September 16, 2020
Djokovic Ejected From US Open
This was already going to be a strange U.S. Open. With some of tennis’ top stars not even bothering to show up for the competition due to COVID-19 concerns, most expected tennis superstar – and number 1 ranked player – Novak Djokovic to run away with the title in the men’s division.
That, as it turned out, was not to be. Instead, Djokovic was tossed out of the tournament after hitting a line judge with an errant ball. At the time, Novak was trailing in the first set of his fourth-round match against Carreno Busta. Angry with himself and his play, while walking off the court, Djokovic smacked a ball, which, according to press reports, “flew right at the line judge, who dropped to her knees…”
The top-seeded player and tournament favorite immediately expressed regret, rushing over to see the line judge. Once the judge was attended to, after a conversation involving the tournament referee and the chair umpire, Djokovic was given a chance to offer his side of the incident. The decision was made that, despite the obvious lack of intent on Novak’s part, the player should be expelled from the tournament.
Speaking to the press after the incident, tournament referee Soeren Friemel said it was clear Djokovic did not act intentionally to strike the line umpire, “He said, ‘Yes, I was angry. I hit the ball. I hit the line umpire. The facts are very clear. But it wasn’t my intent… I didn’t do it on purpose…’ So, (Djokovic) did not believe he should be defaulted for it… We all agree he didn’t do it on purpose, but the facts are still that he hit the line umpire…”
According to the judges, the consequences for those facts were for Djokovic to leave the tournament. After some more discussion, Djokovic eventually agreed to shake hands with Busta and leave the court. While he did not speak with reporters directly after the incident, opting instead to leave the tournament grounds, Djokovic did later release a statement on social media.
“I’m extremely sorry to have caused (the judge) such stress. So unintended. So wrong. Thank God she is feeling okay… This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth as a player and human being… I apologize…”
While it was disappointing for fans and sponsors to see the top seed exit the tournament in that fashion, his statement after the fact seemed to strike the right chord. People understood he made a mistake and regretted it, and it appears that the player’s apology is being accepted as sincere, and his statement about maturing through it is being welcomed.
Djokovic came into the tournament a perfect 26-0 this season, winner of five of the last seven Grand Slam tournaments. In the record books, this will show as a loss, but the presence and message the player sends in the weeks and months ahead will show a lot more.