Novak Djokovic forced to withdraw from French Open after knee injury

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Novak Djokovic, the world No 1 and defending champion, has been forced to withdraw from the French Open due to a torn medial meniscus suffered during his dramatic five set win over Francisco Cerúndolo, the Argentinian 23rd seed, on Monday.

“Due to a torn medial meniscus in his right knee (discovered during an MRI scan performed today), Novak Djokovic, who was supposed to play Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals tomorrow, has been forced to withdraw from the Roland-Garros tournament,” the French Open organisers said in a statement.

Djokovic had been leading by a set on Court Philippe-Chatrier when he slipped on the court and hurt his knee. After receiving treatment, the 37-year-old was extremely critical of the state of the French Open’s courts; he believed the rain and poor weather had affected the courts, removing some of the top layer of clay and making it much more slippery. In his conversation with the tournament supervisor, Wayne McKewen, Djokovic expressed his frustration at the courts not being swept more frequently.

“It seems like that some of the clay was removed, so there was very little, almost no clay on the court today,” he said. “Because of the drier conditions and sun and warmer conditions, it affects the clay in such a way that, you know, it becomes very slippery. So the injury that I had today with the knee happened exactly because of that, because I slipped, and I slide a lot. I mean, everyone slides on clay, but I slipped way too many times.”

Despite limping around the court and falling down 2-4 in the fourth set while trailing two sets to one, Djokovic launched another dramatic comeback to win and reach the quarter-finals. Afterwards, he said that the significant amount of painkillers he had taken had allowed him to play without pain in the final stages of the match but he said he would not learn more until he undertook scans.

“After the third set was done, I asked for more medications, and I got them,” Djokovic said. “That was the maximum dose that kicked in, as I heard now from doctor after 30 to 45 minutes, which was just about the time – kind of end of the fourth – when things started to really improve for me. I started to feel less limitations in my movement. Basically the whole fifth set was almost without any pain, which is great, you know. But then the effect of the medications will not last for too long, so I’ll see.”

With Djokovic’s withdrawal, Jannik Sinner will rise to the No 1 ranking for the first time in his career next week. Sinner will be the first Italian world No 1 in the history of the ATP rankings and the 22-year-old’s rise means that there will already be more No 1s born in the 2000s (Carlos Alcaraz and Sinner) than in the 1990s (Daniil Medvedev).

The injury also means that Djokovic is a major doubt for Wimbledon, where he is a seven-time champion and finished as a finalist last year, losing to Alcaraz.

This season continues to be one of the most difficult years of Djokovic’s career. He arrived in Paris struggling to find his form and motivation and he still has not won a title this year, which has happened only once at this stage in the year since he won his first title in 2006.

Despite the Serb’s considerable efforts in Paris, with nine hours spent on court in his past two matches after recovering from two sets to one down to win against Lorenzo Musetti, the 30th seed, at 3.07am then launching another dramatic comeback while injured to beat Cerúndolo, Djokovic now must work his way back from an unwelcome injury with just over seven weeks until the Olympics begin.


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