'So unintended. So wrong,' Djokovic disqualified from US Open

A swipe at the ball after having his serve broken brought an end to Novak Djokovic's US Open after the world No. 1 was disqualified for striking a line judge in the throat.
So unintended. So wrong, Djokovic disqualified from US Open

Novak Djokovic checks a lines judge after hitting her with a ball during the fourth-round US Open match against Pablo Carreno Busta in New York on Sunday. Djokovic defaulted the match. 

A petulant swipe at the ball after having his serve broken brought a sensational end to Novak Djokovic’s US Open on Sunday after the world No. 1 was disqualified for striking a line judge in the throat.

The dramatic moment came when the overwhelming title favorite reacted angrily to going 5-6 down to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the first set of their fourth-round encounter at an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. What would have been an innocuous incident had the ball flown a foot either side of the official instead left her lying on the ground, clutching her throat and screaming in pain.

There was no question that Djokovic hit her inadvertently, and he quickly rushed to apologize, but it was a clear breach of Grand Slam rules forbidding the physical abuse of anyone within the tournament precincts.

Tournament referee Soeren Friemel spoke to chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor, before a long chat with the three-times US Open champion.

Djokovic, who was clearly making the point that he had not intended to hit the official, was overheard saying “she doesn’t have to go to hospital for this” but after 12 minutes of pleading his case his fate was sealed.

“I don’t think that there was any chance of any opportunity or any other decision than defaulting Novak,” Friemel said.

“The facts were so clear and so obvious ... (the line judge) was clearly hurt and Novak was angry, he hit the ball recklessly, angrily back.”

A tournament spokesman said the line judge appeared to be OK and was “not brought off-site.” Djokovic eventually walked over to shake hands with a stunned Carreno Busta and trudged off the court before leaving the grounds without attending a press conference.

The 33-year-old Serbian later posted an apology on Instagram.

“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” he wrote. “I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I apologize to the (US Open) and everyone associated for my behavior.”

The disqualification ended Djokovic’s 26-match winning streak in 2020 and what, at times, looked like a charge toward his 18th Grand Slam title. That would have brought him within one title of Rafa Nadal’s tally of 19 and two of Roger Federer’s record 20 major triumphs.

The USTA said Djokovic would lose all the ranking points from the event and be fined US$250,000 — his prize money for reaching round four.

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