Explained: Why Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the U.S. Open

The World No.1 will lose all ranking points and prize money earned at the US Open.

September 07, 2020 01:52 pm | Updated 04:41 pm IST - Bengaluru

Novak Djokovic interacts with a linesman after hitting her with a ball. Djokovic defaulted the match.

Novak Djokovic interacts with a linesman after hitting her with a ball. Djokovic defaulted the match.

Trailing 5-6 in the first set of his US Open fourth round match against World No. 30 Pablo Carreno Busta, a frustrated Novak Djokovic unintentionally struck a lineswoman on the throat with the ball.

Djokovic, the World No.1, immediately realised that he had made a grave error and rushed over to check on the shocked lineswoman. But the damage was done, as tournament officials had no option but to disqualify Djokovic and award the match to Busta.

What the rulebook says

While there is little doubt that Djokovic unintentionally struck the lineswoman, the Grand Slam rulebook leaves little room for excusing such behaviour. The rulebook states that the Serbian was defaulted for “intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences”.

The consequences

Djokovic will lose all ranking points and prize money ($250,000 for fourth round appearance) earned at the US Open, in addition to any fines levied for the incident. With Djokovic now out, the stage is set for a first-time US Open champion. Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev — young, talented top-10 stars — have now become the favourites to capture the coveted trophy.

Djokovic’s response

The 33-year-old skipped the post-match press conference, choosing instead to issue an apology on social media.

“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,” a dejected Djokovic stated on Instagram.

Similar incidents

* In 2012, David Nalbandian lost a point and kicked an advertising hoarding. The hoarding, however, struck a linesman, who was left with a bleeding shin.

* In the 1995 Wimbledon, local favourite Tim Henman struck a ball girl in frustration with a ball, in a doubles match. Henman and his partner Jeremy Bates became the first players in the Open Era to be defaulted from Wimbledon.

* Earlier this year, Stefano Tsitsipas suffered a meltdown at the ATP Cup and hit his own father with the racquet. The upset father — sitting courtside — left the arena, before Tsitsipas’s mother walked over to admonish the errant son.

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