The US Open was supposed to be a slam dunk for Novak Djokovic but instead of moving closer to Roger Federer in the Grand Slam record books, the world No. 1 was defaulted Sunday when he struck a line judge with a ball.The Serb had just been broken to trail 6-5 in the first set against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in New York when he hit a ball behind him. Djokovic wouldn’t have been aiming at anyone but it hit the line judge — seemingly near the face — and she fell to the ground.The chair umpire, Aurelie Tourte, and Djokovic, went to check on her before they were joined on court by tournament referee Soeren Friemel and supervisor Andreas Egli.
Djokovic then had an extended conversation with Friemel before being officially defaulted. The 17-time Grand Slam champion walked off court in near silence since no fans were in the stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic and left the tournament site without speaking to the media.In an Instagram post later on Sunday, Djokovic apologized to the tournament and everyone associated for his behavior.”This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” he wrote. “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 never expected this moment playing against Novak,” the 2017 US Open semifinalist told reporters in a Zoom call. “So it was a tough moment also to me.””Of course I think this was not intentional,” he later said. “I don’t think that any one of us, of the players, do this kind of thing intentional. It’s just the moment.”I think that it was bad luck, no? You cannot do this, but of course, I think that Novak never, never wants to hit the line umpire.”According to the rules, a default seemed like the lone outcome even if the intent wasn’t there, although Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene escaped a default last week at the Western & Southern Open in New York when he hit a ball in frustration and it struck a cameraman in the stands.”Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site,” according to the Grand Slam rule book.