World number one Novak Djokovic was sensationally kicked out of the US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball after dropping a game in his fourth-round match. This marks a stunning end to his 29-match winning streak and bid for an 18th Grand Slam title.
The incident took place as he walked to the Arthur Ashe Stadium sideline for a changeover on Sunday. Trailing Pablo Carre o Busta 6-5 in the first set, Djokovic who was seeded No. 1 and an overwhelming favorite for the championship angrily smacked a ball behind him.
The ball flew right at the line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court and reached for her neck.
During a discussion of about 10 minutes near the net involving tournament referee Soeren Friemel, Grand Slam supervisor Andreas Egli and chair umpire Aurelie Tourte, Novak Djokovic pleaded his case.
“His point was that he didn’t hit the line umpire intentionally. 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 he said he shouldn’t be defaulted for it, said Friemel, who made the decision to end the match.
“And we all agree that he didn’t do it on purpose, but the facts are still that he hit the line umpire and the line umpire was clearly hurt.”
Friemel didn’t see what happened, and said he was not allowed to check a video replay, but was given a rundown by Egli and Tourte. Friemel said that even if Djokovic didn’t intend to hurt the line judge, she was hurt, and that was enough to merit the ruling.
Eventually, Djokovic walked over to shake hands with Carre o Busta. Tourte then announced that Djokovic was defaulted, the tennis equivalent of an ejection.
Djokovic quickly left the tournament grounds without speaking to reporters, posting an apology on social media hours later.
The USTA went on to say Djokovic forfeits the ranking points and USD 250,000 in prize money he earned in the tournament “in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”