SI:AM | Novak Djokovic’s Injury Throws His Summer Into Uncertainty

How much more does he have left in the tank?
Djokovic’s injury puts the rest of his summer plans in serious doubt.
Djokovic’s injury puts the rest of his summer plans in serious doubt. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m very much ready for the NBA Finals to finally begin.

In today’s SI:AM:

🎾 Djokovic’s future in doubt
🎰 Baseball’s greatest sin
🏀 Laurence Fishburne Q&A

Olympic gold seems even more elusive now

The greatest men’s tennis player in history just hit a serious roadblock in his pursuit of adding to his record number of Grand Slam titles.

Novak Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the French Open with a knee injury Tuesday, one day after he outlasted Francisco Cerundolo in a five-set thriller in the fourth round that took nearly five hours to complete.

An MRI found that Djokovic has a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. According to multiple reports, Djokovic will undergo surgery to repair the injury in Paris on Wednesday.

The surgery places Djokovic’s status for Wimbledon in serious doubt. The tournament is set to begin on July 1, giving Djokovic less than a month to recover from the procedure. It’ll also be a fairly tight turnaround before this summer’s Olympics in Paris, which begin on July 27.

“The likelihood is that Djokovic will skip the grass-court swing to focus on playing at the Paris Olympics,” ESPN’s Tom Hamilton reported.

It makes sense that Djokovic would want to prioritize the Olympics over Wimbledon. He’s already won seven times at the All England Club and Olympic gold is the only major honor that he has yet to win in his storied career. He won bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing but has failed to even medal at the last three Olympics. At 37, this is almost assuredly Djokovic’s last chance to win gold.

Skipping the grass court season could also be beneficial for Djokovic because he wouldn’t have to reacclimate himself to the clay courts of Roland Garros, where the Olympic tournament will be held.

But it also seems naive to just assume that, at his age, Djokovic will be able to recover from knee surgery and pick up where he left off. By the time the Olympics begin, he will be older than the oldest Grand Slam champion in men’s tennis history (1972 Australian Open champ Ken Rosewell, who was 37 years, 54 days old when he won). Djokovic’s contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal started fading when they reached the age Djokovic is now, both due largely to injuries (a knee for Federer and a hip for Nadal). And Djokovic was already struggling this season before the injury, failing to reach the final in any of the six tournaments he played before Roland Garros. It’s fair to wonder what he’ll look like after rehabbing an injury.

Whether or not the end is imminent for Djokovic, his injury makes it natural to start thinking about the next era of men’s tennis. His career might not be over yet, but it will be before long. His withdrawal from the French led to one major torch-passing moment, as 22-year-old Jannik Sinner will now become the No. 1 player in the world at the conclusion of the tournament. He and 21-year-old Carlos Alcaraz (currently ranked No. 3) are the future of the sport. The question is how much longer they’ll have to battle with Djokovic.

May 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA;  Celtics’ Jaylen Brown picks up teammate Jayson Tatum off the court.
Brown (7) and Tatum will play in their second NBA Finals. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).