Novak Djokovic Can Win Grand Slams But Not Hearts. World No 1 Disqualified from US Open

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Novak Djokovic Can Win Grand Slams But Not Hearts. World No 1 Disqualified from US Open

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

A professional sports career is always accompanied by a number of highs and lows — big wins, as well as moments of frustration that get the better of even the best of athletes. On Sunday night, World No 1 Novak Djokovic had one such moment of frustration that led to his disqualification from the US Open.

After losing a number of potential break points in a row, a visibly irritated Djokovic smacked a ball to the back of the court, where it inadvertently struck a line judge in the throat, bringing the official to her knees.

Novak Djokovic immediately rushed over to check on the official, and apologised, but the damage had been done. The tournament’s referee Soeren Friemel soon came on to the court, who spoke with the US Open’s supervisor, the chair umpire, and the 33-year-old Serbian player. After 12 long minutes, during which the three-time US Open champion argued that the official he struck “didn’t have to go to hospital”, he was disqualified.

As the rules state, “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.”

After a quick handshake with the official he struck, Djokovic left the stadium along with his “shocked” opponent Pablo Carreno Busta. Later, in an Instagram post, the Serb said the incident had left him feeling sad and empty, and that it was both unintended and wrong on his part.

 

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This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person 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. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her 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 human being. I apologize to the @usopen 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. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

This disqualification officially ends Djokovic’s 26 game unbeaten streak this year, which he had hoped would help him seal yet another Grand Slam title, especially seeing as his two major rivals, Roger Federer and Rafaele Nadal had not taken part in the tournament over health concerns.

But 2020 is not Djokovic’s year. Earlier in the year, he has faced criticism for the way in which he has handled the coronavirus outbreak — first by breaking lockdown rules by training in Spain, and then by revealing that he was sceptical about the vaccine which the world has been waiting for with bated breath.

Djokovic has also been criticised for organising an exhibition tour in Serbia and Croatia, without taking the requisite social distancing measures. The world number 1 and several other players tested positive for the coronavirus following the tournament.

Djokovic will now lose all ranking points gained during the US Open and has been fined $2,50,000 — his prize amount for reaching round 4.

Australian player Nick Kyrgios who had called out Djokovic for his “stupidity” after the ill-fated Adria Tour was quick to troll the World No 1. He asked on Twitter, “Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat. How many years would I be banned for?”

Djokovic has always been a player who courts controversies. A piece titled “Djokovic: Grand Slam superstar but never people’s champion” says, “Djokovic has pocketed career earnings of $143 million in prize money alone. However, despite his achievements, he appears doomed never to be held in the same saintly esteem as Federer or Rafael Nadal, the undisputed “people’s champions” of tennis.”

Djokovic’s infraction also reminded many of Serena Williams’s 2009 US Open incident, when on a deciding point in her match with Kim Clijsters, she threatened a line judge, and was bounced out of the tournament in similar fashion.

With action now initiated against the World Number 1 seed, this incident should serve as a reminder to all athletes that above all, they must always keep their cool on the court.

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