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Defending champion withdraws from French Open

  • Injured Djokovic withdraws from French Open.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the French Open before his quarter-final with a knee injury.

Serbia’s Djokovic had a scan on the injury on Tuesday, having blamed the “slippery” Roland Garros clay courts for aggravating the problem during his fourth-round victory on Monday.

The top seed announced his withdrawal from the Grand Slam tournament later on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old was due to play Norwegian seventh seed Casper Ruud in the last eight on Wednesday.

The scan revealed Djokovic has torn medial meniscus in his right knee.

“I am really sad to announce that I have to withdraw,” Djokovic said.

“My team and I had to make a tough decision after careful consideration and consultation.”

The injury has ended his hopes of winning a 25th Grand Slam title – which would be an outright all-time record – on the Paris clay.

Djokovic will also lose his status as the world number one and be replaced by Italy’s Jannik Sinner after the French Open.

It remains to be seen if he will be able to regain fitness in time for Wimbledon, where he is a seven-time champion.

The grass-court championships start at the All England Club on 1 July, while the Paris 2024 Olympics begin at Roland Garros on 27 July.

Djokovic has not won an Olympic gold medal and made no secret that it was a key priority this year.

How Djokovic’s injury drama unfolded

Before Monday’s match against Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo, Djokovic was wearing tape behind his right knee and needed treatment on the same leg early in the second set.

Djokovic was heard telling the physio that he had “screwed up” his knee, adding: “I’m slipping and sliding all the time.”

He was given painkillers and called the physio to his chair several more times over the rest of the match.

However, Djokovic showed his supreme powers of recovery once again to win 6-1 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-3 in a contest lasting over four and a half hours.

“I had slight discomfort in the right knee for a couple of weeks but it was not an injury which was concerning – until today,” Djokovic said.

“The late finish did not help the sleeping, the biorhythm and recovery, but I actually felt good in the circumstances.

“Then I slipped, one of the many times I slipped, and that affected the knee. I started feeling the pain.

“The reason why I continued was because I wanted to see if an extra anti-inflammatory was going to kick in and reduce the limitations – which is what happened.”

A new men’s champion will be crowned

Ruud, the runner-up in 2022 and 2023, receives a walkover into the last four where he will play either German fourth seed Alexander Zverev or Australian 11th seed Alex de Minaur.

Djokovic’s enforced exit means a new French Open men’s singles champion will be crowned, with Sinner facing Spanish third seed Carlos Alcaraz or Greek ninth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the other semi-final.

Sinner, 22, was told about Djokovic’s withdrawal in an on-court interview seconds after reaching the semi-finals by beating Grigor Dimitrov.

“Seeing Novak retiring, it is disappointing and I wish him a speedy recovery,” he said.

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