Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic apologized Sunday evening after he was disqualified from the U.S. Open for unwittingly hitting a ball in the direction of an official, which subsequently struck her in the neck and caused her to fall to her knees.
“The whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the linesperson 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,” said Djokovic in an Instagram post, in which he declined to reveal the name of the official for her own privacy.
“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 as a human being,” Djokovic continued. “I apologize to the [US Open] 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, who is currently ranked by the Association of Tennis Professionals as the best men’s singles tennis player in the world, was disqualified from the tournament on account of a rule that prohibits “physical abuse” of an official “within the precinct of the tournament,” reports The New York Times.
“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 US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open,” said the U.S. Tennis Association in a statement.
As Business Insider reported in 2016, Djokovic narrowly avoided a disqualification at the French Open after he tossed his racket behind him. An angle of the video posted by Ben Rothenberg, host of the tennis podcast No Challenges Remaining, shows an official narrowly avoiding the flying racket.
In addition to his 2020 disqualification, the U.S. Tennis Association said Djokovic was forced to relinquish the ranking points he earned in the tournament and the $250,000 in prize money he accumulated for making it to the fourth round. His opponent, Spanish tennis player Pablo Carreno Busta, moved onto the next round by default, automatically netting him the fifth round earnings of $425,000 for men’s singles players.
Multiple video angles of Djokovic’s tournament-ending infraction can be viewed below.
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