Novak Djokovic entered the US Open with the goal of securing his 18th Grand Slam title and moving closer to Roger Federer in the record books. This did not occur due to him leaving the tournament early. He defaulted from the US Open after striking a line judge with a ball.
The incident occurred on Sunday after Djokovic fell to 6-5 in the first set against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta. He hit the ball behind him in the court and it struck the judge in the throat. She collapsed to the ground and had to be taken out of the rotation. He went to check on her along with chair umpire Aurelie Tourte before tournament referee Soeren Friemel and supervisor Andreas Egli joined them at the back of the court.
Oh my god, Djokovic got disqualified from the US Open.pic.twitter.com/yCo3Lqw0tg— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 6, 2020
After they checked on the judge, Djokovic had an extended conversation with Friemel. He was officially defaulted, so he shook hands with Busta and left the stadium. Djokovic did not meet with the media prior to climbing into a Tesla and leaving the tournament grounds.
"In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open," a statement read on Sunday. "Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident."
According to the Grand Slam rule book, "Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site." The video made it appear that the hit was unintentional but it followed Djokovic previously hitting the ball in frustration. The rules also made it clear that the tennis player could not appeal the decision, saying, "in all cases of default, the decision of the referee in consultation with the Grand Slam chief of supervisors shall be final and unappealable."
According to CNN, defaults are "extremely rare" in tennis, especially in the Grand Slam. There are a few examples, including former Wimbledon semifinalist Tim Henman, who hit a ball girl at Wimbledon in 1995. Similarly, David Nalbandian was defaulted from the 2012 ATP tournament final when he kicked an advertising board that then hit a line judge. Another example is Denis Shapovalov, who is also competing in the US Open. He was defaulted after striking an umpire in the eye with a ball at the 2017 Davis Cup.