Djokovic takes break as he struggles with wrist injury
Wrist problems are among the injuries that tennis players fear the most and Novak Djokovic yesterday became the latest player to reveal that he is having to take a break from the game. The world No 2 said after his 7-5, 6-2 defeat by Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters that he expected to be out of the game "for some time".
Juan Martin del Potro, the world No 7, is currently on the sidelines after undergoing a second wrist operation, while Britain's Laura Robson announced last week that she had opted for surgery to cure an injury that has kept her off the court for the last three months.
Djokovic, whose defeat means that Stanislas Wawrinka will take on Federer in an all-Swiss final in Monte Carlo this afternoon, said that he had been suffering with pain in his right wrist for 10 days. He thinks he may have started training too hard on clay after switching from playing on hard courts in the United States.
"The good thing is I don't need to have surgery," he added. "I don't have any rupture or something like that. I'm going to go see doctors tonight and then tomorrow again have another MRI, see if anything changed in these seven days since I had the last one. I'll just rest now. I cannot play tennis for some time. How long, I don't know."
It remains to be seen whether Djokovic will be fit to play in the French Open, which starts in five weeks' time. Robson, meanwhile, has already conceded that she will miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon, though Max Eisenbud, the "super-agent" who welcomed her into his stable last summer, is "100 per cent confident" that the 20-year-old Briton will make a full recovery. Her operation will be carried out by Richard Berger, who has also been treating Del Potro.
Eisenbud, who does not want to speculate on when Robson might return, knows all about helping a player to come back after injury through his work with Maria Sharapova. The Russian was out for nine months after having shoulder surgery in 2008 and waited four years to win her next Grand Slam title.
"Maria fought back from a really tough injury," Eisenbud said. "Her injury was a lot more serious than Laura's, so I don't think they're comparable. It's not easy for any athlete, but Laura's been pretty good through this so far. I've been impressed. I've been through it with Maria and I know it's not easy."
Eisenbud added Robson to his elite stable last summer. He also manages Li Na, the Australian Open champion. Asked if he remained convinced that Robson had the ability to succeed at the very top level of the game, Eisenbud said: "I'm 100 per cent certain Laura will be back. This is just a little bump in the road. I'm 100 per cent confident in her ability. I'm not worried one bit."
Once Robson is back to fitness she will face a major task trying to rebuild her world ranking. She looks certain to drop out of the world's top 100, a major blow given that she had climbed to a career-high position at No 27 last summer.
Initially at least Robson will not be ranked high enough to earn a place directly into the most important events when she returns, though she is sure to be offered some wild cards. However, the lesser tournaments carry fewer ranking points, which could mean months of hard work at some of the sport's more remote outposts. Robson will need to shake off her reputation as a player who performs well at the major competitions but fails to perform consistently well on lesser stages.
Heather Watson could tell Robson how hard it can be. The 21-year-old from Guernsey plummeted down the rankings after going down with glandular fever last year. From a career-high No 39 in the world 14 months ago Watson fell out of the world's top 150. She is back up to No 121, but that is not high enough to earn a place in the main draw of Grand Slam tournaments.
While there should be no shortage of British women players at Wimbledon — six Britons are currently ranked in the world's top 250, which is usually one of the Lawn Tennis Association's criteria for wild cards — there could be none at next month's French Open. Johanna Konta, the world No 117, is currently the second highest ranked Briton behind Robson.