Sinner assumes No. 1 ranking as Djokovic departs Paris under injury cloud

Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner
Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner (PC: X)

There is anguish and a palpable sense of outrage over what the French Open has done to Novak Djokovic – forced to withdraw from the premier clay-court Grand Slam at Roland Garros, and thus had over his World No. 1 ranking to Jannik Sinner, the Italian.

Injuries are part and parcel of the game in any athlete’s career. That the super-fit Djokovic – or Djoker – had to undergo harassment, pain and ignominy was partly the creation of Amelie Mauresmo, the French Open tournament director, Wayne McEwen and a group which appears to dislike the Serbian.

Of course, the immediate focus shifts to Sinner, for having achieved the world No. 1 ranking on the ATP computer. The usual change in rankings happens at the end of a tournament or a Grand Slam fortnight. Just that, these days, in the era of computers calculating rankings well in advance, Djokovic was set to lose his ranking if he didn’t win the next set of matches in Paris.

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Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (PC: X)

It was not a botched attempt on his part, for his knee had been wobbly, and yet he played ten sets in his last two matches. For those who say clay is the best surface and does not impact the ankles, knees, and all other complex joints like hard courts do, there is an element of truth in that.  All that Djokovic asked for was a level playing field – since the clay was slippery and sticky after rain. He slipped and tore the meniscus.

As the first Italian in the Open era to become No. 1, this is a big thing for Sinner, winner of an upset-ridden Australian Open earlier in the year. He has immense potential and has shown great adaptability on all surfaces. But now begins the real turmoil. In a breakthrough year, the ranking points come in fast and furious. Each racquet sport has a dynamic ranking cycle – tennis, badminton, table tennis and squash – where the numbers are based on weekly performance and best displays over the previous 12 months.

Djokovic has held the No. 1 ranking an astonishing 428 weeks, but he appears jinxed in terms of getting to 25 Grand Slam titles and edging past Margaret Court. That was a different era, a different age, when tennis was not so physical. The great Serena Williams strove, even post-partum, to get to the figure of 24, but faltered.

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner (PC: Jannik Sinner/X)

With Roger Federer having retired in 2022 after knee problems of his own, and Rafael Nadal seemingly on the last lap, it would appear that we’re coming to the end of the road for what was once the Fab Four. In the furore over Djokovic, tennis fans may have momentarily forgotten that Sir Andy Murray lost in the first round at Roland Garros last week.

He had hinted that this would be his farewell year, and he wanted to play the maximum events. For a man who has endured a hip replacement, losing early in Paris was painful and almost went unnoticed. So, will The Championships at Wimbledon be played without each of the Fab 4? Does it not bring fans to the verge of tears?

In Djokovic’s case, the meniscus tear is serious. It may just need rest, rehab and intense strength and conditioning. But that could take more than six weeks. If he plays Wimbledon with a dodgy knee, that could have far-reaching implications for the rest of his career.   

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