In frustration, Djokovic hit a ball toward the back wall and it hit the line judge in the throat. The judge immediately went down and was in clear pain. She was eventually removed from the court. Prior to this incident, also in frustration, Djokovic had hit the ball at the side of the court. The previous incident the ball was hit much harder than the incident that caused the default.
The umpire and Director gathered to discuss what should happen. Though Djokovic made a pitch to not be defaulted, he was.
Djokovic was hit with the Physical Abuse section of the rule book.
“Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or
other person within the precincts of the tournament site.
Violation of this Section shall subject a player to a fine up to $20,000 for each
violation. In addition, if such violation occurs during a match (including the warmup), the player shall be penalised in accordance with the Point Penalty Schedule
hereinafter set forth. In circumstances that are flagrant and particularly injurious to
the success of a tournament, or are singularly egregious, a single violation of this
Section shall also constitute the Major Offence of “Aggravated Behaviour” and shall
be subject to the additional penalties hereinafter set forth.
For the purposes of this Rule, physical abuse is the unauthorised touching of an
official, opponent, spectator or other person.”
With the lines person being physically hurt by the errant ball, Djokovic’s incident resides in the “particularly injurious… or are singularly egregious.” As such he was awarded a default.
“The Referee in consultation with the Grand Slam Chief of Supervisors may declare a
default for either a single violation of this Code or pursuant to the Point Penalty
Schedule set out above.
In all cases of default, the decision of the Referee in consultation with the Grand
Slam Chief of Supervisors shall be final and unappealable.
Any player who is defaulted as herein provided shall lose all ranking points earned
for that event at that tournament and may be fined up to the prize money won at the
tournament in addition to any or all other fines levied with respect to the offending
incident. In addition, any player who is defaulted as herein provided may be
defaulted from all other events, if any, in that tournament, except when the
offending incident involves only a violation of the Punctuality or Dress and
Equipment provisions set forth in Article III. B and C, or as a result of a medical
condition or when his doubles partner commits the Code Violation which causes the
Clearly a default was a huge decision to give to the #1 player in the world and 17-time Gran Slam victor.
It Wasn’t On Purpose
No one who watched the event thought Djokovic did it on purpose. He didn’t hit the ball with that much frustration on the final time, especially not compared to the whack he gave the ball just minutes before. He was the first one to arrive to provide assistance to the lines judge and was clearly concerned for her well-being.
She had not made any calls to make him upset. Rather he hit a ball errant and it caused serious injury to another person. This is a stark reminder of how hard these players can hit the ball.
Though he did not go to the press room afterwards, that evening he posted an apology on Instagram.
This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. 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 apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. 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.
This isn’t the first time
Though this is the highest profile player to be defaulted in a Major it isn’t the first time.
In 1990, John McEnroe was defaulted at the Australian Open during his 4th Round match. McEnroe came after two racket abuse violations followed by a cursing tirade at the umpire and the Grand Slam Chief of Supervisors.
Five years later at Wimbledon, Tim Henman was defaulted during his doubles match when, like Djokovic, he hit a ball in frustration. Henman’s ball hit a ballgirl in the face.
Though it wasn’t a Major, Denis Shapovalov was defaulted at Davis Cup. Canadian Shapovolov was trying to hit a ball into the stands out of frustration but hit the umpire in the face. He, too, was given a default.