Both respective number-ones and defending champions Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic lost in their round four match-ups over the extended weekend.
Djokovic, who had entered the tournament with an injured shoulder, was losing 6-4, 7-5 and 2-1 to 23rd-ranked Stan Wawrinka before retiring from the match to some boos in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It was the left shoulder,” Djokovic insisted. Asked if the pain, which he had previously said waned a bit, returned, he replied, “Yeah, unfortunately.”
Djokovic also evaded an initial question when asked of the fans booing him after ending the match, and later downplayed the incident.
“I don’t really pay too much attention to that,” he said. “I just like to respect others and hope that others could respect me and my decision. I’m sorry for the crowd, obviously. They came to see a full match and it just wasn’t to be.
“I don’t wan t to talk about my injuries,” Djokovic added. “I’m sticking to that. I retired, I have nothing more to talk about.”
Wawrinka, who also defeated Djokovic to win the 2016 US Open, reached the tournament quarterfinals, his best Grand Slam singles showing since he reached the French Open Finals in 2017, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. “The more the match was going, the better I was playing,” Wawrinka said. “I could see some little thing that he was in trouble. I know how well he can come back, it oesn't matter how he's feeling on the court, and that's what I was focusing on.”Less than 24 hours later on the same court, Osaka opened Labor Day Arthur Ashe play against world 13th-ranked Belinda Bencic. Though, Osaka justified her seeding several times throughout the match, she was bested by Bencic, who accumulated her third win over Osaka during this calendar year, 7-5, 6-4.
In 2019, Bencic also has wins over Osaka at Indian Wells (6-1, 6-3) and the Madrid Open (3-6, 6-2, 7-5).
“Before the match I didn’t think it was different. After the match, it definitely felt different,” Bencic said after defeating Osaka in straight sets in Queens. “I just came with the same mentality I played her with before, and just really focused on the game and not about the hype, the occasion, the stadium or the round. After the match, this felt like the most important one.”
The loss will separate Osaka from her number-one ranking, which she’s held for 25 weeks of 2019, including this second U.S. Open week.
“Right now, I have this feeling of sadness, but I also feel like I’ve learned so much from this tournament,” Osaka offered. “Of course I wanted to defend this tournament, but I feel like the steps that I’ve taken as a person have been much greater than I would imagine at this point, so I hope that I keep growing.
“I know that if I keep working hard I’ll have better results,” she added.
Osaka, who entered the U.S. Open with a left knee injury suffered at the Cincinnati Masters in August, did get her knee looked at during the second set, but didn’t want to use her ailment as an excuse.
“I don’t want to say that’s the reason that I lost because I obviously played like three matches before this, so I just needed to take a painkiller,” she said.