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Novak Djokovic wins in 5 sets at French Open, unsure of knee



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PARIS — Novak Djokovic was unsure whether or not he would have the ability to play within the French Open quarterfinals after injuring his proper knee Monday and needing anti-inflammatory tablets to have the ability to end his thrilling five-set victory towards No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo.

Djokovic, down a set and a break within the match, rallied to win 6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 at Roland Garros for his report 370th win in a Grand Slam match.

“I used to be,” Djokovic stated, “possibly three or 4 factors away from shedding this match.”

Djokovic stated he has been bothered by the knee for a few weeks, but it surely bought worse after he tweaked it early within the second set Monday. He took a medical timeout, then was visited a number of different occasions by a coach and a health care provider, who gave him the medication that Djokovic stated finally helped him really feel higher and transfer with out restrictions.

After the match, Djokovic stated there was a second the place he questioned whether or not he ought to proceed. He stated early scans on the knee are optimistic, however he nonetheless has issues and could have extra scans Tuesday.

He’s supposed to fulfill No. 7 seed Casper Ruud within the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Ruud, who eradicated No. 12 Taylor Fritz in 4 units Monday, misplaced to Djokovic within the French Open last final yr and to Rafael Nadal within the 2022 title match.

“I do not know till [Tuesday] if I can step out and play,” Djokovic stated of the quarterfinals. “I hope so. … Let’s have a look at what occurs.”

This was the second consecutive five-set comeback victory that lasted about 4½ hours for Djokovic, who’s ranked No. 1. Within the third spherical, he additionally fell behind in units 2-1 however made his well past No. 30 Lorenzo Musetti, 22, from Italy, ending Sunday after 3 a.m. — the newest end in French Open historical past.

With Monday’s victory, Djokovic broke a tie with Roger Federer for probably the most match wins at main tournaments — and in addition for probably the most Slam quarterfinals for a person by reaching the 59th of his profession.

The primary indicators of hassle for Djokovic got here within the second set, when he started flexing his proper leg. He took a medical timeout and laid down on a towel positioned on the sideline, the place a coach massaged that knee then had Djokovic flip onto his stomach to work on his hamstring.

Djokovic winced as his proper leg was manipulated, a scene repeated at subsequent changeovers.

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic in the end triumphed in ways in which have change into acquainted by way of his years of dominance and 24 main trophies, each turning round a contest after trailing and rising when the stress is biggest.

He’s now 40-11 in fifth units over his profession.

“How did I discover the way in which to win once more? I do not know,” Djokovic informed the group at Court docket Philippe Chatrier. “The one rationalization I’ve is you. Thanks.”

In opposition to Cerundolo, 25, from Argentina, who was attempting to achieve his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Djokovic, 37, once more used all of his abilities, expertise and skill to regulate on the fly. He got here by way of, partially, by taking part in extra aggressively and placing further pace on his groundstrokes, whereas coping with no matter was occurring along with his knee.

Djokovic trailed 4-2 within the fourth set however surged from there.

At 4-3 within the fourth, he smacked a winner to earn a break level — evoking roars from the stands — and transformed when Cerundolo netted a shot.

Djokovic shook his racket overhead, and a chant of his two-syllable nickname rang out, “No-le! No-le!”

At 2-1 within the fifth set, Djokovic’s ft gave approach as he chased a ball to his proper, and he rolled on the bottom, caking his white shorts, his purple shirt and components of his legs and arms with the rust-colored clay. As he walked to the sideline to seize a bottle of water to assist clear off, he gave a chunk of his thoughts to anybody who would hear, renewing an earlier grievance about wanting the court docket to be swept to enhance traction.

That request was rejected because the sweeping schedule is pre-agreed to.

“Nicely accomplished, supervisor and everyone,” Djokovic stated, his voice drenched in sarcasm. “Not slippery in any respect.”

But he was simply nice at 3-all in that set, when he stretched and slid, doing the splits, whereas by some means getting his racket on the ball for a drop volley to win a degree. His chest on the bottom, Djokovic caught out each arms, mimicking an airplane, and smiled.

After the match, Djokovic stated he believed there was “little to no clay” on the court docket and that the knee damage occurred as a result of he slipped “too many occasions.”

Throughout play, Djokovic stumbled often. And limped a bit. After some lengthier factors, he leaned on his racket or bent on the waist and rested along with his arms on his knees or crouched.

He stated he acquired a “most dose” of meds from his coach to cope with the knee discomfort and it helped him as soon as it kicked in close to the top of the fourth set.

“[That’s] when issues began to actually enhance for me,” Djokovic stated. “I began to really feel much less limitations in my motion. Mainly the entire fifth set was virtually with none ache, which is nice, you already know.”

When he missed a backhand that allowed Cerundolo to transform a break level for the primary time in 13 tries, Djokovic handed over the second set. Quickly, Djokovic was observing a gap of two units to 1. And never lengthy after that, he was down 4-2 within the fourth.

Ruud, the two-time French Open runner-up, ousted Fritz 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. The opposite males’s matchup scheduled for Wednesday will probably be No. 11 Alex de Minaur towards No. 4 Alexander Zverev, who was a 4-6, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-2 winner towards No. 13 Holger Rune in a match that ended at 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday.

On Monday, de Minaur defeated No. 5 Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 to change into the primary Australian man within the French Open quarterfinals since Lleyton Hewitt in 2004.

ESPN’s Tom Hamilton and The Related Press contributed to this report.

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