By Matt Citak
Novak Djokovic will sit out for the rest of 2017 due to an elbow injury, the 30-year-old announced via Facebook, his website, and at a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia on Wednesday.
For over a year, Djokovic’s right elbow hurt whenever he hit a serve or a forehand. The pain continued to get worse, which led the Serbian to make the decision to rest for the remainder of the year.
“This is one of those injuries where nothing can really help instantly. You just have to allow natural rehabilitation to take its course,” said Djokovic. “Professionally, this is not, obviously, an easy decision for me.”
Djokovic will miss the U.S. Open (which he won in 2011 and 2015), thus ending his streak of participating in 51 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. Since playing in the 2005 Australian Open, his first major tournament, Djokovic has never missed one. He has the third-longest active run among men and the seventh-longest run in history.
Over the last 12 years, Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slam titles. The only men who have won more major tennis singles championships are Roger Federer (19), Rafael Nadal (15), and Pete Sampras (14).
“The remarkable series has come to an end,” the injured player said. “My body has its limits, and I have to respect that and be grateful for all that I have achieved so far.”
Djokovic also revealed that tennis legend Andre Agassi, whom he has been working with recently on a part-time basis, will be his coach once he returns in 2018.
“He supports my decision to take a break and remains my head coach,” Djokovic said of Agassi, adding a note that he will be looking for a new fitness trainer as well. “He is going to help me get back into shape and bounce back strong after the recovery period.”
Djokovic plans to start his comeback with a tuneup tournament before the Australian Open, which begins on January 15, 2018.
His last appearance came on July 12, when he was forced to stop his Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych due to severe elbow pain.
“All the doctors I’ve consulted, and all the specialists I have visited, in Serbia and all over the world, have agreed that the injury requires rest. A prolonged break from the sport is inevitable,” said Djokovic. “I’ll do whatever it takes to recover.”
Djokovic has made it past the quarterfinals at only one of the past five majors, which was last year’s U.S. Open where he lost in the final to Stan Wawrinka. He hopes the extended rest will benefit him like it did Federer, who sat out the second half of 2016 before coming back to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017.