London - Novak Djokovic refused to rule out having surgery on the elbow injury that forced him to retire from his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic's miserable 12 months hit a fresh low on Wednesday when the elbow problem curtailed his bid to win Wimbledon for a fourth time.
The 30-year-old Serb was trailing 7-6 (7/2), 2-0 and felt he had no option but to call it quits as the pain, from an injury that has troubled him for more than a year, began to increase.
Djokovic, who has also struggled with a shoulder issue, had spoken to medical experts about the elbow problem before Wimbledon and was told surgery was an option.
Asked what he would do to finally resolve the nagging injury, Djokovic wouldn't rule out an operation.
"The specialists that I've talked with, they haven't been really too clear, mentioning also surgery, mentioning different options," he said.
"Nobody was very clear in what needs to be done. As long as it kind of comes and goes, it's fine.
"But obviously, adding up, maybe it worked for seven, eight, ten months, but now the next seven months is not working that great.
"Obviously it's adding up more and more. The more I play, the worse it gets. Yeah, I guess the break is something that I will have to consider right now."
With the US Open just six weeks away at the culmination of the American hard-court swing, Djokovic doesn't have long to return to full fitness.
"I'm just going to talk with specialists, as I have done in the last year or so, try to figure out what's the best way to treat it and to solve it, to find a long-term solution," he said.
"Obviously short-term it's probably rest is most appropriate. We will see."
Since winning the French Open last year to complete his career Grand Slam, Djokovic has failed to claim another major title.
He crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round and the French Open in the quarter-finals.
With world number one Andy Murray losing against Sam Querrey earlier on Wednesday, Djokovic knew he would have regained top spot in the rankings if he won Wimbledon.
That honour will have to wait for now and, with Murray hobbled by a long-term hip injury against Querrey, Djokovic conceded the two rivals could be paying the price for their gruelling battle for the top ranking last year.
"Could be. We both had a very long, very tough year, a lot of matches, a lot of emotions, a lot of things in play," he said.
"Our bodies have taken a lot physically. So, I mean, as an athlete, one way or another, at a certain stage of your career, you're going to experience these kind of things.
"Injuries are part of this sport, unfortunately. Professional tennis is getting very physical in the last couple of years.
"It's not easy to kind of play on the highest level throughout the entire season, then be able to do that over and over again every season, and then stay healthy."
The injury was especially frustrating for the 12-time Grand Slam winner as he felt he was finally beginning to play his best tennis after a turbulent period.
"For an athlete, it's really hard to swallow when you have to retire, especially when you're playing well," Djokovic said.
"I was playing really well, probably the best tennis I've played in the last 10 months or so.
"It's just unfortunate. It takes some time to understand why this happened and to learn from it."
Wimbledon results on Wednesday, the ninth day of the 2017 championships at the All England Club (x denotes seeding):
Sam Querrey (USA x24) bt Andy Murray (GBR x1) 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-1
Marin Cilic (CRO x7) bt Gilles Muller (LUX x16) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1
Roger Federer (SUI x3) bt Milos Raonic (CAN x6) 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
Tomas Berdych (CZE x11) bt Novak Djokovic (SRB x2) 7-6 (7/2), 2-0 - retired