Djokovic: I don't know where I go from here

 - Kate Battersby

Twelve-time Grand Slam champion bewildered by quarter-final loss to world No.72 Marco Cecchinato.

Roland-Garros 2018, 1/4 de finale, Novak Djokovic©Julien Crosnier / FFT

It was an unusually pained Novak Djokovic who faced the media soon after his four-set quarter-final defeat to world No.72 Marco Cecchinato.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion, who needed repeated on-court treatment to the rear right side of his neck, was visibly unhappy to have fallen short of his first Grand Slam semi-final in 20 months. He led 5-2 in the fourth set, and in the extraordinary tiebreak that followed had three set points to take it into a decider, before the Italian snatched victory on his fourth match point.

“I struggled from the beginning,” Djokovic reflected. “Just a pity that I couldn't capitalise on the chances in the fourth set and some break points that I thought I had in there, but he came back and credit to him.

“Any defeat is difficult in the Grand Slams, especially one that came from months of build-up. I thought I had a great chance to get at least a step further, but it wasn't to be. That's the way it is.

“Yes, it is heartbreaking, but not the most painful defeat of my career. It's never been hard for me to congratulate and hug an opponent. He deserved to win. I know him well. He's a great guy. On the other hand, when you walk off the court, of course, it's a hard one to swallow.”

Asked if had “issues going into this match”, Djokovic replied: “Just couple of things, but nothing major. I don't want to talk about that.” When his inquisitor pressed: “Are you able to articulate…?”, Djokovic replied: “I’m not. I’m sorry, I’m not.”

The Serb, a three-time Wimbledon champion, said he does not know if he will play on grass at all this year.

“I don't know. I don't know what I'm going to do. I just came from the court. Sorry, guys, I can't give you that answer. I cannot give you any answer.”

And perhaps most tellingly, when asked how he will go forward from this defeat, he was at a loss.

“I don't know,” he said. “I'm just not thinking about tennis at the moment.”