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Novak Djokovic Withdraws from the French Open with an Injured Right Knee

PARIS (AP) — Novak Djokovic withdrew from the French Open with an injured right knee on Tuesday, ending his title defense and meaning he will relinquish the No. 1 ranking.

The tournament announced the news, saying Djokovic has a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. The extent of the injury was found during an MRI exam a day after Djokovic was hurt during a fourth-round victory against No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo that lasted five sets spread across more than 4 1/2 hours.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion was supposed to face two-time French Open runner-up Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Instead, Ruud gets a walkover into the semifinals, where he will face No. 4 Alexander Zverev or No. 11 Alex de Minaur.

Djokovic’s knee had been bothering him for a couple of weeks before he arrived at Roland Garros — something he kept to himself until after the win against Cerundolo. Early in the second set Monday, Djokovic tweaked his knee and took a medical timeout. A trainer worked on the joint then and during subsequent changeovers, and Djokovic took what he said a tournament doctor told him was the maximum dose of pills allowed to dull the pain and reduce any inflammation.

FILE – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic slipped and fell during the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, June 3, 2024. Novak Djokovic withdrew from the French Open with an injured right knee on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, ending his title defense and meaning he will relinquish the No. 1 ranking. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

“I don’t know what will happen tomorrow — or after tomorrow, if I’ll be able to step out on the court and play,” the 37-year-old Djokovic said Monday evening. “You know, I hope so. Let’s see what happens.”

Amid a season in which he is only 18-6 and has not reached a final at any tournament, let alone won one, he needed to get back to the title match in Paris to retain his hold atop the ATP rankings. With the withdrawal, Djokovic now will be replaced by current No. 2 Jannik Sinner, an Italian who was playing No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Djokovic trailed by two sets to one, and was down a break at 4-2 in the fourth, against Cerundolo before raising his level of play once the medication kicked in.

“I was,” Djokovic said afterward, “maybe three or four points away from losing this match.”

FILE – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic slipped during his fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday, June 3, 2024. Novak Djokovic withdrew from the French Open with an injured right knee on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, ending his title defense and meaning he will relinquish the No. 1 ranking. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

Yes, he stuck it out, and, yes, he came back to win — it was his 370th victory in Grand Slam play, breaking a tie with Roger Federer for the most in tennis history — but it was costly. And Djokovic said Monday he thought it could have been prevented if the clay inside Court Philippe Chatrier had been cared for better.

Both in that match — and during his 4 1/2-hour victory in the third round, which ended at after 3 a.m. Sunday — Djokovic tried to get the chair umpires to have the court swept more frequently to improve traction.

“I mean, today I injured myself. Yes, I survived. I won the match. Great. But will I be able to play next one?” he said, tapping his palms on a table for emphasis. “I don’t know. I don’t know the severity of the injury. But could have this injury be prevented? Possibly, if there was just a little bit more of a frequent care of the court during the set.”

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By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer

FILE – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays the crowd during his third round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Sunday, June 2, 2024. Novak Djokovic withdrew from the French Open with an injured right knee on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, ending his title defense and meaning he will relinquish the No. 1 ranking. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)

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