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French Open Day 10: Djokovic Withdrawal Crowns Sinner New No. 1 as Italian Progresses to Semi-Finals

Defending champion Novak Djokovic has been forced to withdraw from this year’s French Open with an injury to his right-knee

The 37-year-old Serb complained about the slippery court surface during his five-set victory against Francisco Cerundolo on Monday.

The scan revealed Djokovic has a “torn medial meniscus” in his right knee, French Open organisers said.

The top seed announced his withdrawal this afternoon before his quarter-final match against Norwegian seventh seed Casper Ruud.

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Not only does the withdrawal make Jannik Sinner the first Italian to become the World No. 1 in the history of the ATP rankings, it also dashes the Serb’s hopes of winning a 25th Grand Slam title here in Paris – which would be an outright all-time record.

In his fourth round match, Djokovic had been leading by a set when he slipped on the court and hurt his knee. After receiving treatment, the 37-year-old was critical of the court’s condition. 

He suggested the poor weather had meant the top layer of clay had been removed, leading to the surface becoming much more slippery. 

“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.”

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After receiving some painkillers, the Serb managed to dramatically turn the match around after having trailed by two sets to one and eventually come through in just over four and a half hours.

The previous round similarly saw the top seed comeback to beat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in five-sets, finishing his match after 3am. 

With Wimbledon approaching, it remains to be seen whether the seven-time champion will be able to compete.

It also puts a question mark over Djokovic’s Olympic aspirations, with the gold medal the missing piece among his hoard of trophies. 

The Serb left the court in tears after his semi-final defeat in Tokyo and has made clear how the Paris games may be his last chance to win the gold.

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When the withdrawal was announced, second seed Sinner was in the middle of his quarter-final match against Grigor Dimitrov.

An assured performance from the Italian and an admittedly poor one from Dimitrov saw Sinner win 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in two and half hours.

While Sinner may well have preferred to ‘earn’ his status as the new No. 1, he looked slightly emotional in his on-court interview with Fabrice Santoro.

“First of all it’s every player’s dream to be number one in the world,” he said.

But to see Novak retiring for everyone is disappointing, so I wish him a speedy recovery.

“My performance was very solid, especially the first two sets. I’m very happy how I reacted later and happy to be in the semis.

“It’s going to be a huge pleasure to step once again on this court.”

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The 22-year-old’s new status now means there are more players born in the 2000s that have achieved the top ranking (Carlos Alcaraz), than those born in the 1990s (Daniil Medvedev).

The Australian Open champion reaches the semi-finals in Paris for the first time and will face either Alcaraz or Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Author

  • Sam France

    Sam France is an avid tennis watcher and player, frequently found passionately raving about the WTA. A journalist with a passion for all things sport, culture, and politics, Sam is a committed Radio 4 listener. A big WSL fan, Sam is still searching for a Guro Reiten autograph. @SamFrance28