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Djokovic insists not in freefall, ponders a break

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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts during his tennis match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem at the Roland Garros 2017 French Open on June 7, 2017 in Paris. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON

Novak Djokovic insisted Wednesday that he still has the hunger to regain his status as the best player in the world, but did not rule out taking a break from the sport.

The 30-year-old Serb crashed out of the French Open where he was the defending champion in a stunning 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-0 quarter-final loss to Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic hinted he may step back from the sport to regroup even with Wimbledon fast approaching.

“Trust me, I’m thinking about many things, especially in the last couple months,” he said.

“At the same time, I have responsibility to the game itself, towards others. We’ll see. Obviously it’s not an easy decision to make, but I will see how I feel after Roland Garros and then decide what to do next.”

The defeat was Djokovic’s first straight-sets loss at a major in four years and comes just 12 months after he completed the career Grand Slam in Paris.

He then also held all four majors and became the first man to break the $100 million prize money barrier.

Wednesday saw him suffer a first 6-0 ‘bagel’ at a Slam since the 2005 US Open while the defeat will see him slip out of the world’s top two for the first time in six years.

“All the top players go through this. I have to get through it and learn the lessons and come back stronger. It’s a big challenge but I am up for it,” said Djokovic.

“I always expect a lot from myself. I am not playing anywhere close to my best and I know that.

“But I am trying to work on things. It’s a whole new situation that I am facing by not winning any big tournaments in the last seven or eight months.”

Since Djokovic defeated Andy Murray in the Roland Garros final last year, he suffered a third round loss at Wimbledon.

He hinted at issues in his private life at the time before a runners-up spot at the US Open suggested the All England Club defeat was just a temporary blip.

However, a shock second round loss at the Australian Open to world number 117 Denis Istomin illustrated all the old failings.

In 2017, he has won only one title in Qatar.

At the Masters, he lost in the fourth round at Indian Wells, made the quarters at Monte Carlo, semi-finals in Madrid before being swept aside by Alexander Zverev in the Rome final.

– Next chapter? –
His defeat to Thiem, who he defeated in Rome for the loss of one game as well as the semi-finals in Paris last year, was his first in six meetings with the young Austrian.

The result robbed the tournament of a mouth-watering semi-final match-up against nine-time champion Rafael Nadal.

“I know I have achieved the biggest heights in the sport. I have the belief that I can reach them again,” added Djokovic.

Djokovic arrived in Paris with Andre Agassi as his new coach but the American legend wasn’t on hand to witness Wednesday’s painful exit on Suzanne Lenglen court.

The Serb said it is too early to consider his partnership with the American legend a success or failure.

“His impact will take time, it won’t happen in the first week. We only spent seven days together so we will see where it takes us,” he said.

Djokovic admitted that Thiem was a worthy winner.

The last set ‘bagel’ lasted just 20 minutes where he managed only eight points.

It was only the ninth match in his career in which he had suffered the indignity of not getting on the scoreboard.

“He deserved to win. He was definitely the better player on the court today,” said Djokovic who had two set points in the 10th game of the opening set.

Once they were gone, it was all downhill.

“It’s the next chapter for me. So now I’m just figuring it all out, and obviously there are things to think about and to work on, and we’ll see where it takes me,” he said.


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Novak Djokovic

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