The number one seed for the U.S. Open has spectacularly bundled out of contention after he accidentally hit a line judge with a tennis ball during his fourth-round match on Sept. 6. Novak Djokovic was chasing his 18th Grand Slam title and was up 26-0 for this season. With 2019 champion Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer not playing this year, the title was up for grabs for Djokovic.
Everything fell apart for Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 ranked player, at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York, when the firm favorite dropped a game in the first set, leaving him behind 6-5 against the Spaniard Pablo Carreño Busta, who has a world ranking at number 30.
Djokovic was heading to the sideline for the changeover of ends after dropping his serve, when he nonchalantly hit the ball to the end, without looking.
The ball hit a female line judge, who no doubt was not expecting the ball to come her way, and she put her hands to her neck as she dropped to her knees.
Realizing she had been hit, Djokovic hurried to her side, showing his concern for the lady, who required some medical attention.
He then had a lengthy discussion on the court with officials, including tournament referee Soeren Friemel, after which he then walked over to his opponent Busta to shake hands. Tournament Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte then announced Djokovic had defaulted.
“I think the supervisors and all them are just doing their job, but very unlucky for Novak,” said Alexander Zverev, the tournament’s No. 5-seeded man, who reached the quarterfinals by winning Sunday, reported Fox News. “If it would have landed anywhere else—we’re talking a few inches—he would have been fine.”
The last 13 Grand Slam titles have been won by either Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic. This year, due to the CCP Virus pandemic, there are no spectators for the U.S. Open, making Djokovic’s spectacular exit from the tournament something extra for fans to remember.
“Going to be a new Grand Slam champion, (that’s) all I know. No Grand Slam champions left in the draw. Now it gets interesting,” said Zverev, who beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, on Sunday. “Now I think is the time when it gets really interesting.”
Djokovic later posted on Instagram:
It is not the first time a player has been defaulted for making ball contact with an on-court official or other offenses, including the volatile John McEnroe for three separate code violations in the Australian Open in 1990,—first for intimidating a lineswoman, the second for racket abuse, and his third for swearing at the umpire and the tournament referee.
Other famous tennis players to hit the locker room running include in 2017, Denis Shapovalov, who smashed the ball in annoyance and struck French umpire Arnaud Gabas in the eye during a Davis Cup tie for Canada against the United Kingdom, allowing Great Britain to win in a tie. The temperamental Nick Krygios was defaulted in 2019 in the Italian Open, after receiving a game penalty for unsportsmanlike behavior, he then smashed a chair in anger and was defaulted by the umpire, reported Sporting News.