Ex top-10 star fires brutally honest injury warning to Novak Djokovic

Former 13-time ATP champ Almagro - whose career was ended by a knee injury - reflects on Djokovic's knee injury.

by Dzevad Mesic
Ex top-10 star fires brutally honest injury warning to Novak Djokovic
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Former 13-time ATP champion Nicolas Almagro is warning Novak Djokovic to be "extra cautious" with his knee meniscus injury as similar knee issues basically forced him and Roger Federer to retirement.

In 2017, Almagro was taking on Juan Martin del Potro in the French Open third round and they were tied to one set apiece and to one game apiece in the third when the former world No. 9 sustained a knee injury. After realizing that it was probably a serious knee injury, Almagro became emotional as del Potro tried to comfort him. 

While Almagro - who is now 38 years old - was able to return to tennis in August of that year, he was never again the same and he played just 11 tournaments before concluding his career in 2019.

At this past French Open, Djokovic tore his meniscus during a round-of-16 win over Francisco Cerundolo and later withdrew from his quarterfinal match to undergo surgery. 

“I tore my meniscus in a very similar situation. The gestures I made were very similar to those of Djokovic. It didn’t seem like anything, but when I stood up, I felt very unstable and couldn’t continue," Almagro said on Eurosport.

“As I saw it, it was clear to me that it was the meniscus. But then I saw him so good in the last set that I began to doubt. Because I couldn’t move and he was as if nothing had happened.”

Nicolas Almagro
Nicolas Almagro © Getty Images Sport - Adam Pretty

Almagro warns Djokovic: You got to be careful...

In the first six months of 2020, Federer had two knee surgeries. When Federer returned in 2021, he appeared in just five matches before undergoing another knee procedure. While Federer's goal was to return to tennis at some point in 2022, his knee didn't recover as expected and he was forced to retire.

When it comes to Djokovic's injury, when the doctors opened his knee - it was revealed that the Serb escaped a serious damage. And the surgery was successful and the initial prognosis said the 37-year-old Serb may just need three weeks to recover. 

Since Wimbledon is starting on July 1st, it was clear from the start that Djokovic's participation would be a major doubt. However, playing at the Paris Olympics - which starts on July 26th - seems like a far more realistic scenario.

Speaking from his past experience, Almagro says he also didn't need that long to recover but his knee was just never again the same. With that being said, Almagro is urging Djokovic to be as careful as possible.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

“I think the difference is that I broke it and that he has a tear, but even so he has to be very careful because it seems like a simple injury but it is not,” Almagro told Relevo.

“I walked out of the hospital after the first operation, but when I came back I saw that things were not going well, so I had another operation after the US Open and once again at Christmas. Everything has deadlines. Mine was between two and three months, because the knee has to heal and it has to fit.

“Djokovic has to have a piece of meniscus removed during the arthroscopy, then everything has to fit well and then you have to strengthen all the muscles of the knee.

“I wouldn’t say I retired because of the injury, but after the injury. That helped, of course, but it’s true that I gained more weight, my knee began to suffer and priorities changed.

“I think he won’t be at Wimbledon and we’ll see how he fares for the Games if he does [play]. He doesn’t have to be in a hurry because although it seems like an easy injury, it’s not.

“Look, Roger, he had a similar injury and he had knee surgery, it was going to last a month and in the end he retired. It’s apparently simple, but you have to be careful so that things don’t get complicated.”

Djokovic had an encouraging message for fans

After undergoing his knee surgery, Djokovic took to Instagram, where he told his fans that he was determined to "get back to being healthy and to the court as soon possible." In his message, Djokovic also said that his burning desire to "keep competing at the highest level" was still pushing him.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Meanwhile, if Djokovic skips Wimbledon, that shouldn't be surprising since grass is the most challenging and trickiest tennis surface. With that being said, playing there in his first tournament back since the knee surgery could be too risky for Djokovic.

But one thing is for sure - Djokovic will do everything he can to be ready for the Paris Olympics since he has made it clear numerous times that he wants to win an Olympic gold medal before retiring.

Novak Djokovic