Jannik Sinner became Italy`s first men`s tennis world number one after Novak Djokovic`s injury-enforced withdrawal from the French Open on Tuesday. The Australian Open champion was on court playing his quarter-final against Grigor Dimitrov when Djokovic`s withdrawal was announced, meaning Sinner will replace the 24-time Grand Slam champion at the top of the rankings next week.

“Due to a torn medial meniscus in his right knee (discovered during an MRI scan performed today), Novak Djokovic… has been forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros tournament,” organisers said in a statement.

World number one and 24-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic was due to play Ruud on Wednesday for a place in the last four. Djokovic defeated Ruud in last year`s final at Roland Garros. The 37-year-old Djokovic had cast doubt over his fitness following Monday`s five-set win over Francisco Cerundolo, admitting he needed anti-inflammatory drugs to get through the match.

Djokovic blamed the “slippery” Philippe Chatrier court for the injury he sustained early in the second set of his 6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Cerundolo. “I don`t know what will happen tomorrow or after tomorrow if I`ll be able to step out on the court and play. You know, I hope so. Let`s see what happens,” Djokovic said after the match.

An injured Djokovic sealed a 15th consecutive French Open quarter-final with a thrilling comeback victory over Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo in the fourth round on Monday.

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A limping Djokovic looked to be heading for a shock defeat when 2-1 down in sets and 4-2 behind in the fourth set, but battled back from the brink to delight the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd by winning 6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 after four hours and 39 minutes. “I was maybe three or four points away from losing this match,” the reigning champion said.

“I`m not sure how I won this match.” Djokovic narrowly avoided his earliest exit from the tournament since 2009, teeing up a rematch of last year`s final against Casper Ruud, who beat Taylor Fritz in four sets. However, he said he was not yet 100 percent sure he would be fit enough to play on Wednesday.

“I don`t know what will happen tomorrow or after tomorrow if I`ll be able to step out on the court and play. I hope so. Let`s see what happens,” he said, before blaming the right knee injury he sustained on unusually slippery courts.

“Could this injury have been prevented? Possibly,” added Djokovic, who said he asked for the court to be swept more frequently. Djokovic had reached the last 16 by defeating Italy`s Lorenzo Musetti in another bruising five-set encounter which concluded at 3:07 am Sunday.

The 24-time Grand Slam title winner appeared to be feeling no ill-effects as he dominated the first set, but then needed a medical time-out early in the second after pulling up with an apparent knee injury. The 37-year-old, eyeing a record 370th Grand Slam match win to break out of a tie with Roger Federer, played on but continued to walk gingerly between points.

(With agency inputs)

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