S. Open favorite, Novak Djokovic, who had previously been suffering from a shoulder injury, was exquisitely defaulted from his fourth-round match versus Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday. He was visibly irritated, he hit a ball away in frustration – although he was not facing the lineswoman, the ball hurt her, she was coughing and needed medical attention.
The incident happened late in the first set with Djokovic trailing 6-5. The Grand Slam rulebook called for a disqualification for “abuse of ball” when it is struck with “negligent disregard for consequences”.
There then followed a long discussion with the tournament referee, with Djokovic tried to convince him to let him continue his match. Soeren Friemel, the tournament referee said he believed that Novak Djokovic hit the lineswoman unintentionally, but the trouble was that he took the ball out of his pocket and struck it frustratedly and he caused an injury.
Djokovic confessed that he was angry, but he didn’t hit her on purpose.
The ITF’s Grand Slam rule book reads: “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator, or other people within the precincts of the tournament site…”
Friemel said in a Zoom call that it was a very tense moment, it’s essential to get the facts right. That’s why it was a long discussion. He also said that he didn’t have a chance to see the replay, but the speed of the ball has an impact on the decision. They were told he hit it straight at the line umpire and she was hurt. At the moment when Novak saw that the ball hit the woman, he ran to her, luckily the lineswoman wasn’t badly injured and she walked off on her own.
Novak left the field after a handshake with his opponent Carreno Busta – got into a car in the parking lot, not even doing a post-match Zoom interview. Carreno Busta said that he also thinks it was not intentional and no one would do this kind of thing on purpose, it was just bad luck, but besides he was shocked.