Djokovic expelled from US Open after hitting ref with ball

Flushing Meadows, New York, Sep 6 (efe-epa).- Serbia’s Novak Djokovic on Sunday was expelled from the US Open tennis tourney, which he had been favored to win, after he hit a female line judge in the neck with a ball after missing a shot in the first set of his match against Spain’s Pablo Carreño.

Although tourney judges said that the incident was accidental, the fact that the ball hit the line judge, who fell to her knees on the central court at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York, was viewed as a violation of the sport’s code of conduct, resulting in an automatic disqualification for the world No. 1 player from further competition at this year’s US Open.

After a discussion lasting a number of minutes with officials at the tournament, including the main referee, Soeren Friemel, Djokovic approached Carreño to shake his hand, given that the Spaniard had been declared the winner of their match due to the Serb’s disqualification and will automatically advance to the quarterfinals.

Judge Aurelie Tourte, who was refereeing the match, announced Djokovic’s disqualification immediately afterwards.

It seemed clear that the 33-year-old Serb, a three-time winner of the US Open and the winner of 17 Grand Slam tourneys, had not intended to hit the line judge with the ball, but immediately after she was struck, Djokovic apparently recognized that something “serious” was going to happen to him.

According to the tournament’s rules, players who hit a ball in anger and make contact with a judge on the court in the past have been disqualified. And this was Djokovic’s fate as well.

Although the Serb went over to see that the judge was all right, officials informed him in their conversations with him that they had no other option but to expel him.

Djokovic had been excited and angered during the time just before he apparently lost his temper and hit the ball angrily but it struck the female judge in the throat. He had just missed three consecutive break points Carreño had gone on a run after trailing 5-4 and secured five consecutive points, although one of them was overturned by a challenge. Nevertheless, he had evened up the match.

Djokovic hit the ball angrily at one of the advertising signs on the court and match commentators remarked that if he did that and hit somebody he could be severely penalized, but the world No. 1 – who was 26-0 so far this season – was not given any warning by the match judges.

A little later the Serb fell while trying to reverse directions to counter a shot and apparently hurt his left shoulder.

But after a third break point, Djokovic – who has a history of angry reactions while on the court – smashed the ball and hit the sideboard after play ended.

This was Djokovic’s 10th game of the tourney, and his first against Carreño in the Round of 16, but the angry display of temper has proven to be the worst mistake of his career.

Djokovic will lose all his ranking points and be fined the prize money he had already won by making it to the Round of 16, as per the US Tennis Association statement on the matter.

As a result of his disqualification, this year’s US Open – which is being played before empty stands due to the coronavirus pandemic – has been thrown wide open, with none of the remaining male singles competitors ever having won a Grand Slam title before, given that both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had opted out of the tourney as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In other US Open action on Sunday, Germany’s Alexander Zverev, 23, defeated Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich in an hour and 34 minutes 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1, thus earning a place in the quarterfinals. He had also gotten to the semifinals in the Australian Open.

In the women’s category, US player Shelby Rogers eliminated the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova, the sixth seed, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6) and will advance to the quarterfinals for the first time, where she joins her compatriot Jennifer Brady, who defeated Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-1 and 6-4 Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva also reached the quarterfinals by defeating Croatia’s Petra Martic 6-3, 2-6 and 6-4.

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