Advertisement

Novak Djokovic Is Out of the French Open After Suffering a Torn Meniscus

novak djokovic hits a tennis ball with a raquet, he wears a red polo shirt and white shorts and people sit in the stands behind him
Novak DjokovicGetty Images


"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

1987-present

Novak Djokovic News: Tennis Star Withdraws from French Open Due to Injury

A knee injury has cost Novak Djokovic his chance at a record-extending 25th Grand Slam title, as well as his No. 1 ranking. The 37-year-old announced June 4 he would no longer defend his 2023 French Open title at Roland Garros, withdrawing from this year’s tournament because of a torn meniscus suffered during his grueling five-set win over Francisco Cerundolo a day prior. According to the Associated Press, an MRI revealed the extent of the injury.

“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,” Djokovic said.

The Serbian tennis star was seeking his fourth French Open title. Instead, the tournament is guaranteed a first-time champion with Rafael Nadal already eliminated in round one. Djokovic will also lose his No. 1 ATP ranking to 22-year-old Jannik Sinner, whose win on June 4 secured him a spot in the semifinals.

[table-of-contents] stripped

Who Is Novak Djokovic?

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest players in the sport’s history. He began playing tennis at age 4 and turned pro in 2003 at age 16. After a steady ascent to the top levels of the sport, he won the Australian Open in 2008 and led the Serbian national team to its first Davis Cup win in 2010. In 2011, he claimed three of four Grand Slams and compiled a 43-match winning streak en route to the world’s No. 1 ranking. With his first French Open win in 2016, he became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once. Djokovic has won 24 Grand Slam titles in his career—a record in men’s tennis.

Quick Facts

FULL NAME: Novak Djokovic
BORN: May 22, 1987
BIRTHPLACE: Belgrade, Serbia
SPOUSE: Jelena Djokovic (2014-present)
CHILDREN: Stefan and Tara
ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Gemini

Childhood and Amateur Career

Novak Djokovic was born on May 22, 1987, in Belgrade, Serbia. Father Srdjan and mother Dijana owned the company Family Sports, which had three restaurants and a tennis academy. Djokovic’s father, uncle, and aunt were all professional skiers, and his father also excelled at soccer, but young Djokovic was a tennis prodigy. His two younger brothers, Marko (born in 1991) and Djordje (born in 1995), both followed his path by pursuing professional tennis careers.

Djokovic began playing tennis at age 4, then in the summer of 1993, at 6 years old, Djokovic was spotted by Yugoslavian tennis legend Jelena Gencic at his parents’ sports complex. Gencic worked with Djokovic for the next six years.

During this time, the war in former Yugoslavia and the bombing of Belgrade meant that, for almost three months, Djokovic and his family would spend a few hours in the middle of each night in the basement. Djokovic has said that the hardships of war drove him to pursue tennis with even greater determination.

At 13, Djokovic was sent to the Pilic Academy in Munich to pursue higher levels of competition. In 2001, at age 14, he began his international career. He ended that year as a triple European champion in singles, doubles, and team competition. He won the silver medal at the World Junior Championship in a team competition for Yugoslavia. At 16, after winning five ITF tournaments, he was ranked the 40th best junior tennis player in the world.

Professional Tennis Career

novak djokovic pumps his fist and holds the french open trophy, he wears a red and black jacket with the number 23 on the front
Novak Djokovic celebrates his 23rd Grand Slam win at the 2023 French Open.Getty Images

In 2003, Djokovic turned pro, and 20 years on, the 36-year-old remains one of the most dominant players in men’s tennis. He won his first ATP Challenger tournament in 2004 in Budapest, where he started as a qualifier. The following year, Djokovic qualified at Wimbledon and reached the third round, moving him up the rankings and into the Top 100.

novak djokovic watches a tennis ball as he prepares to hit it on the run, he wears a black and blue adidas jersey and shorts
Novak Djokovic prepares to return a ball during a 2005 match at the Australian Open.Getty Images

In the 2007 season, Djokovic played the semifinals of the French Open and Wimbledon. He won his second Masters title in Montreal, beating the Top 3 players—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Roddick—which made him No. 3 in the world. He competed for Serbia in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won a bronze medal in singles tennis. In 2010, the Serbian national team clinched the Davis Cup trophy for Serbia for the first time in history. Djokovic went on to win 43 matches in a row in 2011, the only player in the world to achieve such a run. That same year, he won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open to become the world’s No. 1 tennis player.

In 2012, Djokovic won the Australian Open singles title and made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon. He was beaten in the semifinals, however, by longtime rival Federer, who went on to win the Wimbledon final against Andy Murray. Later that year, Djokovic faced off against Murray in the final at the U.S. Open. He fought hard against Murray, but he ended up losing the match after five sets.

