NEW YORK (REUTERS) - World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was sensationally disqualified in the US Open fourth round on Sunday (Sept 6) after striking a line judge with a ball following a point during the first set of his match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
Djokovic was becoming frustrated after failing to take the opening set and suffering a fall and having dropped serve to trail 5-6, he hit a ball reasonably hard to the back of the court, striking a female line judge.
He immediately apologised and stood over her before becoming involved in a lengthy exchange with the tournament referee.
Under the rules of the game there is no option other than a default and despite Djokovic’s pleadings that he had not meant to hit the official, he was eventually disqualified.
Djokovic shook hands with a stunned Carreno Busta and trudged off to face the music.
It was an incredible end to the top seed’s hopes of winning an 18th Grand Slam title – something that had looked increasingly likely as the fortnight progressed.
“It’s the right decision,” Tim Henman, who was disqualified from Wimbledon for a similar incident in 1995, told Amazon Prime. “He is not aiming for the line judge, but has hit the ball away and you have to be responsible for your actions.”
Djokovic later apologised for his actions, declaring himself “extremely sorry” for the moment of madness which saw him defaulted from the tournament.
In a statement on Instagram just hours after his sensational exit in New York, the Serbian said he had been left “really sad and empty” by the controversy.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” Djokovic said in a statement on Instagram. “I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok.
“I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong.”
Djokovic, who left Flushing Meadows without speaking to reporters following his exit, said he would try to learn from the incident.
“As for the disqualification, I need 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,” he said.
“I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me.
“Thank you and I’m so sorry.”
Djokovic is one of only a handful of players to be defaulted from a Grand Slam tournament ever since John McEnroe was infamously booted out of the 1990 Australian Open.