Novak Djokovic, the current world number one in tennis, was disqualified from the US Open on Sunday after hitting a tournament official with a ball. The dramatic exit took place during the first set of his match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
Djokovic is only the third player in Grand Slam history to be disqualified from a men’s singles tournament.
The Serbian was 5-6 down in his first set against Carreno Busta, when in a moment of frustration, he slammed a tennis ball behind him. The ball hit a female line judge in the throat, causing her to fall on the floor.
Djokovic rushed over to the line judge to check if she was okay. She was able to get up after a few minutes and walk off the court.
Following a discussion of several minutes with officials on court, including tournament referee Soeren Friemel, the Serbian walked over to shake hands with Carreno Busta, who was declared the automatic winner of the match.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA), which owns and operates the tournament, issued a statement that said Friemel defaulted (disqualified) Djokovic “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 USTA also said that Djokovic would forfeit ranking points and the $250,000 (€211,000) prize money that he had earned so far in the tournament.
Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, took to Twitter to express her shock at Sunday’s incident.
In an Instagram post, Djokovic apologized for what happened on the court, saying “this whole situation left me really sad and empty” and “thank God she is feeling ok. I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress.”
He added that he needed “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.”
With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer absent, Djokovic’s departure means that whoever emerges as US Open champion will be a first-time major trophy winner in men’s tennis, as no man remaining in the tournament has won a Grand Slam singles title. The last time there was a first-time men’s tennis Grand Slam was in 2014.
The premature and shocking exit was a blow to Djokovic, who had been chasing an 18th Grand Slam title at this year’s US Open and hoped to close the gap with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, in the race for the all-time men’s Slam singles title record. – DW.