Stricken Djokovic stages French Open escape act, Medvedev out

Aryna Sabalenka reached her seventh successive Grand Slam quarter-final (Emmanuel Dunand)
Aryna Sabalenka reached her seventh successive Grand Slam quarter-final (Emmanuel Dunand)

An injured Novak Djokovic sealed a 15th consecutive French Open quarter-final with a thrilling comeback victory over Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo in the fourth round on Monday, while Daniil Medvedev became the highest seed to crash out at Roland Garros so far.

In the women's draw, both Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina comfortably powered into the last eight.

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.

Cerundolo grabbed the second set by finally taking a break point after 12 previous misses.

The 23rd seed moved ahead by two sets to one against an increasingly frustrated top seed, before edging to the cusp of a famous win by forging 4-2 in front in the fourth.

But, seemingly from nowhere, Djokovic dug deep to break and level at 4-4.

He forced a decider on his fourth set point of a dramatic 12th game when a stretching Cerundolo could only find the net.

There appeared to be only one outcome on the cards when the Serbian star took a 2-0 advantage in the fifth, but his opponent rallied to level.

Djokovic was left covered in clay after a nasty tumble, sarcastically saying: "Well done supervisors, ground staff, everyone, the court is not slippery at all."

But he was not to be denied, grabbing the decisive break with a blistering forehand that clipped the back of the baseline.

A dramatic triumph and yet another quarter-final was secured on his first match point when a Cerundolo backhand was called out by the chair umpire after initially being ruled in.

- De Minaur beats Medvedev -

Fifth seed Medvedev suffered a four-set loss to Australia's Alex de Minaur, starting strongly before slipping to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 defeat.

De Minaur will face Alexander Zverev in his second Slam quarter-final and first since the 2020 US Open.

Medvedev's best performance in the French Open remains a quarter-final run in 2021, while he has also lost in the first round in five of his eight appearances.

"Alex played better," admitted Medvedev, a former US Open champion and six-time Grand Slam finalist.

De Minaur had never got past the second round at the tournament before this year, winning just three of 10 matches.

Zverev won his second successive five-setter, coming from behind to beat Holger Rune 4-6, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 in a night-session match which again finished in the early hours of the morning.

It was the second-latest finish in the tournament's history at 1:40 am, just two days after Djokovic and Musetti set the record.

The German world number four is playing under the shadow of an ongoing trial in Berlin over allegations of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

- Stroll for Sabalenka -

In the women's tournament, world number two Sabalenka, who was a semi-finalist in 2023 and has made at least the last four at her past six Grand Slams, proved far too strong for American 22nd seed Emma Navarro.

The Belarusian raced into the quarters, hammering 36 winners during a 6-2, 6-3 success.

Sabalenka, who lost to Iga Swiatek in the Madrid and Rome Open finals this clay-court season, will play 17-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the last eight.

Andreeva became the youngest French Open women's quarter-finalist since 2005 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Russian-born French player Varvara Gracheva.

Former Wimbledon champion Rybakina, the fourth seed, saw off Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3 and will next face Italian Jasmine Paolini.