Novak Djokovic disqualified from US Open after hitting line judge with ball

Top seed defaulted after accidentally striking female official in moment of anger
Novak Djokovic tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta at the US Open. Picture: Al Bello/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta at the US Open. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta at the US Open. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images

Title favourite Novak Djokovic was sensationally defaulted from the US Open after hitting a line judge with a ball.

The top seed and 17-time grand slam champion had just dropped serve to trail Spanish opponent Pablo Carreno Busta 6-5 in the opening set of their fourth-round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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He hit a ball behind him in annoyance that hit a female line judge. A lengthy discussion followed between tournament officials and Djokovic as the Serbian argued his case to no avail.

There was no question Djokovic did not intend to hit the line judge, and the ball was not hit particularly hard, but it was clear immediately that the woman was hurt, with the Serbian rushing over to check on her condition.

He pleaded his case at length before accepting his fate, collecting his rackets and walking off the court.

The decision will send shockwaves through the sport. Djokovic won his 17th slam singles title in Australia and was an overwhelming favourite to make it 18 in New York having not lost a match all season.

Djokovic is not the first player to have been defaulted for something similar, but for it to happen at a grand slam and as the tournament favourite is an extraordinary situation.

Canadian Denis Shapovalov was defaulted during a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in 2017 after smashing a ball in anger that hit umpire Arnaud Gabas in the eye.

Tim Henman, meanwhile, was disqualified from Wimbledon 25 years ago for hitting a ball girl with a ball during a doubles match, while David Nalbandian kicked an advertising hoarding during the Queen’s final in 2012, injuring a line judge, and was defaulted.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, Henman said: “It’s a massive shock. There’s no doubt that it’s the right decision. It’s amazing for me to talk about this because it happened to me at Wimbledon in 1995. It was that moment of frustration, hit the ball away when I wasn’t looking and I hit a ball girl in the ear.”

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Henman added: “I remember going back to the locker room in a state of shock and then going into the press conference. It was probably one of the busiest press conferences I’ve ever been into and the first question was: ‘How do you feel, the first person in 120 years to be disqualified at Wimbledon’. I was shocked, I was embarrassed and I was very disappointed.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Brady swatted aside former US Open champion Angelique Kerber to reach the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time.

The 25-year-old American went into the tournament as a dark horse and has fully justified that, winning all her matches in straight sets, the latest a 6-1, 6-4 victory over 2016 winner Kerber.

Brady bullied her German opponent from the back of the court during a 22-minute first set. The second was closer, and there was concern for Brady when she went off-court after five games and returned with her left thigh strapped.

The 28th seed needed more treatment at the changes of ends but she held things together to march across the finish line. In the last eight, Brady will play 23rd seed Yulia Putintseva, who defeated eighth seed Petra Martic 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

In the men’s singles, Alexander Zverev used a dominating serve to beat an injury-slowed opponent and reach the quarter-finals of the US Open for the first time.

Zverev served 18 aces during a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Alexandro Davidovich Fokina, who got his right ankle taped after the opening game of the third set and had trouble moving on court.

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