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 Serbian 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.”
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.
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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.”
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.”