The post match news conference was over, and Novak Djokovic was running toward the locker room at Arthur Ashe Stadium with energy still to burn after another unexpectedly short shift at the United States Open.
It has been that sort of Grand Slam tournament: a truly strange trip to the semifinals in which the opposition vanished like mirages when they came close enough to play. It is not as if Djokovic usually needs this kind of help. Long the world’s No. 1 player and even longer the world’s best hard court player, he has made a habit of demolishing full-strength opponents, too.
But the timing of his light work schedule in New York has been just right for him this year. Marian Vajda, one of his coaches, confirmed that Djokovic seriously considered not playing here at all because of a left-wrist injury that was hampering his two-handed backhand.
A first French Open title and a first gold medal were Djokovic’s two primary objectives for 2016. He will have to make do with achieving just one. A third United States Open title remains a distinct possibility, particularly if he can continue to perform the way he did in the decisive moments against Tsonga.