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Injured Djokovic in doubt for Paris quarter-final

Novak Djokovic speaks after the Cerundolo match

Source: Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic fears he may be unable to play his French Open quarter-final due to a knee injury that nearly cost him his match against Argentine Francisco Cerundolo.

The Serbian champion pulled off another great five-set escape against Cerundolo 6-1 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-3 on Monday (local time), despite having to take anti-inflammatory pills just to finish the match.

It marked his return to action after a 3am finish in the previous round, and Djokovic again had to demonstrate all his astounding resilience.

He was hailed by Cerundolo as “really, the toughest guy ever to play tennis”, but the Serb admitted he was “maybe three or four points away from losing”.

Djokovic said he had considered quitting when he tweaked his right knee, which he revealed was also a problem during his build-up to Roland Garros.

He battled on for his 370th victory at a grand slam, taking sole ownership of the landmark for most major match wins he had shared with Roger Federer.

It kept him on course for a record-breaking 25th grand slam title, but the 37-year-old – who wondered if his 4½-hour third-round win over Lorenzo Musetti early on Sunday was a contributory factor to his woes – admitted he was uncertain whether he’d be fit for his last-eight clash with Casper Ruud.

“[The] good thing about the slam is that you have a day between that will allow hopefully the healing process to happen more efficiently for me,” Djokovic said.

“That’s it. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow – or after tomorrow, if I’ll be able to step out on the court and play.”

He got through the match against Cerundolo, he said, after the doctor gave him the maximum dose of anti-inflammatories.

It was just in time. The serial champion had been trailing two sets to one, and was down a break at 4-2 in the fourth, defeat beckoning.

Djokovic also had a sharp exchange with the courts’ supervisor about the playing conditions.

“I’m telling you as a player, it’s not OK,” he said, to which the official responded that the ground staff felt the surface was fine.

“They know better than me the court is good or not?” Djokovic scoffed.

He elaborated at his post-match press conference.

“I survived. I won the match. Great. But will I be able to play next one?” Djokovic said.

“I don’t know. I don’t know the severity of the injury. But could have this injury been prevented? Possibly, if there was just a little bit more of a frequent care of the court.”

He had taken a nasty tumble when his footing slipped, yet picked himself out of the dirt to earn another improbable success and set up a quarter-final with two-time finalist Ruud, who beat Thanasi Kokkinakis’s US conqueror Taylor Fritz 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-4 6-2.

This was Djokovic’s 40th final-set win in 51 five-setters over his matchless career, as he made it into a record 59th grand slam men’s quarter-final.

His 11th five-set win at Roland Garros put him level with Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka in the Open era.

But the rest of the final eight, including Australia’s Alex de Minaur, will only be encouraged by the prospect of the draw opening up should Djokovic fail to make it to his quarter-final on Wednesday.

De Minaur, who beat fifth seed Daniil Medvedev 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-3 in a history-making match, will face German Olympic champ Alexander Zverev, who didn’t seal his four-hour 11-minute, 4-6 6-1 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 win over Holger Rune until 1.40am on Tuesday morning.

-with AAP

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