Novak Djokovic cops brutal Margaret Court twist in big boost for Alex de Minaur at French Open

The Serbian tennis star was forced to withdraw before his quarter-final due to a knee problem.

Alex de Minaur will no longer have to go through Novak Djokovic to win the French Open, after the Serbian star was forced to withdraw on Tuesday night - missing another chance to go past Margaret Court's all-time grand slam record. Djokovic suffered a torn meniscus in his knee during his five-set win over Francisco Cerundolo in the fourth round at Roland Garros.

He was due to take on Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, but made the sad announcement that he'd been forced to withdraw. "I am really sad to announce that I have to withdraw from Roland Garros," Djokovic posted on social media.

"I played with my heart and gave my all in yesterday's match and unfortunately, due to a medial meniscus tear in my right knee, my team and I had to make a tough decision after careful consideration and consultation."

Alex de Minaur, Margaret Court and Novak Djokovic.
Alex de Minaur (L) has been handed a golden opportunity at the French Open after Novak Djokovic (R) was forced to withdraw and miss a chance to go past Margaret Court (centre). Image: Getty

The withdrawal comes with a number of massive ramifications. It means Jannik Sinner will be the new World No.1, and Djokovic is still stuck on 24 grand slam singles titles - equal with Australian great Court for the most of any player in history.

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."

Novak Djokovic aggravated a knee injury against Francisco Cerundolo at the French Open.
Novak Djokovic aggravated a knee injury against Francisco Cerundolo at the French Open.

Djokovic revealed on Monday that his knee problem had been bothering him for a couple of weeks. But he kept the issue to himself until after the victory over Cerundolo.

"I don't know what will happen tomorrow - or after tomorrow, if I'll be able to step out on the court and play," the 37-year-old said in his press conference. "You know, I hope so. Let's see what happens."

It means Djokovic is still yet to win a single tournament in 2024, and his hopes of finally going past Court's record are still on hold. There will now be huge question marks about whether Djokovic will be fit to play at Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics in July.

Djokovic's injury also provides a golden opportunity for Aussie star de Minaur, who will face a weary Alexander Zverev in the quarters and Ruud in the semis if he wins. De Minaur was facing the daunting prospect of having to face Djokovic in the semis, but he will now play a man he's never lost to if he can advance that far.

De Minaur scored an incredible win over Daniil Medvedev on Monday, before his quarter-final opponent Zverev was forced to five sets by Holger Rune and didn't finish until 1.40am. He rolled up wearily for his press conference at 2.30am while de Minaur was resting in bed.


The German has played two five-setters in his last two rounds - keeping him on court for over eight hours combined. "I'll survive," Zverev said with a rueful grin. "Look, I'm a lot happier to be in the tournament at 3am, than to be out of it at 3pm. Right now I'm a little bit tired I have to say, but extremely happy to escape, still be in the tournament."

Alex de Minaur, pictured here after beating Daniil Medvedev at the French Open.
Alex de Minaur celebrates after beating Daniil Medvedev at the French Open.

De Minaur will be much more rested when he faces Zverev, and if he can get past the Olympic champion he will face Ruud for a place in the final. De Minaur has two wins over Ruud in his career and has never lost to the Norwegian.

"I think Alex is playing the best tennis of his life, for sure," Zverev said. "Especially this year, he's seventh in the race (to Turin, effectively the ATP's 2024 ranking) and could be a contender (at the ATP Finals) in Turin, he's playing incredible tennis for sure.

"The two times I lost to him were in Australia during team competitions funnily enough, but I'm looking forward to a battle and a probably a very difficult match. There's certain things he's improved, his serve, his second serve especially has got better. We'll see - I'll tell you more after tomorrow."

The last Australian man to make the semi-finals at Roland Garros was Pat Rafter in 1997. And you have to go all the way back to 1969 when Rod Laver beat Ken Rosewall to find an Australian male champion at the clay-court grand slam.

with AAP