Novak Djokovic will surely never have an easier route into the semi-finals of a Grand Slam as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became the third of the world No 1’s US Open opponents to withdraw through injury.
World No 1 Djokovic was leading Tsonga 6-3, 6-2 on Arthur Ashe Stadium when the Frenchman was forced to retire from the quarter-final match due to a left knee injury.
Djokovic now progresses to his tenth straight US Open semi-final to face another Frenchman in Gael Monfils on Friday.
The Serbian has been on court for just six hours and 26 minutes at Flushing Meadows this year. Second round opponent Jiri Vesely pulled out before the start of their match with a left forearm injury and Mikhail Youzhny was forced to quit during the first set of his third round match against Djokovic with a hamstring issue.
And Djokovic admits his own physical recovery has been aided as a result after he struggled with wrist problems in the build-up to the final Grand Slam of the year.
Djokovic said: ‘In this stage of the season, considering some physical issues I have had in the last month, month and a half, this was the scenario that I needed and I wished for.
‘I got a lot of days off and recovered my body. Right now I’m feeling very close to the peak. That’s the position where I want to be.’
Defending champion Djokovic had cruised to a two-set lead before Tsonga decided he could no longer carry on after one hour and 23 minutes of play, walking off the court to audible booing from the New York crowd.
Djokovic said: ‘I’m in the semi-finals, so that’s what matters for me the most, to be able to play as well as I did in the fourth round and today in the quarter-finals for at least a couple of sets.
‘I thought I came out with the right intensity. The quality of my game and level of performance has raised in the last couple of days, which obviously encourages me prior to the last four.
‘I put myself in a position again to be one match away from the final. As the tournament progresses, I feel like I’m getting better.
‘Of course this Grand Slam is very unique for me. I never experienced something like this to have three retirements on the road to the semi-finals.
‘I can only wish all of my opponents a speedy recovery. That’s all I can do on my end. I obviously try to focus on things I need to do, stick to the game plan.
‘I noticed Jo already midway through the second set was upholding his first serve and you could sense that something was going on.
‘So I’m sure it’s not an easy situation for him to handle, playing the quarter-finals and having to retire from the night session. But, again, it’s sport.’
Tsonga later explained his decision to retire from the match. He said: ‘Just because I have a pain on my left knee. It’s something I had already in the past, so I know exactly what happened.
‘I knew it was over for me straightaway, because when I have my knee, it’s already tough to play against one of the best tennis players.
‘But when I don’t have my knee, I have no chance to come back from two sets to love down. So for me, it’s important to save what I can save. And that’s it.’