Dubai: If at all there is a time for speculation — plenty of it — then it is now!
No one is greater than the sport, and world No. 1 and battle-hardened (literally) Novak Djokovic, must have known this by now. He made a mistake. Broke a rule. Now, he’s got to own up and pay for the consequences therein.
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The events that unfolded during Djokovic’s US Open round-of-16 match against Pablo Carreno-Busta were fluid and quick.
The men’s top seed hit a ball in frustration after his serve was broken during the match against the Spanish 20th seed at Flushing Meadows in New York. It struck a line judge in the throat, and after a discussion officials defaulted the Serbian. Game, set and match.
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The dramatic sequence of events on Day Seven of the US Open started at 5-5 in the first set when at 0-30 Djokovic fell heavily on his shoulder. After lengthy treatment the world No. 1 found himself three break points down. After saving the first, Djokovic’s serve was broken.
In anger, he hit a ball which struck a line judge, who fell to the floor. Officials were then involved in a lengthy discussion with Djokovic.
The next thing Djokovic was told that he had been disqualified from the US Open.
In a statement the United States Tennis Association, said: “In accordance with the Grand Slam rule book, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open. Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and he will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”
Djokovic’s default means there will be a new champion in the men’s singles competition at Flushing Meadows in a week’s time.
Television broadcasts picked up Djokovic saying “you told me you have a choice” and “you have a game penalty, set penalty, many options” during the exchange with officials which lasted for several minutes.
Djokovic did not attend the post-match conference. But later he issued a statement on social media in which he said the episode had left him “sad and empty”.
“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 apologise to the US Open and everyone associated for my behaviour.
“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.”
Carreno-Busta said he did not see the incident because he was looking in the direction of his coach at the time. And once he grasped what had happened, he was “shocked”.
The world is in shock and social media users have been ruminating since then, even to the extent that Djokovic may announce a premature retirement from the sport.
Perhaps, that may be a bit too sordid to comprehend.
But, as his Spanish opponent rightly observed while citing that the incident had been “unfortunate” while adding that “rules are the rules and the referee and supervisor did the right thing”.
First we had the Adria Tour, where a competition he organised resulted in himself and a number of other top players contracting coronavirus after some very foolish, selfish and reckless behaviour during the pandemic, and then only last week Djokovic was at the centre of a veritable ‘split’ in men’s tennis with the formation of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) to rival the ATP Tour.
Most often, ‘karma’ does catch up. This time is no different, I suppose.