The tennis world was in for a shock when World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the U.S. Open on Monday for striking a line judge with a ball.
The men’s seed one was defaulted at 5-6 down in the first set of his match against Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday after a ball he swiped in frustration hit a female official in the throat.
After the match, the 33-year-old Serbian posted an apology on Instagram, vowing to take away valuable lessons that would aid his “growth and evolution as a player and human being.
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This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I‘m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.
As Djokovic walked to the Arthur Ashe Stadium sideline for a changeover, trailing Pablo Carreño Busta 6-5 in the first set, Djokovic — who was the overwhelming favorite for the championship — angrily smacked a ball behind him. The ball flew right at the line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court and reached for her neck.
A discussion of about 10 minutes near the net involving tournament referee Soeren Friemel, Grand Slam supervisor Andreas Egli and chair umpire Aurelie Tourte took place where Djokovic pleaded his case but without success.
As the world expressed shock and angst at the outcomes, here are some of the reactions on the incident:
To people being harsh on Novak right now.
It was a mistake. A freak accident. There was no intent. Luckily nobody got seriously hurt.
Everybody makes mistakes. Let him be.
Why do we expect such politically correct responses when we all know it was an accident?
— Somdev Devvarman (@SomdevD) September 7, 2020
The craziest part is if this incident had happened in any other court apart from Ashe or Armstrong, No default would have happened as all other courts have electronic calling and no linesman. #novakdjokovic #USOpen
— Rohan Bopanna (@rohanbopanna) September 6, 2020
Unbelievable what just happened on the court at the @usopen – Novak Djokovic defaulted for inadvertently but stupidly hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball and the officials had no choice but to default. Wow…#sad
Glad the woman is ok- we must do better than that.
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) September 6, 2020
Here are my thoughts on the Novak Djokovic default.
First I hope the line judge is okay.
The rule is the rule. It is unfortunate for everyone involved, but in this specific situation the default was the right call. #USOpen
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 6, 2020
Swap me for jokers incident. ‘Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat’ how many years would I be banned for?
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) September 6, 2020
Meanwhile, American great John McEnroe has said that Novak Djokovic will have to get used to being the “bad guy” following his disqualification from the U.S. Open for striking a line judge with a ball.
“The pressure just got to him. I think a lot has been going on off the court,” McEnroe, who was disqualified in the fourth round of the 1990 Australian Open after being handed three code violations, told ESPN.
“It’s obviously affected him and whether he likes it or not, he’s going to be the bad guy the rest of his career.
“If he embraces that role, I think he could recover. He’s got a lot of things going for him, but this is a stain that he’s not going to be able to erase,” he concluded.