Novak Djokovic progressed to the third round of the U.S. Open when his opponent withdrew before their match Wednesday. The top-seeded Djokovic had faced a potentially tricky matchup with Jiri Vesely, who defeated him last spring in their only meeting.
But a couple of hours before they would have taken the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 49th-ranked Vesely pulled out because of left forearm inflammation. He said the muscles were starting to pinch a nerve, resulting in numbness that made it hard to control his shots.
“Playing Novak you have to be 100-percent ready,” he said.
The left-handed Vesely hurt his arm in Winston-Salem last week and had to retire from his final match before the U.S. Open. Vesely and Andrey Kuznetsov were even at 5-5 in the first set in the third round last Wednesday when he stopped.
He said he missed four days of practice while undergoing tests and treatment and it was bothering him during his first-round U.S. Open match Monday, when he was pushed to five sets by 117th-ranked qualifier Saketh Myneni. The nearly four hours on court that day certainly didn’t help, Vesely added.
He took off Tuesday then had more inflammation Wednesday morning.
“I’m very, very disappointed right now,” the 23-year-old Vesely said. “I was looking forward to that match. It’s something that me or any young player is excited to play on the biggest court in our tour – obviously playing against Novak, against the No. 1 in the world. I had nothing to lose. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Vesely beat Djokovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on clay in Monte Carlo in April. At the time, Djokovic hadn’t lost a completed match since November.
At the U.S. Open, Vesely was coming off his best performance at a major, a run to the round of 16 at Wimbledon that included another win over a top-10 player in Dominic Thiem.
Djokovic will face 51st-ranked Guido Pella or No. 61 Mikhail Youzhny in the third round Friday.