After Roger Federer with 20 grand slam, Rafael Nadal with a total of 19, Novak Djokovic was the 17-time grand slam winner who was disqualified from the US Open fourth round on Sunday after hitting a line judge named Laura Clark with a ball following a point through the first set of his match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. Though he ran immediately and apologized to her, the rules are fair, and they must equally practice to the world’s number one male player as well which made Djokovic spend seven minutes attempting to persuade referee Soeren Friemel of the case. But having hit a ball “dangerously or recklessly within the court, or with negligent disregard of the consequences” – to quote the rulebook – there were no grounds for leniency.
Djokovic eventually walked over to shake hands with a stunned Carreno Busta and departed Flushing Meadows without conversing to the media. He did write an apology on his Instagram account, stating he was “extremely sorry to have caused her such stress.” But trolls were fleet to take to social media now, finding Laura Clark’s public profile and posting thousands of hate-filled messages. Clark is a tennis enthusiast and has achieved her way up from junior and college tournaments to officiate to US Open and Davis Cup.
As part of the punishment, Djokovic was stripped of his $250,000 prize money and was also fined $10,000 for ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’.
Its been a difficult summer for Djokovic. First, he organized a tournament in Croatia, which was a disappointment as a violation of social distancing regulations and resulted in him and several top players testing positive for Covid-19.
But this was not the first time with Djokovic as in the 2016 French Open quarter-final against Tomas Berdych; his racquet had nearly hit a line judge as it slipped out of his hands. He had also fired a ball towards his coaching team in a match against Dominic Thiem at the ATP Finals.