Novak Djokovic’s French Open campaign under threat as Serb casts doubts about playing | Tennis | Sport

Novak Djokovic has cast doubts over his French Open campaign and said he didn’t know whether he could step out on the court for his next match. The world No. 1 picked up a knee injury during his five-set win over Francisco Cerundolo on Monday.

He later blamed the physical setback directly on the condition of the clay on the court, having already called out the supervisor during the match. And Djokovic confessed that he questioned whether he should even continue the contest after falling and hurting himself early in the second set. 

Djokovic survived another scare at Roland Garros as he came back from two sets to one down for the second match in a row. The 24-time Grand Slam champion got off to a flying start but things turned when he hurt his knee in the third game of the second set.

He had a full medical time out but continued to receive the occasional visit from the trainer and the doctor. And he eventually stormed back to win 6-1 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-3. Djokovic slipped on the clay several more times after picking up the knee problem. He later confirmed that, although he had been carrying discomfort for several weeks, it became a full-blown injury during the match and could now derail his title defence in Paris.

“For the last couple weeks I have had, I would say, slight discomfort, I would call it that way, in the right knee, but I haven’t had an injury that would be concerning me at all. I was playing a few tournaments with it, and no issues until today,” the three-time French Open champion said after undergoing medical checks when he came off the court. Despite finishing his third-round match at 3.06am, Djokovic said he felt fine physically coming into Monday’s contest. That was until he fell on the court.

He continued: “Then in the third game of the second set, I slipped, one of the many times that I slipped and fell today. That affected the knee. Then, you know, I started feeling the pain and asked for the physio treatment and the medical timeout and tried to take care of it. It did disrupt me definitely in play. For two sets, two sets and a half, I didn’t want to stay in the rally too long. Every time he would make sudden dropshots or change directions, I would not be feeling comfortable to do the running.”

The problem was so bad that he considered quitting the tournament there and then. “At one point I didn’t know, to be honest, whether I should continue or not with what’s happening,” he added. “I got the medications, and then after the third set was done, I asked for more medications, and I got them.

“That was the maximum dose that kicked in, as I heard now from doctor after 30 to 45 minutes, which was just about the time kind of end of the fourth when things started to really improve for me. I started to feel less limitations in my movement. Basically the whole fifth set was almost without any pain, which is great, you know.”

However, Djokovic is expecting to run into more trouble when he attempts to prepare for his quarter-final against Casper Ruud. And he still doesn’t know whether he can even play again this week. He explained: “But then the effect of the medications will not last for too long, so I’ll see. I guess we’ll do some more screening and tests and checkups tomorrow, as well. We have done some with doctor right now after the match. Some positive news but also some maybe concerns, so let’s see tomorrow. I can’t tell you more about it at the moment.”

If Djokovic does take to the court on Wednesday, it wouldn’t be the first time that he has competed while carrying a significant injury. But he sounded doubtful.

“Good thing about the slam is that you have a day between that will allow hopefully the healing process to happen more efficiently for me. That’s it. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or after tomorrow if I’ll be able to step out on the court and play. You know, I hope so. Let’s see what happens,” he added.

The reigning champion also claimed the injury was a direct consequence of the surface after the umpire refused his request to have the clay swept. He said: “I don’t know what exactly they have done. It seems like that some of the clay was removed, so there was very little, almost no clay on the court today. 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. That is quite unusual, you know. Of course I do, because I have an aggressive kind of movement, dynamic change of directions. It’s normal for me, I’ve slipped and fell on the clay many times in my life, and on grass as well, but this was just too many times, you know, today.”

The decision not to sweep the surface could prove incredibly costly for Djokovic, who has not retired from a Grand Slam match from the 2019 US Open. “I’m just trying to understand, you know, if a player is feeling a certain way and then, you know, what else do we need to wait for for that to happen? I mean, today I injured myself. Yes, I survived. I won the match. Great. But will I be able to play next one? I don’t know,” he elaborated.

“I don’t know the severity of the injury. But could have this injury be prevented? Possibly, if, you know, if there was just a little bit more of a frequent care of the court during the set. That’s basically all I ask for.”

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