Novak Djokovic stunned the Flushing Meadows crowd last night when he pulled out of his US Open fourth round clash with Stan Wawrinka with a shoulder injury.
After suffering the same problem in the earlier rounds, Djokovic was trailing by two sets to love before deciding to end the contest early. He left the Arthur Ashe arena to a cacophony of boos from fans who paid good money to see top class action. The markets also reacted quickly to the surprising news as the world No 1 has been an indomitable force on hard court.
Federer and Nadal boost?
Prior to his retirement, Djokovic had won 36 of his last 37 Grand Slam matches and four of the previous five majors to boot. The Serbian looked a shadow of himself against Wawrinka and he threw in a couple of double faults while serving for a 5-2 lead in the first set which suggested all was not well.
In the wake of his retirement against his Swiss counterpart, Rafael Nadal saw his odds with the Betfair Exchange drop from 3.1085/40 to 2.1211/10 while Roger Federer saw his price slashed from around 7.006/1 to 3.259/4. The five-time US Open champion looked wobbly in the first couple of rounds, dropping the opening sets, but he was back to his best against David Goffin yesterday, taking control from the off and brushing the Belgian aside with ease. In the last round he also easily took control of Dan Evans; winning in straight sets in a swift 80 minutes.
Federer decided to take some time off after Wimbledon to go on a caravan holiday with his family and he's starting to reap the benefits of that. He looks fresher and sharper despite limiting his preparations before the final major of the campaign.
His last triumph in New York came in 2008 so another title appears to be overdue. Nadal could be waiting for him in the final, he has started to turn the tide against the Spaniard and he won in four gripping sets in their last meeting, at the Wimbledon semi-final meeting in July.
Meanwhile, Nadal, who has experience his own injury problems in the past has been relatively untroubled although he has a potentially tricky looking clash against Marin Cilic in the last 16 to negotiate first.
Djokovic's wait for a 17th Slam continues, but if Federer were to notch up his 21st, then it would arguably be his greatest achievement to date, in a long and decorated career.
Nadal is currently 140 points ahead in the ATP Race to London and he can further widen the gap if he books his spot in the last eight at the US Open. Djokovic on the other hand has tried to reassure fans his season is far from over as he said: "This season is not yet over."
There are plenty of big tournaments ahead [ATP] Rankings-wise, plenty of [ATP Rankings] points to defend for me and try to withhold that No. 1 ranking."
"Obviously Rafa has been playing well and Roger and the other guys. I just hope I'll get a chance to be competing because once I'm healthy, I actually like my chances playing in Asia."
But for now, a Nadal v Federer final is still on the cards and the Slam race will remain exciting until the very end.