Serbian men’s tennis champion Novak Djokovic, 33, was defaulted from the U.S. Open tournament on Sunday afternoon after he hit a tennis ball with his racket, during a momentary pause in gameplay, and struck a court-side official in the throat, causing her to fall to the ground on her knees.
The New York Times reported that Djokovic pulled a tennis ball from his pocket during a break and hit it in the direction of a lines-woman standing on the side of the court. The hit did not appear intentional, and video of the event circulating on social media shows the player’s concern after he realized what he had done, and she later reportedly walked off the court to be seen by a tournament physician.
Number 1 player in the world gets disqualified from the US Open over what seems to be an honest mistake. pic.twitter.com/tO2addZZ97
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 6, 2020
Seen from another angle: pic.twitter.com/zg0Yk41HR0
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) September 6, 2020
The U.S. Tennis Association, which ranks Djokovic as the best men’s singles tennis player in the world for 2020 by over 1,000 ranking points, released a statement Sunday afternoon expounding on the tennis star’s punishment.
“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. 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,” read the association’s statement.
Since Djokovic made it to the fourth round of the seven-round tournament, he will be forced to sacrifice his $250,000 in tournament earnings. His opponent, Spanish tennis player Pablo Carreno Busta, who is currently ranked as the 27th best men’s singles tennis player in the world for 2020, moved on to the next round of the tournament by default. This means that he is now entitled to the $425,000 prize for singles player who make it to the quarter-finalist round of the 128-person tournament.
USTA statement on default of Novak Djokovic: pic.twitter.com/dqlt0mokg9
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 6, 2020
Prior to the release of the USTA statement, Darren Cahill, an ESPN tennis analyst who was present for the match, told The New York Times that tennis players have been “defaulted for less” in the past and that he ultimately believes tournament officials “made the right decision” by doing so.
According to The Associated Press, the tennis star’s departure leaves the U.S. Open tournament with “no man remaining in the field who previously has won a Grand Slam singles title,” meaning the tournament will see a “first first-time major trophy winner in men’s tennis since 2014, when Marin Cilic won the U.S. Open.”