Top seed and three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia defaulted from the US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball after dropping a game in his fourth-round match Sunday, September 6, 2020.
Djokovic, 33-year-old showed his frustration after losing serve to trail 6-5 against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, a stunning end to his 29-match winning streak and bid for an 18th Grand Slam title.
The Serbian world No. 1 took a ball out of his pocket and hit it behind him, striking the female line judge.
A United States Tennis Association statement said: “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 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.”
This was the latest example of Djokovic finding himself at the center of the tennis world for a reason other than his best-in-the-game returns, can’t-miss groundstrokes and body-contorting defensive prowess.
Djokovic tested positive for the coronavirus — as did his wife, one of his coaches and other players — after participating in a series of exhibition matches with zero social distancing, he organised in Serbia and Croatia in June.
Then, on the eve of the US Open, he helped establish a new association he says will represent men’s tennis players.
And, of course, there’s been his dominance on the court.
Djokovic began the day 26-0 this season and with an unbeaten run that extended to his last three matches of 2019. He had won five of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments to raise his total to 17, closing in on rivals Roger Federer, who has a men’s-record 20, and Rafael Nadal, who has 19.
With reigning US Open champion Nadal, who cited concerns about traveling amid the pandemic, and Federer, sidelined after two knee operations, not in the field, the 33-year-old from Serbia was expected to claim a fourth trophy in New York and gain on them.
But it all came apart so suddenly Sunday. Djokovic wasn’t looking in the line judge’s direction when his racket made contact with the ball, and there was concern on his face as soon as he realised what had happened.
Players who hit a ball out of anger and make contact with an on-court official have been disqualified in the past.
In 2017, Denis Shapovalov — the 21-year-old Canadian who is Carreño Busta’s next opponent — was defaulted from a Davis Cup match against Britain when he accidentally hit the chair umpire in the face with a ball. At Wimbledon in 1995, Tim Henman hit a ball into the head of a ball girl and was defaulted from a doubles match.
No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev, who will face No. 27 Borna Coric in the other quarterfinal on that side of the draw, called Djokovic “unlucky.”