Sporting world is in shock as Serbian tennis star was disqualified from the US Open on Sunday after hitting a line judge with a ball.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a weird year for everyone, and Novak Djokovic is no exception. While the 33-year-old Serbian tennis legend had been virtually invincible with a 26-0 record before Sunday’s match against Pablo Carreño-Busta, he had come under a lot of criticism for organising the Adria tour – a Balkans charity tour played in four different cities to fully crowded stadia, which exacerbated a coronavirus outbreak across Croatia and Serbia, including himself and his family. He also failed to garner huge support for his new breakaway Professional Tennis Players’ Association. He also threated to pull out of the US Open when the organisers said they’d restrict each player’s entourage to just one person. Djokovic continued this trend of doing his reputation no favours as his bid for an 18th Grand Slam title came to a premature end on Sunday at the Arthur Ashe Stadium due to his own recklessness.
Djokovic was trailing 5-6 in the 1st set during his 4th-round match against Pablo- Carreño Busta. It clearly left him frustrated, for as he was walking to the sideline he hit a ball carelessly behind him while looking the other way. The ball hit a line judge in the throat, who fell to the ground in agony, reaching for her neck. Djokovic immediately rushed to her assistance, horrified by the mishap, and apologised. The lineswoman could be seen gasping for breath, as she eventually got up and walked off.
Although Djokovic was adamant in making his case about no serious harm being done, his fate was sealed after tournament referee Soeren Friemel came out to the field and had a 12-minute discussion with chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Grand Slam supervisor Andreas Egli, and declared the Serb defaulted, giving the match to Carreño Busta. Djokovic then shook the winner’s hand and left the pitch, subsequently leaving the stadium without attending the post-match conference, mounting more misery to himself. He later went on to social media to apologise for the incident.
The United States Tennis Association later issued a statement, elaborating Djokovic’s default-
“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 U.S. Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 U.S. Open.”
Djokovic’s exit will facilitate a new winner of the Grand Slam singles title. Last time someone won a major men’s single trophy outside the ‘Big Three’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was Marin Cilic back in 2014. This will also be the first time none of the ‘Big Three’ feature in the last four of the Grand Slam, as Federer’s season ended earlier with a knee surgery and Nadal pulling out of the tournament because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
As Djokovic takes some time to introspect towards a return, the prospect of a new winner would excite some of the fans, as the monopoly for the top spot hits a refresh, for better or worse.