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Novak Djokovic's Ailing Wrist Threatens His Best Chance to Win the French Open

Novak Djokovic gets animated in Monte Carlo, 2014
Novak Djokovic gets animated in Monte Carlo, 2014Julian Finney/Getty Images
Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2016

Novak Djokovic recently downgraded the seriousness of his right wrist injury. Initially, he thought the injury might require surgery and keep him out for significant time. However, he expects to play in Madrid and Rome. 

Still, this wrist injury could threaten what is possibly Djokovic's best chance to win the French Open. 

Djokovic makes no secret of his deep desire to win the one Grand Slam that has eluded him. He's come so close, but something—or someone—has stood in his way. 

In 2011, Roger Federer stopped Djokovic's run at Roland Garros. Djokovic entered the tournament undefeated on the year and on a 43-match winning streak

Federer defeated Djokovic 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5). After the match Djokovic took the loss in stride. He told ESPN "A loss cannot feel good, that's for sure...But, look, I know what to do. I handle myself better off the court, on the court. I'll just accept it as another loss."

The following year Djokovic reached the final, but came up short again, this time to Nadal. Outplayed, Djokovic caved under pressure. He double-faulted on match point.

The post-match shrug from 2011 was replaced with marked disappointment. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Djokovic said, "He was the better player. I’m disappointed that I’ve lost the chance to make history." 

Last year, his loss to Nadal in the semifinals was the most devastating of all. Djokovic had recently lost his youth coach and mentor Jelena Gencic, who died just days before he faced Nadal.

This time, Djokovic entered the match as the top seed. It was a tough five-setter, but again, Nadal prevailed. "I wanted this title so much," Djokovic told reporters after the match. 

A dejected Novak Djokovic leaves the court after a semifinals loss to Rafael Nadal at the 2013 French Open.
A dejected Novak Djokovic leaves the court after a semifinals loss to Rafael Nadal at the 2013 French Open.Petr David Josek/Associated Press

This year, Nadal—eight-time winner of the French Open—looks vulnerable. He lost back-to-back clay court tournaments and now questions have emerged about his dominance on the surface. 

With Nadal playing less than stellar tennis, Andy Murray still recovering from a back surgery and Federer working against Father Time, this may be Djokovic's best chance to take his first title at Roland Garros.

How big of an impact will this wrist injury be? Even when healthy and clicking on all cylinders, Djokovic has failed to win the French Open. Any ailment could chip away at his confidence. 

Perhaps the noticeable chink in Nadal's armor will provide Djokovic with enough belief to overcome his past, play through his pain and finally win the French Open. 

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