Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open for hitting a line judge with the ball after losing a point during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday.
Djokovic, the world No. 1 and heavy favorite in New York, swatted the ball in frustration and struck a lineswoman in the neck after having his serve broken by the Spaniard, who had just taken a 6-5 lead in the first set. The line judge dropped to her knees before being removed from the court.
The Serbian pleaded his case during a lengthy discussion with match officials but was ultimately defaulted.
— ESPN (@espn) September 6, 2020
The top seed on the men’s side of the draw, Djokovic was chasing the 18th Grand Slam of his career. He was 26-0 this year heading into Sunday’s affair and was the overwhelming favorite to capture his fourth US Open title.
Though the incident was accidental – Djokovic wasn’t looking in the direction of the line judge and immediately went over to her once he realized what had happened – hitting an on-court official with a ball has traditionally resulted in a default, regardless of intention.
Canadian Denis Shapovalov was disqualified from a Davis Cup match in 2017 for accidentally hitting the chair umpire. Tim Henman suffered the same fate when he hit a ball girl in the head during a match at Wimbledon in 1995.
“I think the supervisors and all them are just doing their job, but very unlucky for Novak,” said No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev, according to The Associated Press’ Howard Fendrich. “If it would have landed anywhere else – we’re talking a few inches – he would have been fine.”
With neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal taking part in this year’s tournament, Djokovic’s ouster means a first-time US Open champion will be crowned later this month; the last 13 Grand Slam titles have been won by either Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal.
“Now I think is the time when it gets really interesting,” Zverev, who advanced to the quarterfinals earlier in the day, said of the field.
Carreno Busta, the 20th seed in the competition, advanced to the quarterfinals as a result of the disqualification.
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