Jannik Sinner may be facing an extended break from tennis as French Open decision looms

Kevin Palmer
Jannik Sinner Monte Carlo 2024
Jannik Sinner ahead of the Monte Carlo Masters

Jannik Sinner could be on course to be crowned as world No 1 for the first time in his career at the end of the French Open – but seems increasingly unlikelythat momentous milestone while standing on a tennis court. 

After a stellar start to 2024 that included his first Grand Slam title, Sinner could have had a chance to overtake Novak Djokovic at the top of the ATP Rankings in front of his adoring fans in Rome this week, but a hip injury denied the tennis world a chance to see the homecoming of the Australian Open champion who helped Italy to win last year’s Davis Cup.

Sinner was forced to pull out of the Madrid Open due to the hip issue and posted this message on his social media platform confirming he will not be playing at the Italian Open.

“It is not easy to write this message but, after speaking again with the doctors and specialists about my hip problems, I have to announce that unfortunately, I will not be able to play in Rome,” wrote Sinner.

“Obviously I’m very sad that I didn’t recover, it being one of my favourite tournaments ever. I couldn’t wait to come back and play at home in front of the Italian crowd.

“I will still come to Rome for a few days and stop by the Foro Italico. Thank you for your messages of support which I appreciate very much! Now I will work with my team and doctors to be ready for Roland Garros.”

Sinner backed that up with additional comments that confirmed he is facing a race against time to play at the French Open.

READ MORE: Jannik Sinner’s French Open hopes in doubt as rumours swirl

“We all thought it wasn’t a serious problem. I don’t want to say exactly what it is,” said Sinner. “If it wasn’t 100 per cent healed, I would be forced to stop playing for a long time.

“Roland Garros? We still have to decide a few things for Paris. The preparation will not be optimal. My team and I will do our best to get there with as high a percentage as possible to compete.

“Some injuries can be prevented, others cannot. So far we have done a great job. Last year I had an injury-free season. Like this year so far. Next year we will have to figure out whether to play Monte Carlo or not. You can’t be perfect at my age.

“In Madrid, there were days when I felt the pain a bit more others when I didn’t feel it. I knew something was wrong. The day after the match with (Karen) Khachanov, we saw from the MRI that there was something that was 100 per cent wrong.”

There have been rumours all week that Sinner may be close to confirming he will not play at Roland Garros and now that announcement may be imminent, with the area of this injury significant in any decision he makes.

Hip problems are among the most alarming for tennis players, with the wear and tear on that joint especially significant in this sport.

The constant side-to-side movement and jolting motions that are commonplace in tennis put strain on hop joints and at the age of 22, Sinner needs to guard against this problem affecting his career in an adverse fashion.

Missing the Italian Open was a crushing blow as it would have been one of the highlights of his year and he would be equally crushed to be absent for the second major of the year after he won the first of 2024 in such impressive fashion in Australia last January.

Yet a much bigger picture needs to be visualised by Sinner as he makes decisions in the next few weeks that could impact his career for years to come.

If he pushes himself to play in Paris and then at Wimbledon a few weeks later, the hip problem that is clearly pretty significant given his recent comments could deteriorate further.

His comment that further damage to the hip could force him to ‘stop playing for a long time’ may have been significant and this is why he needs to tread with caution as he makes his next moves.

Sinner could have ten years and more of winning at the highest level of the game still to come, but the longevity he will be striving for could be impacted by the decisions he makes in the next few weeks.

The world No 2 should look at Andy Murray as evidence of what can happen if you push a damaged hip to breaking point, with the Scot playing a succession of tournaments in 2016 as he successfully finished the year as world No 1.

Yet the impact that relentless pursuit of the year-end top ranking had a devastating impact on Murray’s already damaged hip.

The three-time Grand Slam champion needed hip surgery as a result and whole his career is still staggering on, his days as a champion were essentially ended by that push for glory eight years ago.

We don’t know the extent of Sinner’s injury, but ask any tennis player past or present to highlight the one area of their body they don’t want to damage and most will highlight the hip.

Medical advice will guide Sinner’s decision, but don’t be surprised if we don’t see him for a few months, with a break from the game allowing him to return for the North American hard court swing in August.

By then, he could return to the game as world No 1, with his body ready to go into battle once again.