Novak Djokovic’s Blunder

Currently ranked No. 1 in men’s singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals, Novak Djokovic is a Serbian professional tennis player  . Djokovic won 17 Grand Slam single titles, the third-most in history by a male player, five ATP Finals titles, 35 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles, 14 ATP Tour 500 titles, and held No. 1 in the ATP rankings for more than 285 weeks, the second person in history to do so. In majors, he won eight Australian Open titles, five Wimbledon titles, three US Open titles, and one French Open title. He became the eighth player in history to win the Career Grand Slam and the third man to hold all four major titles at once, and the first ever to do so on three different surfaces. He is the only male player to have won all nine of the modern Masters 1000 tournaments and has won each twice. Djokovic was also a member of Serbia’s winning Davis Cup team in 2010 and in the 2020 ATP Cup.

In the US Open 2020, Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open on Sunday after striking a female lines official in the throat with a ball. Novak was ejected during his match against Pablo Carreno Busta. 

Djokovic was the top seed in the tournament and the strong favourite to win with long-standing rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal sitting out of the tournament. Djokovic had been on a winning streak in 2020 entering the U.S. Open. He was trailing 5-6 in the 1st set for his match against Pablo Carreno Busta when the shocking incident happened in front of empty stands at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Djokovic threw the ball in frustration behind him, as he headed to the sidelines for the changeover, The ball flew right at a line judge who fell to her knees at the back of the court, clutching her throat. Although Djokovic certainly didn’t look like he was intentionally targeting the line judge, he violated the rule from the Grand Slam Rule book which deals with “ball abuse” which states –

“Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a tennis ball within the precincts of the tournament site except in the reasonable pursuit of a point during a match (including warm-up)..……..For the purposes of this Rule, abuse of balls is defined as intentionally hitting a ball out of the enclosure of the court, hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.”  

(Source: Grand Slam Rule book)

While arguing that he should be allowed to keep playing in the tournament, Djokovic commented,” She doesn’t have to go to the hospital for this” and later, ” You’re going to choose a default in this situation? My career, grand slam, center stage.” 

(Source: )

A lot of people are of the view that Djokovic was inconsiderate and trying to downplay the consequences of hitting the line woman.He could also not appeal the decision as the decision of the referee in consultation with the Grand Slam Chief of Supervisors was final and unappealable.  

This is the first time since 2004 that a grand slam semi-finals was without one of the big three- Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic has apologized in a statement, saying, “This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I need to go back within and turn this all into a lesson for my growth.” 

Djokovic will lose $267,500 in prize money and additional fines but, more importantly, he lost a chance to win a fourth U.S. Open title.

There have been many instances of athletes getting disqualified from matches or tournaments for unsportsmanlike behaviour like Dennis Rodman kicking the cameraman after he stumbled over his foot while chasing the ball out of bounds during a basketball match or Luis Suarez biting Branislav Ivanović during a football match while the referee was not watching and they have all been punished for their violations. However, they have mostly been intentional. There haven’t been many notable instances like this one where the mistake was made unintentionally. Although he should not have tried to play it off as nothing important happened, I personally feel like this punishment was undeserved and that Novak Djokovic should have been allowed to continue playing the tournament. He was frustrated and hit the ball behind him without looking as a way to vent his anger. The examples mentioned above of players being disqualified were because of bad intent. The situation with Djokovic was very different from the other two and was not intentional as it could be clearly seen that he did not mean to hit the lines official and should have just been charged a considerable fine for doing so but the rule violated in hand did not let him appeal. There should have been a little flexibility in making a decision as his intent was not malicious and the situation was complicated but in the end, he was ejected.

Djokovic will indeed never forget this incident and will always try to keep his composure while playing. As he had stated, this was a learning experience for him and I hope to see his growth from this experience result in success in the future.

Abhideep Sinha

S.Y.Bsc Eco(19-22)

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