Novak Djokovic defaulted from US Open for striking ball at line judge
Djokovic: "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"
Last Updated: 07/09/20 5:13pm
Novak Djokovic has been disqualified from the US Open after hitting a line judge with the ball.
The world No 1 had just dropped his serve to trail opponent Pablo Carreno Busta 6-5 in the opening set of their fourth-round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
He hit a ball behind him in frustration and it struck a female line judge. After the ball was struck, it was immediately clear that she was hurt and the Serb rushed over to check on her condition.
Tournament referee Soeren Friemel came out on to the court and spoke to chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor, before a lengthy discussion between tournament officials and Djokovic.
He pleaded his case at length before accepting his fate, collecting his rackets and walking off the court.
In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open. Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.
USTA statement on default of Novak Djokovic
Djokovic will face another fine for not doing his press conference. Soon after the incident, the 33-year-old was pictured getting into a black Tesla car and leaving Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic later apologised in a statement on Instagram, saying: "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 apologise to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour. 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."
View this post on Instagram
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.
It was a shocking end to the top seed's hopes of winning an 18th Grand Slam title and also brought to an end his 26-0 winning run since the start of the year, albeit in bizarre circumstances.
Carreno Busta will now face a quarter-final against Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian produced a fine display to oust seventh seed David Goffin 6-7 (0-7) 6-3 6-4 6-3.
And Djokovic's disqualification means that, for the first time since Marin Cilic won the US Open title in 2014, there will be a new men's Grand Slam champion.
Second seed Dominic Thiem, a three-time losing major finalist, is now the highest-ranked player remaining.
Djokovic's turbulent 2020...
The world No 1 was criticised for organising the Adria Tour exhibition event in June in which he and several players were tested positive for COVID-19.
Djokovic then dropped a bombshell on the eve of the Open by announcing he had resigned as president of the ATP Player Council to front a new Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA).
He dropped just one set en route to the US fourth round, where he defaulted after hitting a line judge with a ball. The disqualification ended Djokovic's 26-0 winning run in 2020.
Bad luck for Novak, says opponent Carreno Busta
Spanish opponent Carreno Busta said it was not the way he wanted to make it through to the quarter-finals.
Speaking during his press conference, the 20th seed said: "I didn't watch the moment when he threw the ball. I was looking to my coach, celebrating the break. When I turn back again, the line umpire was on the floor.
"I'm very apprehensive with these kind of things, so I was a little bit in shock. I ask to the Colombian guys who was in the crowd if the ball hit the line umpire, and I was in shock. I never expected this moment playing against Novak, you know. So it was tough moment also to me."
I think that it was bad luck. You cannot do this, but of course I think that Novak never, never wants to hit the line umpire.
Pablo Carreno Busta on Djokovic incident
He added: "They were talking on the net, I just try to be focused if the case that we have to continue playing.
"It was 10 minutes or 15 minutes. But it was a little bit cold, so I need to be ready in the case that we have to continue. I just ask to him [the umpire], and then finally Novak give me the hand. That's it.
"I think that it was bad luck. You cannot do this, but of course I think that Novak never, never wants to hit the line umpire. I'm so sorry about that, because it's not the way that I want to be in [the] quarter-finals. I was playing my match, I was playing really good and I was enjoying the match."
Unbelievable that @DjokerNole has been defaulted. This was the correct decision under the rules regardless of intent or not. Novak should have stayed for the press conference & apologise. We must take responsibility for our actions no matter how difficult the situation is.— Greg Rusedski (@GregRusedski1) September 6, 2020
Zverev in shock
Fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who eased into the last eight with a 6-2 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, said he was in a state of shock.
The German said: "He hit a tennis ball. It's very unfortunate that he hit the line judge, and especially where it hit her. There is a rule in place for it. I think the supervisors and all of them are just doing their job. But very unlucky
"I don't know what to say. I'm a little bit in shock right now."
