Djokovic Withdraws From Roland-Garros, Sinner To Become New No. 1

Novak Djokovic (photo: Roland-Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 4, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

As Tuesday afternoon’s Roland-Garros men’s first quarterfinal match between Jannik Sinner and Grigor Dimitrov was underway on Court Philippe-Chatrier under partly-cloudy skies, off the court, it was defending champion and current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic who was making headlines.

That’s because Djokovic suddenly withdrew from Roland-Garros due to a right-knee injury, the tournament announced. An MRI revealed that the 37-year-old Serbian suffered a torn medial meniscus. He advanced to the quarterfinals of the clay-court major after winning back-to-back five-set matches against Lorenzo Musetti of Italy early Sunday and Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina on Monday.

However, it became evident that Djokovic struggled with his right knee during his fourth-round win against Cerundolo. He required a medical time out and also took anti-inflamatory medication to allow him to finish. Following the match, he revealed in his post-match news conference that he had felt problems with his right knee since before the start of the two-week major.

“For the last couple weeks I have had slight discomfort, I would call it, in the right knee, but I haven’t had an injury that would be concerning me at all,” Djokovic said Monday. “I was playing a few tournaments with it, and had no issues until today. …

“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.”

With Djokovic out, it means his quarterfinal opponent, No, 7 seed Casper Ruud of Norway, a finalist at Roland-Garros the last two years, receives a walk-over into Friday’s semifinals. He will play either No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany or No. 11 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, who play Wednesday evening.

Also, next Monday current No. 2 Sinner will become the new World No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings, the 29th  No. 1 in ATP Tour history and the first from Italy.

Sinner through to semifinals, reacts to becoming new No. 1

No. 2 seed Jannik Sinner remained perfect at the Grand Slams this year following his 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over No. 10 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in two hours and 29 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier for his 33rd win of the season. The victory advanced Sinner to his first Roland-Garros semifinal and denied Dimitrov from becoming a semifinalist at all four majors.

Since winning his first major title at this year’s Australian Open, the 22-year-old Italian’s profile has shone brightly in the City of Lights during this Paris fortnight. He’s strung together five impressive wins over Christopher Eubanks, Richard Gasquet, Pavel Kotov, Corentin Moutet and Dimitrov, dropping just one set along the journey.

Against the first-time French quarterfinalist Dimitrov, Sinner controlled the quarterfinal match from the beginning. His groundstrokes were clean and effective and his court movement served him well. After he failed to serve out the match at 5-4 and was broken, Sinner made sure he finished the job in the third-set tie-break that soon followed. His victory over Dimitrov was his fourth in five meetings against the popular 33-year-old Bulgarian.

Sinner hit 29 winners, including eight aces, and broke Dimitrov’s serve four times in 10 opportunities. Dimitrov’s high-risk, high-reward style yielded 33 winners but he also made 49 unforced errors. Sinner outpointed his opponent 110-85.

“I am very happy. We have played a couple of times before and know what to expect,” Sinner said in his on-court interview with Fabrice Santoro. “We played a final in Miami and it is always tough to play against him. He is such a great talent and nice guy. My performance was very solid, especially the first two sets. I had a little bit of pressure when serving for the match, but this is normal, this is tennis. I am happy with how I played later and to be in the semis.”

On Friday, Sinner (12-0 in majors this season) will face the winner of Tuesday evening’s night session quarterfinal, No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain. The World No. 3 Alcaraz eliminated No. 9 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4, in two hours and 15 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Alcaraz hit 21 winners, converted four of six break points and outpointed Tsitsipas 101-81.

With the withdrawal of Djokovic, Sinner will climb to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings on Monday. Djokovic needed to reach the Paris final in order to have a chance of remaining at No. 1. Instead, Sinner will become the 29th player to be No. 1 and the first from Italy.

“What can I say. First of all, it is every player’s dream to become No. 1 in the world,” Sinner said in his on-court Interview. “In the other way, seeing Novak retiring here I think is disappointing. I wish him a speedy recovery.”

Gauff makes history, Swiatek keeps on winning

Coco Gauff made history in her come-from-behind quarterfinal over Ons Jabeur Tuesday afternoon on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Not only did the No. 3 seed from the United States advance to her second Roland-Garros semifinal by defeating No. 8 seed Jabeur of Tunisia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, in an hour and 57 minutes, the 20-year-old American from Florida became the sixth under-21 player this century to reach multiple semifinals at the French Open. Gauff is in fine company with Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova and Iga Swiatek, whom she will play on Thursday for a berth in Saturday’s final.

