Djokovic is thrown out of US Open

Serb ex­its for hit­ting ball in anger that strikes lineswoman Hen­man ac­cuses world No 1 of run­ning away af­ter­wards

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Si­mon Briggs ten­nis cor­re­spon­dent

No­vak Djokovic, the world No 1, was sen­sa­tion­ally de­faulted from the US Open last night af­ter strik­ing a ball in anger that hit a line judge. The lineswoman fell to the ground on all fours af­ter the ball struck her in the throat.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened late in the first set of Djokovic’s fourthroun­d match against Pablo Car­reno Busta, of Spain. Only a few min­utes ear­lier he had fallen heav­ily and jarred a shoul­der, and he was suf­fer­ing a likely change of for­tunes af­ter drop­ping his serve.

The break point it­self was a par­tic­u­larly frus­trat­ing mo­ment for Djokovic, as he had played a drop shot that Car­reno Busta had run down and put away for a win­ner.

Djokovic hit the ball with­out look­ing where it was go­ing, but it landed in the most sen­si­tive of spots for the un­for­tu­nate lineswoman. She was clearly in dis­tress and strug­gling to breathe when

Djokovic rushed over to her to apol­o­gise.

Af­ter­wards, Djokovic de­clined to speak to the me­dia and left the site as soon as he could find his way to his car. “I am a lit­tle bit dis­ap­pointed,” Greg Rused­ski, the Ama­zon Prime pun­dit, said. “You’ve got to re­mem­ber, this man is the world No1. Yes, it’s a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion be­ing de­faulted at a ma­jor but he should have come into press, taken re­spon­si­bil­ity and apol­o­gised for the sit­u­a­tion.”

This ver­dict was sup­ported by fel­low pun­dit Tim Hen­man. “Un­for­tu­nately he’s com­pound­ing the er­ror,” Hen­man said. “He needs to face up to it, apol­o­gise and ac­cept he made a mis­take. By, in essence, run­ning away, it’s go­ing to go on longer.”

This was not the first time in Djokovic’s ca­reer that he has smacked a ball away wildly in frus­tra­tion. It was not even the first time on the night. He had al­ready wal­loped one into the side hoard­ings be­side the court, with­out any fur­ther con­se­quence.

A five-minute con­ver­sa­tion en­sued be­tween Djokovic and the of­fi­cials on site. So­eren Friemel, the US Open ref­eree, spoke at length to the Serb at the net, while grand­slam su­per­vi­sor An­dreas Egli watched from the side of the net, just un­der­neath the chair of um­pire Aure­lie Tourte.

Ama­zon Prime’s cam­era feed fo­cused on the con­ver­sa­tion. Djokovic could be heard say­ing: “You said you don’t have a choice but you just told me you have a choice. She was OK. What does the rule say? Lis­ten, she is feel­ing bet­ter.”

Other un­ap­peal­ing re­ported quotes in­cluded the fol­low­ing: “She doesn’t have to go to the hos­pi­tal for this. You’re go­ing to choose a de­fault in this sit­u­a­tion? My ca­reer, grand slam, cen­tre stage?”

This was not a con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion – in terms of the ap­pli­ca­tion of

the rules – given prece­dents such as Hen­man’s de­fault from Wim­ble­don in 1995 af­ter ac­ci­den­tally fir­ing a ball into a ball girl’s head, or De­nis Shapo­valov’s de­fault from the 2017 Davis Cup tie be­tween Canada and Great Bri­tain for strik­ing a ball into the eye socket of um­pire Ar­naud Gabas.

The grand-slam rule book in­sists that play­ers must not “phys­i­cally abuse” any of­fi­cial.

Djokovic shook Car­reno Busta’s hand as he left the court, but de­clined to shake Tourte’s. Af­ter­wards, Car­reno Busta told re­porters: “I didn’t watch the mo­ment when he threw the ball, no? I was look­ing to my coach, cel­e­brat­ing the break. When I turn back again, the line um­pire was on the floor. I was in shock.”

A state­ment from tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers con­firmed that “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”.

It is hard to re­mem­ber a de­fault be­ing ap­plied in such ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, against a ru­n­away tour­na­ment favourite and world No1 in the mid­dle of a grand slam. Djokovic’s un­bro­ken se­quence of 26 straight vic­to­ries in 2020 has now come to the most ig­no­min­ious of end­ings.

His de­fault means that he will not re­ceive any of the £188,000 prize money he had been guar­an­teed al­ready, nor any rank­ing points from this tour­na­ment, while ad­di­tional fines will be handed out at the dis­cre­tion of the tour­na­ment.

From a pub­lic re­la­tions per­spec­tive, it has not been a good year all round for Djokovic, even if he did start it by win­ning the Aus­tralian Open. He outed him­self as an anti-vaxxer, then hosted the fi­asco that was the Adria Tour.

In New York, he and his right­hand man, Vasek Pospisil, drew fire from many ob­servers by at­tempt­ing to launch a new play­ers’ union in the most sen­si­tive cli­mate for ten­nis.

Sorry: No­vak Djokovic tries to con­sole the line judge as she holds her neck court-side

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.