'The right call': Why Novak Djokovic had to be disqualified

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Novak Djokovic is seen here comforting the stricken line judge that was hit by a ball.
Novak Djokovic could be seen apologising to the line judge after the incident. Pic: Getty

Tennis legend Billie Jean King says the extraordinary decision to disqualify Novak Djokovic from the US Open was the correct one.

Djokovic sparked controversy in his fourth round match after being booted out of the tournament for hitting a tennis ball straight into the throat of a female line judge during the first set of his match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

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As he made his way back towards his chair, the Serbian hit a ball towards the back of the court and it connected with a line judge, who audibly gasped for air.

A lengthy discussion between officials took place, while the stricken line judge was being attended to, before Djokovic was handed the default.

The 17-time major champion was the favourite to win the grand slam in New York and his exit leaves the men's singles draw wide open.

King wrote on Twitter: "Here are my thoughts on the Novak Djokovic default.

"First, I hope the line judge is okay. The rule is the rule. It is unfortunate for everyone involved, but in this specific situation the default was the right call."

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US Open officials explained the extraordinary decision to kick Djokovic out of the grand slam and the massive penalties that will be handed down to the World No.1.

The Serbian superstar will be docked all ranking points earned at the tournament and fined $250,000 in prize money following his sensational disqualification.

A statement from the US Tennis Association detailed the immediate sanctions Djokovic faces after he was tossed out of the tournament during the fourth round.

The USTA said Djokovic had been defaulted under the Grand Slam rules for "intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences."

"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," the USTA said in a statement.

Pictured here, Novak Djokovic checks on the line judge after hitting a tennis ball into her throat.
Novak Djokovic was disqualified after hitting the line judge in the throat with a tennis ball. Pic: ESPN/Getty

Djokovic's disqualification occurred following an incident near the end of the first set in his last-16 match with Spain's Carreno Busta.

Djokovic had just gone 5-6 down when he hit a ball in the direction of the female official.

It struck her in the throat and she could be heard gasping, as officials raced in to check on the welfare of the stricken official.

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Djokovic rushed over to check that she was okay and after a few minutes she got up and walked off the court.

Following around ten minutes of discussions with the tournament referee, the umpire declared that Carreno Busta had won by default.

Eleven minutes after the ball strike, Djokovic walked toward Carreno Busta, shook his hand, acknowledged the chair umpire and walked off the court. It was announced that he was defaulted.

Djokovic had been undefeated in the 26 matches he’d played in 2020 before the incident.

He was the last man left in the draw who owns a Grand Slam singles title. Roger Federer (injured) and Rafael Nadal (opting not to travel during the pandemic) did not enter the tournament.

Now, there will be a first-time male Grand Slam singles champion for the first time in six years. And the first male Grand Slam singles champion born in the 1990s.

The top seeds remaining are Nos. 2 and 3 Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev on the bottom half of the draw. The top half — Djokovic’s half — includes No. 5 Alexander Zverev.

Djokovic owns 17 Grand Slam singles titles, trailing only Federer (20) and Nadal (19). Nadal can tie Federer’s record if he wins a record-extending 13th title at the French Open, which begins in two weeks.

with agencies