Novak Djokovic Withdraws From French Open


The current champion Novak Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the French Open due to a ruptured medial meniscus, which he suffered during his thrilling five-set victory against the 23rd-seeded Argentinean Francisco Cerúndolo on Monday.

“I am unfortunate to announce that I have to withdraw from Roland ­Garros,” Djokovic said in a statement on social media. “I played with my heart and gave my all in yesterday’s match and unfortunately, due to a medial meniscus tear in my right knee, my team and I had to make a tough decision after careful con­sideration and consultation.

“I wish the best of luck to the ­players competing this week and sincerely thank the incredible fans for all the love and continued support.”

He was up two sets when Djokovic slipped and injured his knee on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The 37-year-old was highly critical of the condition of the French Open’s courts after obtaining treatment; he said the rain and bad weather had damaged the courts, removing some of the top layers of clay and making it considerably more slippery. Djokovic spoke with Wayne McKewen, the tournament administrator, about his dissatisfaction with the courts’ lack of frequent sweeping.

“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 slid a lot. I mean, everyone slides on clay, but I slipped way too many times.”

Even though he was limping around the court and trailed two sets to one in the fourth set, Djokovic pulled off another incredible comeback to win and go to the quarterfinals. He claimed afterwards that he was able to play through pain in the last few minutes of the game because of the large number of medications he had taken, but he would not know more until he had 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 [a] doctor after 30 to 45 minutes, which was just about the time – kind of end of the fourth – when things started to improve for me. I started to feel less limited in my movement. 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.”

Due to Djokovic’s withdrawal, Jannik Sinner will become the number-one seed for the first time in his career the following week. With Sinner’s ascent, there will be more No 1s born in the 2000s (Carlos Alcaraz and Sinner) than in the 1990s (Daniil Medvedev). Sinner will be the first Italian world No 1 in the history of the ATP rankings.

Due to the injury, Djokovic is also unlikely to play at Wimbledon, where he is a seven-time champion and was a finalist until losing to Alcaraz last year.

Even now, Djokovic’s season remains among the most challenging of his career. He struggled to find form and drive when he arrived in Paris, and he hasn’t won a title yet this year—something that has only happened once since he took home his first title in 2006.

Even though the Serb put forth a commendable effort in Paris—spending nine hours on the court in his last two matches—he was unable to overcome a two-set deficit to defeat the 30th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti at 3:07 in the morning. Later, he staged another incredible comeback while hurt to defeat Cerúndolo. Now, with just over seven weeks until the Olympics begin, Djokovic must recuperate from his injury.

Sinner, who was tipped to be the next world No. 1, maintained his dominant form as he defeated 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3) to make it to the French Open semifinals for the first time. Because Djokovic had pulled out of the match, Sinner was unaware of his impending ascent until his on-court interview. He exclaimed, “I am overjoyed about this accomplishment.”

Though Sinner was uncertain about his hip ailment when he arrived in Paris, having had to quit before his quarterfinal at both the Madrid Open and the Italian Open, he has steadily improved over the rounds and established himself as one of the leading contenders for the trophy. He is currently 33-2 this year and has gone undefeated in 12 grand slam matches after winning the Australian Open and making it to the semifinals in Paris.

Tuesday night’s victory by the third seed over Stefanos Tsitsipas, the ninth seed, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4, will renew Sinner’s rivalry with Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-final. Alcaraz’s record against Tsitsipas is now 6-0 after destroying the Greek’s weak single-handed backhand once more and energizing him with drop shots throughout the evening.

Alcaraz withdrew from Rome due to a forearm injury, so he came into the competition dealing with his health problems. However, the 21-year-old has steadily progressed since coming to Paris, and he has struck the ball especially freely since his third-round encounter. The overwhelming favourite to win their first French Open championship and finish the tournament will be the one who makes it through this massive semi-final on Friday afternoon.

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