US Open 2013: Andy Murray’s exit leaves field clear for battle between big beasts Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal

Djokovic and Nadal to fight for title and the world No 1 ranking after Scot’s surprise defeat

Winning Grand Slam titles matters more to Andy Murray than chasing the world No 1 ranking, but for the moment both ambitions are on hold. Following the Scot’s disappointing exit from the US Open on Thursday night, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are set to fight over the two prizes.

Both men have to win their semi-finals here today – Djokovic faces Stanislas Wawrinka, Murray’s conqueror, while Nadal takes on Richard Gasquet – but it would be a major surprise if the world’s No 1 and No 2 players were not contesting Monday’s final. They have been the outstanding performers over the last fortnight and in the coming months are set for an extended scrap over the world No 1 ranking.

The equation this weekend is simple. Nadal can replace Djokovic at No 1 only if he wins the title and Djokovic loses to Wawrinka. Yet even if Djokovic holds on to his position here, the Serb will do well to finish as the year-end No 1 for the third season in succession. Nadal has no ranking points to defend between now and the end of the year and will need only a moderate autumn campaign to recapture the top spot.

Murray, who will hold on to his No 3 position next week but will be well adrift of the top two, tried to put a brave face on his straight-sets defeat by Wawrinka, which was the first time he has lost before the final of a Grand Slam event since the 2012 French Open.

“If someone told me before the US Open last year that I would have been here as defending champion having won Wimbledon and Olympic gold, I would have taken that 100 per cent,” Murray said. “I’m disappointed, but the year as a whole has been a good one.”

The Scot admitted that the effort he had put into winning Wimbledon this summer had taken a lot out of him. “When you work hard for something for a lot of years, it’s going to take a bit of time to really fire yourself up and get yourself training 110 per cent,” he said. “That’s something that I think is natural after what happened at Wimbledon.”

Murray will have little time to regroup, having given himself a busy autumn schedule. He will be the key figure in Britain’s Davis Cup World Group play-off in Croatia next week and is then scheduled to play three tournaments in a row in Asia – in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai – before concluding his campaign in the European indoor season.

John McEnroe, who knows how much winning Wimbledon can take out of you, thinks Murray would do better to give himself a rest. “I would take a month off,” the American said. “He had it a lot tougher than I did and there was a lot more pressure. I felt like I was dealing with a lot of pressure when I played Wimbledon, some of it self-inflicted, but it was a lot more so for Andy. He has been through a lot over the past 10 years and he should take a break.

“He should take some time off and try to finish strong in London at the Tour Finals. Then he can start to get ready for the Australian Open. I certainly wouldn’t be too concerned about the next few months if I were him.

“I think Andy was on such a high that inevitably you come down. After all those years trying to win Wimbledon it was inevitable there would be a let-down. The question was how much. It’s not easy to turn it on again pretty quickly. He has been pretty flat for the whole summer.

“I think it is just a mental thing and he is a little weary after all the effort. I would still look at it as an incredible year for him as he has done something  [a Briton winning the Wimbledon men’s singles] for the first time in 77 years. It is amazing and that high is so high you just can’t grasp how big an achievement it was. He didn’t have that much time off where he could sit back and enjoy it. He was almost straight back into training.”

Djokovic, who dropped a set for the first time in this tournament when he beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 3-6,  6-0 in the concluding quarter-final, has won his last 11 meetings with Wawrinka, but the 28-year-old Swiss is enjoying the best year of his career and pushed the world No 1 harder than anyone at this year’s Australian Open. Djokovic won their fourth-round match in Melbourne after more than five hours, winning the final set 12-10.

“It was definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played in my life on this surface,” Djokovic said. “In the past we all knew that he had the quality to play that well, but not on a consistent basis. Now I think he has worked a lot on his movement and the variety of his shots in the game. He’s a complete player. He can play equally well on any surface.”

John Tomic, the father and coach of Australia’s Bernard Tomic, has been sentenced to eight months in prison after he assaulted his son’s practice partner in Madrid earlier this year, breaking his nose by head-butting him in the face. However, he will not have to serve time in jail.

“In Spain nobody goes to jail unless their sentence is at least two years,” a court official said. Tomic senior, who has subsequently been banned from attending tournaments, has five days in which to appeal against the ruling.

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