Djokovic rocks French Open with withdrawal, Sinner assured of top ranking


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Djokovic rocks French Open with withdrawal, Sinner assured of top ranking

STRUGGLE. Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after falling during his fourth-round match against Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo in the 2024 French Open.

Yves Herman/REUTERS

Novak Djokovic's French Open title defense ends with a whimper following the top seed's withdrawal due to injury, while 22-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner readies for his imminent takeover as world No. 1

PARIS, France – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s disappointing season continued on Tuesday, June 4, when the defending French Open champion was forced to pull out of the Grand Slam before his quarterfinal with a knee injury that could threaten his Wimbledon and Olympic chances.

The injury, sustained in his fourth-round win over Francisco Cerundolo, ended the Serb’s quest to win a record-extending 25th Grand Slam trophy and will result in him losing his top ranking to Italian Jannik Sinner later this month.

“Due to a torn medial meniscus in his right knee (discovered during an MRI scan), Djokovic, who was supposed to play Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals tomorrow, has been forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros tournament,” tournament organizers said.

Last year’s runner-up and seventh seed Ruud will now advance to the semifinals, where he could take on fourth seed Alexander Zverev or 11th seed Alex de Minaur.

Djokovic said on Instagram that he was disappointed to pull out of the tournament that he has won three times.

“I played with my heart and gave my all in yesterday’s match,” Djokovic said. “Unfortunately… 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 of the love and continued support.”

Sinner said it was not the way he hoped to take the top spot, adding Djokovic’s exit was a loss for the tournament.

“It’s not the way we all were expecting, actually. He had two very long matches, tough matches, five sets, so it’s tough. The first one he finished really late also,” Sinner said.

“It’s tough also for the tournament. Novak retiring, it’s always tough.”

The 22-year-old Sinner will take the top ranking next Monday, June 10, and become the first Italian to do so.

Monday’s marathon match was the second straight clash in which Djokovic was taken to five sets following his epic match against Lorenzo Musetti – a thrilling five-setter that finished past 3 am – and he has spent over nine hours on court in the last two rounds at the year’s second major.

The Serb said he had been carrying an injury for a couple of weeks and that the problem had flared up when he slipped during his match against Cerundolo, where he needed superhuman effort and five sets to subdue the Argentine – and completed with the help of pain killers. 

The injury could also cast doubts over his fitness ahead of next month’s Wimbledon and the Paris Olympic Games that follow, although Ruud was optimistic as he wished Djokovic well on X.

“Speedy recovery Nole. Hope to see you back and healthy on the grass,” Ruud said.

It has been a season to forget for Djokovic after his bid for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title was ended by eventual champion Sinner in the semifinals, before he lost to lucky loser Luca Nardi early at Indian Wells.

Having been stunned by Ruud in the Monte Carlo semifinals, Djokovic was thrashed, 6-2, 6-3, by Alejandro Tabilo in the third round in Rome last month, two days after being hit on the head by a fan’s water bottle while signing autographs.

He was also beaten in three sets by unheralded Tomas Machac in the Geneva semifinals ahead of Roland Garros.

Djokovic is still without a trophy this year after one of the most dominant campaigns of his glittering career in 2023, during which he claimed three of the four Grand Slam titles.

Alcaraz steamrolls Tsitsipas, Swiatek-Gauff up

There was no drama on the women’s side as holder Iga Swiatek continued her quest for a fourth Roland Garros trophy by hitting top gear during a 6-0, 6-2 victory over 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova to also reach the semifinals.

American third seed Coco Gauff earlier fought back to beat fan-favorite Ons Jabeur, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 and will take on Swiatek in a tantalizing rematch of their 2022 final, which the Pole won.

Sinner, the Australian Open champion, will renew his great rivalry with Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinal, after the two-time Grand Slam champion put on a clinical performance to beat former Roland Garros runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-4.

Alcaraz dropped only three of his first-serve points in the first set and held his nerve through the tiebreak to halt the Greek’s mid-match comeback, before delivering one of his superb drop shots on match point.

The Spaniard assured the crowd at Roland Garros that his meeting with Sinner would not disappoint, with the Italian playing at the top of his game.

“It’s going to be a really difficult challenge for me. I’m ready to take that challenge,” said Alcaraz. “It is the match that everybody wants to watch and I’m sure that he’s going to show his best tennis, myself as well.”

The pair are evenly split with their career head-to-head record at 4-4. Alcaraz won their most recent meeting, a semifinal match at Indian Wells this year.

“You have to run like it is a marathon, you know, side-to-side… Everything he does, he does it perfectly,” Alcaraz told reporters. 

“I think it is the hardest thing to face Jannik. At the same time I love that. I love these kind of matches.” –

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