NEW YORK (AP) – Maybe a little extra rest did Novak Djokovic some good.
Everyone should know the answer to that sometime Friday afternoon.
That’s when Djokovic, the U.S Open’s defending champion and No. 1 seed, is scheduled to play his third-round match in Arthur Ashe Stadium against Mikhail Youzhny.
Djokovic hasn’t played a point since Monday, when he experienced problems with his right arm. He was massaged by a trainer after only five games, then repeatedly shook that arm or flexed his elbow and grimaced following serves, even the ones that were far slower than he usually hits.
He also dropped a set in an opening-round Grand Slam match for the first time since 2010.
After that victory, Djokovic didn’t want to discuss what was going on with his arm, deflecting questions about how he felt and saying: “Tomorrow is a new day. I hope that I’ll feel overall good, so I’m able to perform at my best for the next match.”
Turned out that “next match” did not come Wednesday, because the man 12-time major champion Djokovic was supposed to play in the second round, Jiri Vesely, withdrew from the tournament, citing inflammation in his left forearm.
So after getting what could amount to about 90 hours off, Djokovic will test things against Youzhny, who is currently ranked 61st but used to be in the top 10 and was a semifinalist at Flushing Meadows in 2006 and 2010.
Youzhny also has won all six sets he’s played this week.
After looking nearly unbeatable while winning four consecutive major titles, capped by his first at the French Open in June to complete a career Grand Slam, Djokovic has seemed more vulnerable of late. He lost in the third round of Wimbledon, exited the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the first round, this month, then sat out the Cincinnati Masters because of a sore left wrist.
“Each day,” Djokovic said, “presents us some kind of challenges that we need to overcome.”
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