when the Serb quit, having received treatment on his troublesome left shoulder before the start of the third set.
“It’s never the way you want to finish a match. I’m sorry for Novak. He’s an amazing champion,” Wawrinka said.
Djokovic, who has won four of the past five Grand Slam events and 16 overall, had struggled with a painful left shoulder during his second-round win over Juan Ignacio Londero.
He said he felt “almost pain-free” following a straight-sets defeat of Denis Kudla in round three, but the problem resurfaced against Wawrinka in the first meeting between the pair since the final here three years ago.
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.”
Serena Williams will be pleased to avoid the same fate as the Serb as she overcame an injury scare to maintain her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.
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.
Eighth-seeded Williams, who has also suffered knee and back injuries this season, felt a mental setback when it happened but battled through to win.
“I’ve had a rough year with injuries,” she said. “It was like, ‘Oh my God. Not again. I’m finally walking.’”
Williams, who last won a major at the 2017 Australian Open and hasn’t won the US Open since 2014, is seeking a 24th career Slam title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record.
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 Roland Garros champion Ashleigh 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.
“Now we’ll sit back, reflect, and look forward to a big couple months to finish off the year.”