Zverev becomes one of the new contenders for the trophy, and he added: "Now I think is the time where it gets really interesting. I know who I can play. I know who the rest of the guys can play. We'll see where we go from here."
Borna Coric will be the German's opponent in the last eight as the Croatian beat Jordan Thompson 7-5 6-1 6-3.
Maclagan: No choice but to default Novak
Miles Maclagan, a former coach of Laura Robson and Andy Murray, said he was left "absolutely stunned" by Djokovic's actions.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, he said: "It wasn't intentional but the rules state that although it wasn't intentional, he struck a ball pretty hard and hit a lines woman in the throat so there was no choice but to default.
"It was probably made a little easier because of the empty stadium, I think it would have been harder to do it in front of 23,000 paying fans.
"Just when you couldn't think this tournament could get any more bizarre - the clear favourite defaulted, absolutely stunned.
"There was quite a long discussion with Djokovic and the referee we couldn't hear and we wondered what was going on but in the end it was the right decision."
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— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) September 6, 2020
Glad the woman is ok- we must do better than that.
Djokovic is not the first player to have been defaulted for something similar, but for it to happen at a Grand Slam and as the tournament favourite is an extraordinary situation.
On the eve of the US Open, meanwhile, Djokovic left his role as head of the ATP Player Council to set up a rival player organisation called the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA).
His biggest critic among his fellow players has been Nick Kyrgios, who weighed in from Australia.
He wrote on Twitter: "Swap me for jokers incident. 'Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat' how many years would I be banned for?"
Shapovalov has sympathy for Djokovic
Denis Shapovalov was defaulted during a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in 2017 after smashing a ball in anger which hit umpire Arnaud Gabas in the eye.
Hopefully Novak can shake it off and move on. I mean, of course, he needs to grow and learn from this.
Denis Shapovalov has sympathy for Djokovic
The Canadian, who made his way into a first Grand Slam quarter-final, says it is an unfortunate situation for all involved.
"First of all, it's just super unfortunate for everybody," Shapovalov said. "I mean, I've been in that situation so I know exactly how Novak is feeling.
"Of course, he had no intentions to go after the lines woman. Thankfully she's OK. It could have ended up very, very bad. Luckily everybody is OK. Like I said, it's just super unfortunate for everybody.
"Hopefully Novak can shake it off and move on. I mean, of course, he needs to grow and learn from this."
The 21-year-old has a chance to benefit from Djokovic's exit as his half of the draw is now wide open.
I feel that Novak had too much on his plate: trying to win this US Open was already a huge goal. Starting this player’s association and a campaign in order to convince players to be part of it is a full time job & a lot of extra stress. Nobody can afford to lose focus during a GS— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) September 7, 2020
Johnny Mac says Djokovic will have to get used to being the "bad guy"
American legend John McEnroe, whose own behaviour frequently landed him in hot water with officials during his playing career, felt Djokovic buckled under the pressure.
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.
"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."
The four-time Open champion also said the Serb should have faced the music instead of apologising on social media.
"You got to man up. It made no sense to me. In the past I've seen him take responsibility when he's blown it. In this case it makes it even worse," he said. "So what if he apologised on Twitter... that's not good enough."
Tim Henman, meanwhile, was disqualified from Wimbledon 25 years ago for hitting a ball girl with a ball during a doubles match.
Speaking on Amazon Prime, Henman said: "It's a massive shock. There's no doubt that it's the right decision. It's amazing for me to talk about this because it happened to me at Wimbledon in 1995. It was that moment of frustration, hit the ball away when I wasn't looking and I hit a ball girl in the ear.
"I was shocked, I was embarrassed and I was very disappointed."
Did you know...
This year's US Open is first major tournament without a former Grand Slam champion among its quarter-finalists since Wimbledon 2003 [won by Roger Federer].
David Nalbandian kicked an advertising hoarding during the Queen's final in 2012, injuring a line judge, and was defaulted.