Top tennis journalist rips 'nonsense' Novak Djokovic conspiracy theory at French Open

A journalist responds to claims Djokovic faked an injury during his French Open round-of-16 win over Francisco Cerundolo.

by Dzevad Mesic
Top tennis journalist rips 'nonsense' Novak Djokovic conspiracy theory at French Open
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Mason

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim slammed a conspiracy theory claiming that Novak Djokovic faked an injury during his French Open round-of-16 win over Francisco Cerundolo as the top tennis sports journalist highlighted that it would make zero sense for the Serb to do that considering the circumstances he was in. 

On Monday, Djokovic easily won the opening set of his match versus Cerundolo but then started experiencing knee issues early in the second set. And during a conversation with a physio, Djokovic said that he "screwed up" his right knee. 

Even after a physio visit, Djokovic didn't look good on the court as his movement appeared to be hampered and Cerundolo went up two sets to one. Then in the fourth set, Cerundolo was also 4-2 up before Djokovic's big comeback started and an eventual 6-1 5-7 3-6 7-5 6-3 win in just over four and a half hours of play. 

It should be noted that early in the fifth set, Djokovic took a nasty fall and didn't look happy at all afterward.

But after Djokovic overcame a very challenging situation and created a major comeback, some conspiracy theorists started claiming that pretending to be done was the Serb's plan right from the start. 

However, Wertheim shut that down by posing a logical question - why would Djokovic want drama and another long battle after previously playing a four-and-a-half third-round match versus Lorenzo Musetti that finished after 3 AM on Sunday morning? 

"His last match ended at 3:07 am…He won the first set 6-1 playing as well as ever… Then he hurt his knee… Everyone likes a good conspiracy theory. But sometimes common sense has to win out…Why would he want to drop two sets and add drama if he didn’t absolutely have to?" Wertheim wrote in response to a since-deleted X post.

Djokovic thought about retiring against Cerundolo

After the injury in the second set, the rhythm of the match changed and Cerundolo was the one who started having the upper hand and constantly threatening Djokovic. And after breaking Djokovic in the 12th game of the second set to level the match to one set apiece, Cerundolo also broke the Serb early in the third set and then held on to his serve for the remainder of the set to go up by two sets to one.

Then, Cerundolo also had a 4-2 lead in the fourth set and was two games away from winning the match - but like many times before in his career, Djokovic dug himself out of a very tough situation.

However, Djokovic did consider retiring before pulling off a big comeback win.

"At one point I didn’t know, to be honest, whether I should continue or not with what’s happening. I got medications and then after the third set was done, I asked for more medications and I got them," Djokovic said.

"That was the maximum dose that kicked in, as I heard now from the doctor after 30 to 45 minutes, which was just about the end of the fourth when things started to really improve for me. I started to feel less limitations in my movement. Basically, the whole fifth set was almost without any pain, which is great, you know. But then the effect of the medications will not last for too long, so I’ll see."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Djokovic may withdraw from his French Open quarterfinal match

After revealing that he was close to retiring injured versus Cerundolo, Djokovic also shared that him playing against Casper Ruud in the French Open quarterfinal wasn't a guaranteed thing.

“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. You know, I hope so. Let’s see what happens.”

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Clive Mason

During his post-match press conference, Djokovic also addressed his argument with the tournament supervisor and his request to have the court swept not being granted. When addressing the issue, the world No. 1 also suggested that his knee injury maybe could have been avoided had the court conditions been better.

“I’m just trying to understand: If a player is feeling a certain way, what else do we need to wait for, for that to happen? I mean, today I injured myself. Yes, I survived. I won the match. Great. But will I be able to play next one?” Djokovic explained.

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

Novak Djokovic French Open Francisco Cerundolo