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NEW YORK (AP) – Novak Djokovic double-faulted, then shook his right arm and grimaced.
Seconds later Monday night, a weak serve produced a wince from the US Open’s defending champion, then was followed by a missed forehand that gave away a set – the first set dropped by Djokovic in the first round of any Grand Slam tournament since 2010.
While he managed to emerge with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, there were plenty of signs of trouble, starting with a visit from a trainer who massaged Djokovic’s bothersome arm after only five games.
Asked about his health during an on-court interview, Djokovic deflected the question, saying, “ I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about this now. I’m through. I’m taking it day by day.’’
When the subject arose at his news conference, Djokovic again avoided addressing the topic, saying the trainer’s visit “ was just prevention; it’s all good.’’
During the match, Djokovic hit first serves around 100 mph, sometimes slower – 25 mph or so below what’s normal for him. He hit second serves in the low 80s mph. He flexed that right arm, the one he has used to wield a racket on the way to 12 Grand Slam titles, and appeared generally unhappy, covering his head with a white towel at changeovers.
Djokovic’s coach, Boris Becker, gnawed on his fingernails, looking nervous as can be.