Tennis: World No.1 Novak Djokovic pulls out of French Open quarter-finals with knee injury

World No.1 Novak Djokovic's disappointing tennis season continues, with the defending French Open champion forced to pull out of the Grand Slam before his quarter-final, with a knee injury that could threaten his Wimbledon and Olympic chances.

Sustained in his fourth-round win over Francisco Cerundolo, the injury ended the Serb's quest to win a record-extending 25th Grand Slam trophy and will see him lose his top ranking to Italian Jannik Sinner later this month.

"Due to a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, Djokovic, who was supposed to play Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals on Tuesday night [local time], has been forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros tournament," said tournament organisers.

Novak Djokovic is playing during Roland Garros 2024.
Novak Djokovic is playing during Roland Garros 2024. Photo credit: Getty Images

Last year's runner-up and seventh seed Ruud will now advance to the semi-finals, where he could take on fourth seed Alexander Zverev or 11th seed Alex de Minaur. 

Djokovic says on Instagram that he is disappointed to pull out of the tournament that he has won three times.

"I played with my heart and gave my all in yesterday's match," said Djokovic. "Unfortunately, I had to make a tough decision after careful consideration and consultation.

"I wish the best of luck to the players competing this week, and sincerely thank the incredible fans for all of the love and continued support."

Sinner says it is not the way he hoped to take the top spot, adding Djokovic's exit is a loss for the tournament. 

"It's not the way we all were expecting, actually. He had two very long matches, tough matches, five sets, so it's tough.

"The first one he finished really late also. It's tough also for the tournament - Novak retiring, it's always tough."

The marathon match was the second straight clash in which Djokovic was taken to five sets, after his epic against Lorenzo Musetti, and he has spent more than nine hours on court in the last two rounds at the year's second major.

The Serb says he has carried an injury for a couple of weeks and the problem flared up, when he slipped during his match against Cerundolo, which he completed with the help of painkillers.

The injury could also cast doubts over his fitness for next month's Wimbledon and the Paris Olympic Games that follow, although Ruud was optimistic, as he wished Djokovic well on Twitter.

"Speedy recovery Nole," he said. "Hope to see you back and healthy on the grass."

Djokovic falls during a match.
Djokovic falls during a match. Photo credit: Getty Images

Djokovic has had a season to forget, after his bid for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title was ended by eventual champion Sinner in the semi-finals, then he lost to lucky loser Luca Nardi early at Indian Wells.

Stunned by Ruud in the Monte Carlo semi-finals, Djokovic was thrashed 6-2 6-3 by Alejandro Tabilo in the third round at Rome last month, two days after being hit on the head by a fan's water bottle, while signing autographs. 

He was also beaten in three sets by unheralded Tomas Machac in the Geneva semi-finals, before Roland Garros.

Djokovic is still without a trophy this year, after one of the most dominant campaigns of his glittering career in 2023, during which he claimed three of the four Grand Slam titles.