For the third year in a row, Djokovic took home the men’s singles title at the Australian Open in 2013. He was the runner-up at Wimbledon that year, losing in the final to Andy Murray. At the U.S. Open, Djokovic was the top-ranked player. He easily dispatched his opponents in the first three rounds of play, but he lost in the final to Rafael Nadal.

In 2014, Djokovic claimed his second Wimbledon title in an epic five-set win over seven-time champion Roger Federer. It was his seventh Grand Slam title. At the 2014 U.S. Open, Djokovic defeated Andy Murray to reach the semifinals for the eighth time. He was subsequently defeated in the semifinals by Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who became the first player from that country to make it to the Grand Slam final.

Djokovic kicked off 2015 by winning the Australian Open over Andy Murray after a heated battle on the blue court. It was his fifth Australian Open title and the eighth Grand Slam title of his career. He then knocked off nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the French Open but fell short in his bid to claim his first French title with a loss to Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland in the final.

Djokovic was back in the thick of things at Wimbledon that July, defeating Richard Gasquet in the semifinals before upending Federer to win his third singles title on the famed grass courts. Facing Federer again in the rain-delayed 2015 U.S. Open final, Djokovic shrugged off a hard fall early in the match and eventually clinched a tough four-set win. The victory gave him his 10th major singles title and left him with an incredible 27-1 record in Grand Slam play for the year.

novak djokovic holds a silver trophy as he kisses it, he wears a red jacket and watch
Novak Djokovic achieved a career Grand Slam after winning the 2016 French Open.Getty Images

The world’s No. 1 roared out of the gates to start the 2016 season, surging to his sixth Australian Open title. That June, following consecutive runner-up finishes at the French Open, he finally broke through with his first tournament win. The title made him the eighth man to complete the career Grand Slam and the first since Australia’s Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all for major titles at once. But Djokovic’s quest to win all the Grand Slams in a calendar year came to an abrupt end at Wimbledon when he was defeated by Sam Querry, an American player ranked No. 41, in the first week of competition. Later that year, he lost to Stan Wawrinka in the U.S. Open final.

2017 Elbow Injury

Following some disappointing results in early 2017, including a second-round loss at the Australian Open, Djokovic sought to shake things up by bringing tennis great Andre Agassi on board as his new coach. He won the grass court Eastbourne International tournament that summer, but after retiring in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, he announced he was sitting out the remainder of the season to help his ailing right elbow recuperate.

Djokovic ultimately underwent elbow surgery after his fourth-round loss at the 2018 Australian Open, and although he was shaky in his first tournaments following his return in March, the champion within showed signs of awakening.

Wimbledon Comeback and Beyond

In summer 2018, Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a marathon five-set semifinal at Wimbledon, before toppling South African Kevin Anderson to claim the 13th Grand Slam title of his career. Djokovic then captured his 14th Grand Slam title and third U.S. Open title by besting his 2016 Olympic nemesis, Juan Martín del Potro.

In January 2019, Djokovic defeated Nadal to claim a record seventh Australian Open singles title and his 15th overall major championship, breaking a tie with Pete Sampras for third-most all time. He added to his total by beating Federer in a thrilling five-set Wimbledon final that summer, though his run at the season’s final Grand Slam, the U.S. Open, came to a disappointing end when he retired from his fourth-round match versus Stan Wawrinka due to a shoulder injury.

The following February, Djokovic bounced back from a two-sets-to-one deficit against Austrian Dominic Thiem to grab his eighth Australian Open singles title, a win that also pushed him back into the top spot in the ATP rankings. When professional tennis resumed following a COVID-19 pandemic–induced suspension, the No. 1 seed was disqualified at the 2020 U.S. Open in the fourth round after accidentally hitting a line judge with a tennis ball.

Back on the court in 2021, Djovokic proved the previous year’s events hadn’t slowed him down. He won three more majors—tallying his 20th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon—and was runner-up at the U.S. Open. At the Australian Open, he beat Daniil Medvedev of Russia, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, in the final. Winning the French Open wasn’t as easy. In the four-hour-long title match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Djovokic was down the first two sets before rallying to clinch the trophy, 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. His victory over Italian Mateo Berrettini, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, at the Wimbledon placed the Serbian in a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for all-time Grand Slam men’s titles. Djokovic and Nadal have continued to compete for the outright record in subsequent majors.

The 2022 season frustrated Djokovic. Having chosen not to be vaccinated for COVID-19, he didn’t compete at the Australian or U.S. Opens. In the quarterfinals of the French Open, Djokovic faced Nadal, known for his dominance on clay courts, and lost 2-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7 (4). His redemption came by defending his Wimbledon title for a fourth consecutive win, beating Australia’s Nick Krygios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

In 2023, the Serbian star fared much better, winning three Grand Slams. He captured his 10th Australian Open victory, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title while battling a hamstring injury. His historic win at the French Open followed; a three-set sweep against Norwegian Casper Ruud saw Djokovic bypass Rafael Nadal for most Grand Slam men’s titles at a record 23. Although he made it to the Wimbledon final, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz snapped Djokovic’s four-year winning streak there. The veteran player was frustrated throughout the competitive match, even breaking one of his racquets during the fifth set. Never down and out for long, Djokovic soared through the U.S. Open, breaking a tie with Federer after reaching his 47th major semifinal—the most of any man. His win over Medvedev in the final marked his fourth U.S Open title and 24th Grand Slam overall, surpassing Serena Williams for the most Grand Slams of any player in the Open era. Djokovic is now tied with Margaret Court for most Grand Slam titles in tennis history.

