The No. 1-ranked men's tennis star, Novak Djokovic, was forced to default at the U.S. Open on Sunday after hitting a line judge with a ball.
Djokovic, the three-time tournament champion, accidentally hit the judge in a fit of anger during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreño Busta at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. Djokovic was down 5-6 in the first set when he took a medical timeout for his shoulder after he fell while changing directions to chase a ball lobbed by his opponent. Djokovic then returned only to lose the game.
It seems he then smacked a ball out of frustration, which hit a line judge, according to the tournament's website.
Photos and video showed Djokovic rushing to the woman's aid after realizing she had been hit, seemingly in the neck or shoulder area.
The United States Tennis Association, the governing body of tennis in America, released a statement saying Djokovic was defaulted "following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court ... with negligent disregard of the consequences."
He will lose all ranking points earned at the tournament and be fined the prize money he had already earned at the tournament. Djokovic could also face additional fines, the USTA said.
"This whole situation has left me really sad and empty," the player later wrote on Instagram. The line judge, whose name he said he would not disclose for privacy reasons, is "feeling ok" according to the post. "I‘m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong." "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," Djokovic wrote, reflecting on the disqualification and apologizing for his behavior.
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Djokovic was the No. 1 seed. His disqualification Sunday ensured that the U.S. Open would have a first-time Grand Slam champion in men's singles for the first time since 2014.
Djokovic won the tournament in 2011, 2015 and 2018. He has won multiple Grand Slam singles titles, the third most in history for a male player, and holds titles from the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon.
Djokovic resigned from the Association of Tennis Professionals player council before the U.S. Open as he looks to spearhead a new players union. He has promoted the proposed Professional Tennis Players Association, a joint union for male and female players.
He has spoken to prominent women in the sport, such as Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens, about the effort, according to Sky Sports Saturday.
"I feel like we can all co-exist in the same ecosystem," Djokovic said. "It's very important for tennis players, being part of a very global sport, to have their own 100 percent player-only representation."