Novak Djokovic injury doubt for Wimbledon after French Open withdrawal

Novak Djokovic with his head bowed
Novak Djokovic's knee injury means he cannot carry on - Reuters/Stephanie Lecocq

Novak Djokovic faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon after he withdrew from this ill-fated French Open with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Djokovic – who will now lose his world No 1 ranking at the end of this tournament to the Italian Jannik Sinner – underwent an MRI scan on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly afterwards, confirmation arrived he would not be continuing in the tournament. His quarter-final opponent, Casper Ruud, will receive a walkover into the last four.

For a civilian, a torn meniscus would probably mean months away from active sport. But when it comes to tennis professionals, the process can be a surprisingly swift one.

In 2021, American No 1 Taylor Fritz was wheeled off the courts of Roland Garros after popping his knee in similar style during a second-round match. After an operation, he was able to compete at Wimbledon, reaching the third round. It should be said, however, that Fritz was only 20 at the time. Djokovic is 37.

This outcome had always seemed plausible – likely even – after the downbeat mood of Djokovic’s press conference on Monday night.

He had felt a sharp pain in his right knee early in the second set of his match against Francisco Cerundolo. The tweak occurred as he lost his balance slightly on what he described as a “very slippery” court surface.

After medical treatment, he stormed back to beat Cerundolo in five sets in what was one of his most courageous performances. Yet Djokovic made it clear that he was expecting the worst once the painkillers wore off.

He also attacked the French Open officials for not ensuring a safe playing surface. “Today I injured myself,” he said. “Yes, I survived. I won the match. Great. But will I be able to play next one? I don’t know. I don’t know the severity of the injury. But could this injury be prevented? Possibly, if there was just a little bit more of a frequent care of the court during the set.”

According to Djokovic’s account, the incessant rain that blighted the first week of this chaotic tournament had spoiled the quality of the clay.

He surmised that the groundstaff had then removed some of the affected material. He said: “There was very little, almost no clay on the court today. Because of the drier conditions and sun, it affects the clay in such a way that it becomes very slippery.”

There can be no worse time to pick up an injury than the business end of the French Open. Roland Garros finishes only three weeks before Wimbledon, and then the Olympic Games begin just under a fortnight after that.

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