MASON, Ohio -- No. 1 Novak Djokovic will go into the U.S. Open with just two match wins on the summer hard courts after losing to No. 20 Tommy Robredo 7-6(6), 7-5 in the third round of the Western & Southern Open. It's the second early exit in a row for Djokovic, after this third-round loss to eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Toronto. A four-time finalist in Cincinnati, Djokovic came into the tournament chasing the one ATP Masters 1000 title that has eluded him. A win would have made him the first man to ever win all nine Masters shields. That quest will have to wait again for next year.
"Just many, many, many things are not clicking these two weeks on hard courts," a frustrated Djokovic told reporters after the loss. "It's unfortunate, but it's more than obvious I'm not playing even close to what I'm supposed to play."
In addition to winning his second Wimbledon title, Djokovic also got married to his long-time girlfriend Jelena Ristic in July. The Serb dismissed the idea that either event effected his training over the last month. In fact, he said he has practiced more.
"More than usual, to be honest," he said. "I practiced a lot. I had more than enough practice. It's just that's sport. You can't win them all."
As arguably the best hard court player in today's game, Djokovic's last two weeks in Toronto and Cincinnati have been surprising not just because he lost early, but also because he has yet to play well even in his wins. In Toronto, he had a second-set lapse and narrowly defeated Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(2) in his opening match. This week he needed three sets to beat Gilles Simon 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, again in his opening match. The error counts in his four matches have been inordinately high, especially in light of the relatively low winner count. Against Robredo he sprayed 30 unforced errors while hitting 19 winners. Against Simon in the second round he hit 39 unforced errors while hitting 32 winners over three sets.
Djokovic will be the top seed at the U.S. Open, where he was a finalist last year. The tournament starts August 25, but the Serb will head to New York early to train in hopes of peaking for the final Slam of the season.
"Just in general, I'm not feeling very comfortable on the court," he said. "I hope that comes with practice and with time, so in New York hopefully it's going to be better."