Tennis

Djokovic considering a break after shock exit

World No. 2 suffers earliest French Open exit in seven years

Novak Djokovic said yesterday that he still has the hunger to become the best player in the world again, but did not rule out taking a break from the sport.

The defending French Open champion crashed out of the quarter-finals last night, after a stunning 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-0 loss to Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic, 30, hinted he may step back from the sport to rejuvenate himself even with Wimbledon fast approaching.

He said: "Trust me, I'm thinking about many things, especially in the last couple months.

"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-set loss at a Major in four years and comes just 12 months after he completed the career Grand Slam in Paris.

The Serb then also held all four Majors and became the first man to break the US$100 million (S$138m) prize money barrier.

Yesterday 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 last year's Roland Garros final, he suffered a third-round loss at Wimbledon.

A runners-up spot at the US Open suggested the Wimbledon loss was just a blip.

However, a shock second-round loss at the Australian Open to world No. 117 Denis Istomin illustrated all the old failings.

This year, 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.

His defeat by Thiem was his first in six meetings with the young Austrian.

NADAL NEXT

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 greatest heights in the sport. I have the belief that I can reach them again," added Djokovic.

Thiem will play Nadal tomorrow. The 23-year-old Austrian trails Nadal 4-2 in career meetings but remains the only man to beat the Spaniard on clay this year after winning in the Rome quarter-finals.

Nadal said of his opponent: "He's a very good player. He hits the ball very hard. He's very powerful on both sides. Forehand, backhand, serve. These weapons are quite good.

"He has a huge potential to tap, and he can hit the ball very hard. He doesn't give you a lot of options." - AFP

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