Olympic Medal and Appearances

Despite his command of the ATP tournament circuit, Djokovic hasn’t found the same level of success at the Olympics. He has competed for Serbia in four Summer Games, beginning with Beijing in 2008. That year, the 21-year-old walked away with a bronze medal from the men’s singles competition. In 2012, he finished fourth in London.

novak djokovic claps his has over his head, he carries two tennis bags and wears a blue polo shirt, his face is red and scrunched from crying
Novak Djokovic leaves the court after his upset loss to Juan Martin Del Porto at the 2016 Rio Olympics.Getty Images

At the Rio Games in 2016, the No. 1 ranked player in the world was ousted out of his Olympic dreams on the second day of competition when Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina beat him 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2). Although he left the courts in tears, Djokovic told reporters, “Delpo was the better player, and he deserved to win. That’s sport.”

He was also disappointed in Tokyo. At the pandemic-delayed Games held in 2021, Djokovic lost out on a second bronze medal, coming up short against Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain.

No. 1 Rankings Record and Stats

With his injury withdrawal from the 2024 French Open in early June, Djokovic was guaranteed of losing his ranking as the No. 1 men’s singles player in the world.

He first cracked the ATP’s top 10 in March 2007, but the top ranking eluded him for more than four years. On July 4, 2011, Djokovic was ranked No. 1 for the first time. He remained at the top for nearly a year and has reclaimed the spot over the years. In total, Djokovic has held the No. 1 ranking for 427 weeks—the most of any male or female tennis player. Steffi Graf held the previous record at 377 weeks until February 27, 2023.

Djokovic’s other stats, as of June 4, 2023, include:

  • Career Matches Won: 1,101

  • Career Matches Lost: 219

  • Singles Titles: 98

  • Grand Slam Singles Titles: 24

  • Doubles Titles: 1

  • Grand Slam Doubles Titles: 0

  • Olympic Medals: 1 bronze (singles)

  • Career Prize Money: $182,043,906

  • Height: 6 ft. 2 in.

Coach

Over the year, Djokovic’s coaches have included Jelena Gencic, Marian Vajda, Bogdan Obradović, Andre Agassi, and current coach Goran Ivanisevic—all former pro tennis players.

Back in his childhood, Gencic was his first tennis mentor. “Pretty much what I know on court, I owe to her,” Djokovic said, according to a 2013 New York Times article. “She’s the one who developed my game. Whatever she told me, I did. And she kept telling me I had the talent to be No. 1. I believed her, and I still believe her.”

Djokovic and Agassi worked together for one year, from May 2017 until April 2018, before and after which Djokovic teamed up with Vajda. The pair worked together for a total of 15 years, ending their professional relationship in December 2021.

Ivanisevic, a retired Croatian player who won Wimbledon in 2001, began working with Djokovic in 2019.

Wife, Children, and Personal Life

jelena and novak djokovic pose for a photo and smile at the camera, she wears a gray strapless stress and he wears a black tuxedo
Jelena and Novak Djokovic, seen here in 2019, have been married since 2014. Getty Images

Djokovic began dating Jelena Ristic in 2005. The couple became engaged in 2013 and wed on July 10, 2014, just days after his Wimbledon win that year. They welcomed a son named Stefan in October 2014 and a daughter, Tara, in September 2017. The family lives in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

In 2007, he and wife Jelena created the Novak Djokovic Foundation to help disadvantaged children in Serbia obtain an education and provide resources to lead productive and healthy lives.

Djokovic’s lighthearted personality has earned him the nickname “Djoker,” a combination of his surname and the word “joker.” Despite his occasional on-court temper, he’s known for his humorous off-court impersonations of fellow players.

Djokovic is a member of the Serbian Orthodox Christian church, and in April 2011, he was awarded the Order of St. Sava, 1st class, the highest decoration given, “for his demonstrated love for the church and the Serbian people.” He participates in the Champions for Peace club, created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organization.

Djokovic speaks Serbian, Italian, German, and English.

Quotes

  • Belief is the most common word to me, even more than hope. For one to achieve his dreams, he needs to truly believe in them.

  • I always try to remember those days [during the war] in a positive, in a very bright way... We didn’t need to go to school, and we played more tennis.

  • I still feel hungry for success, for more Grand Slams, more achievement in tennis.

Fact Check: We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!

You Might Also Like