Gauff, the reigning US Open champion, debuted in her first major final at Roland Garros in 2022. Now, after defeating Jabeur, she’s through to the last four of a major for the fourth time – and in her the third straight Grand Slam, too.

The two Top-10 competitors, World No. 3 Gauff and No. 9 Jabeur, seem to bring out the best qualities in each other. By outpointing Jabeur 97-88, Gauff improved to 5-2 lifetime against the three-time major finalist – including 3-1 on clay, which is proving to be Gauff’s favorite surface.

Although Jabeur hit more winners than Gauff, 30-21, she also hit 10 more unforced errors, 30-20. It was on the third match point of the match that Jabeur committed her costliest unforced error, when she directed an overhead smash wide left that ended the quarterfinal contest.

The two shared a warm embrace at the net and Gauff led the cheers for Jabeur as she walked off the court.

“She’s a tough opponent and she’s well-loved on Tour,” Gauff said in her on-court interview with Alex Correjta. “I could tell by the crowd today, I know that you guys wanted her to win. Honestly, whenever she’s not playing, I cheer for her, too. Thank you for making it a great atmosphere. … Hopefully, you can help me make it through the next round.”

After the match, in a court side interview with Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim, Gauff said she felt comfortable in her battle against the always tricky Jabeur, whose game relies on using surprising elements like slice and drop shots, and enjoyed playing before a lively crowd that cheered as much for the Tunisian as it did for her.

“Yeah, these are the matches I live for, when the crowd is engaged in the match,” Gauff said. “Today was one of those days.”

Meanwhile, what a difference a week has made for defending champion Iga Swiatek. A week ago, in the second round, Swiatek saved a match point in her epic 7-6 (1), 1-6, 7-5 comeback victory over four-time major champion Naomi Osaka that lasted nearly three hours but kept alive her hopes of a Roland-Garros three-peat.

On Tuesday, in a match-up of reigning French Open and Wimbledon champions, Swiatek dominated her quarterfinal with fifth seed Marketa Vondroudova 6-0, 6-2 in just 62 minutes. The World No. 1 from Poland outpointed Vondroudova 58-31, dropping just three points on her first serve, while hitting 25 winners and converting five of nine break-point opportunities.

It was Swiatek’s fourth win over the Czech lefty and she’s yet to lose a set against her.

“Honestly, I think everything worked,” Swiatek told Marion Bartoli in her on-court interview after advancing to the semifinal in Paris for the fifth straight year.

I feel like I’ve been serving better than in previous rounds. It gave me an extra boost of confidence. …

“Today was pretty straightforward. I’m happy I can play so focused. Sometimes, I feel things were intense. Other times, the intensity went down a little bit. I tried to play my game against Marketa. I was in the zone today.”

With her latest win, coming two days after dropping a mere 10 points in her 6-0, 6-0 fourth-found drubbing of Anastasia Potapova, Swiatek has won 19 straight matches at Roland-Garros and her current winning streak on clay has reached 17 matches, looking ahead to Thursday’s semifinal showdown with Gauff whom she has beaten 10 of the 11 times they’ve met.

Swiatek will be looking to advance to the final for the fourth time in her six Paris appearances — and for the third straight year.

Around Roland-Garros

Tuesday’s Roland-Garros results

Wednesday’s Roland-Garros order of play

By the numbers

Coco Gauff (20) and Iga Swiatek (23) are the only two active WTA players under age 26 who have reached more than two major semifinals.

Jannik Sinner is only the fourth Italian man to reach the Roland-Garros semifinals. The others: Adriano Panatta, Corrado Barazzutti and Marco Cecchinato.

“Quotable …”

“[It will be] the same as before any other match. You don’t want to change your routines,” she said. “It’s good to just keep going and not think about this match as something huge, but just another match to not put too much baggage on your shoulders. 

“Against Coco, it’s not easy. She really likes playing on clay, especially here. I’ll just focus on myself.”

— Two-time defending champion Iga Swiatek, during her non-court interview, asked how she will prepare for her semifinal against Coco Gauff.