Novak Djokovic Out of U.S. Open After Accidental Hit of Line Judge

Novak Djokovic, the highest males’s participant in a sport with its share of meltdowns and misbehavior, grew to become the primary No. 1 disqualified from a Grand Slam singles match after he inadvertently struck a line choose with a ball hit in frustration on the United States Open on Sunday.

Djokovic’s sudden ouster from the nation’s premier tennis match instantly made a weird U.S. Open much more unusual. It has been staged throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with gamers sparring with native well being officers over contact tracing and the highest ladies’s doubles crew abruptly disqualified on Saturday. This was additionally the newest misadventure for Djokovic in 2020, a yr by which he has expressed private hesitation about vaccines, organized an exhibition match that led to coronavirus circumstances, together with his personal, and sowed division within the tennis world by forming a possible breakaway gamers’ group.

Djokovic misplaced his cool when trailing 5-6 within the first set within the fourth spherical in opposition to Pablo Carreño Busta, having misplaced a number of latest factors. He had simply misplaced a recreation whereas serving after being handled for ache in his left shoulder earlier within the recreation, giving Carreño Busta the higher hand.

After dropping the ultimate level of the sport, he pulled a ball from his pocket and smacked it together with his racket towards the again of the court docket. It hit a line choose, standing about 40 ft away, in her throat. She cried out and crumpled to the bottom, and Djokovic rushed to her aspect to examine on her situation.

Djokovic only decided to come to New York last month after lengthy negotiations with tournament officials over quarantine rules. But his default deprives the men’s event of the only player remaining who has won a Grand Slam singles title.

Djokovic has won 17 major singles titles. Men’s tour officials have been eager for a new champion to emerge to challenge the dominance of the Big Three, but this was certainly not the way anyone expected it would happen.

Officials have some latitude in deciding how serious an offense might be, but Friemel said Sunday’s ruling was clear-cut.

Djokovic, 33, has won five of the last seven Grand Slam singles titles and had dropped just one set in his first three matches at the U.S. Open. But the first set against Carreño Busta was a tight affair, and Djokovic was testy. At one stage earlier in the set, he smashed a ball in frustration toward the side of the court, hitting no one.

He failed to convert three set points on Carreño Busta’s serve in the 10th game, But when serving at 5-5, Djokovic fell hard on the second point while shifting direction and got up wincing and grabbing at his left shoulder. He received treatment in his chair, returned to the court trailing by two points and then lost the game, still looking uncomfortable with his two-handed backhand and resorting to a one-handed drop shot on two occasions.

Miffed, he smacked another ball in frustration, then extended his left arm in apology toward the line judge as soon as he saw she had been struck. Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach, slumped in his seat in the players box in the cavernous, nearly empty stadium, seemingly aware of the implications.

Andreas Egli, a Grand Slam supervisor, and Friemel soon arrived on court to investigate the situation and discuss the incident with Djokovic and the on-court officials, including chair umpire Aurélie Tourte.

“I know it’s tough for you whatever call you make,” Djokovic said to Friemel as they talked at the net.

“Well, the rules are the rules,” said Carreño Busta, who had lost his three previous matches with Djokovic. “The referee and the supervisor did the right thing but it’s not easy to do it, no?”

The incident was reminiscent of one involving Denis Shapovalov, who was defaulted in a Davis Cup match in 2017 after inadvertently hitting chair umpire Arnaud Gabas in his left eye after smacking a ball in anger, fracturing Gabas’s orbital bone. In 1995, British star Tim Henman became the first player in the Open era to be disqualified from Wimbledon after inadvertently hitting a ball girl, Caroline Hall, in the head from close range. Henman, playing with Jeremy Bates, was defaulted during a doubles match for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In 2012, David Nalbandian, an Argentine star, was defaulted from the singles final at Queen’s Club after kicking a wooden advertising board and injuring linesman Andrew McDougall’s left leg.

But until Sunday, no world No. 1 had been defaulted in the midst of a Grand Slam tournament. The closest equivalent for shock value at the U.S. Open was in 2009 when Serena Williams, seeded No. 2, received a point penalty for threatening a line judge who had called a foot fault in her semifinal against Kim Clijsters. The penalty was assessed on match point, handing Clijsters a 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Ilie Nastase, a combustible Romanian, was defaulted in the second round of the 1979 U.S. Open after a series of tirades and then reinstated in a match against John McEnroe, who was later disqualified himself for misbehavior in the fourth round of the 1990 Australian Open. But both Nastase and McEnroe were past their primes.

The modern men’s superstars have been genteel by comparison, in part because of a stricter code of conduct.

Djokovic had never been defaulted on tour until Sunday.

Matt Futterman contributed reporting.

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