Novak Djokovic at centre of retirement concerns as new details emerge about knee injury

The tennis great is in doubt for Wimbledon after being ruled out of the French Open.

There are growing concerns that Novak Djokovic's tennis career could be nearing an end after he picked up a potentially career-ending knee injury at the French Open. Djokovic aggravated a right knee issue during his five-set win over Francisco Cerundolo.

Djokovic said following Monday's heroic five-set victory that he needed anti-inflammatory drugs to get through the match. And less than 24 hours later on Tuesday revealed that he had suffered a torn medial meniscus. The injury forced him to withdraw from the French Open and means Italy's Jannik Sinner will become the new men's World No.1 when the rankings update next week.

There is growing concern Novak Djokovic's knee injury could spell the end to his illustrious tennis career. Image: AAP
There is growing concern Novak Djokovic's knee injury could spell the end to his illustrious tennis career. Image: AAP

Recovery from a meniscus tear ranges from rest and rehabilitation to surgery. But Djokovic will go under the knife in an attempt to fix the problem and at 37 years old this type of injury could spell the end for Djokovic's career as it is the same injury that ultimately derailed Roger Federer’s tennis career.

Djokovic’s injury was discussed on the Tennis Podcast with host Matt Roberts saying just how serious it is cannot be downplayed. "With Wimbledon on the horizon, the Olympics as well, at this stage we just don’t know how long he‘s going to be out for," Roberts said.

"It’s probably the first time he’s had a serious lower-body injury... in the medium term it casts quite a lot of doubt over the summer,” he said, adding it could impact Djokovic’s motivation to continue playing tennis professionally. We might look back on this moment as something that really signalled the end... it could be that serious."

Djokovic has won more grand slams than any other player in the modern era and in doing so has remained largely injury-free. The Serb has spent a record 428 weeks at the top of the rankings but by next week will fall to World No.2. The Serb now faces a race against time to be ready for Wimbledon, which gets underway July 1. Djokovic is a seven-time champion at the All England Club.

Djokovic's French Open withdrawal will see Sinner become the new World No.1. The 22-year-old Sinner will become the first Italian player to reach World No.1 when the new rankings are updated next week.

After beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to reach the semi-finals on Tuesday, Sinner was informed of his rise to No.1 during an on-court interview. "What can I say? First of all, it's every player's dream to be No.1 in the world," he said.

"In the other way, seeing Novak injured is, for everyone, disappointing. so I wish him a speedy recovery. Being No.1 means a lot to me, for sure."

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 4: Jannik Sinner of Italy celebrates winning a match point against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during the Men's Single Quarter Finals of 2024 French Open - Day 10 at Roland Garros on June 4, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Jannik Sinner will be the new men's World No.1 next week.

The era of Djokovic, Federer and Rafa Nadal is in the past, with the Serb the only player still competitive from the greatest trio in modern tennis. But now in his late 30s and with an injury such as this, the end of the tennis great's career could be closer than tennis fans would like to believe.

Djokovic hasn't just not won a title all season, he hasn't even reached a single final. This season represents as much of a low for Djokovic as he's had in many years. It is the Serb's most barren run since the stretch from mid-2016 to mid-2018 where he went 24 months without a major championship and needed an operation on his right elbow.


Following that injury, Djokovic broke his title drought at Wimbledon in 2018 where he admitted that he feared he'd never return to the top of tennis again. "There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning whether I can get back (to the) desired level or not. But that makes this whole journey even more special for me," he said.

Now five years on it is fair to question if this latest setback could spell the end of his days challenging for grand slams. Both Carlos Alcaraz and Sinner are improving every time they step out on the court and look set to rack up multiple grand slams between them. Only time will tell whether we are about to enter a new era of men's tennis dominance or if Djokovic can once again prove the doubters wrong.

with AAP