Tennis

Disqualified Djokovic apologises for hitting line official with ball

Novak Djokovic apologised for his US Open disqualification on Sunday, declaring himself “extremely sorry” for the moment of madness which saw him defaulted from the tournament.

In a statement on Instagram just hours after his sensational exit in New York, the Serbian world No. 1 said he had been left “really sad and empty” by the controversy.

The 33-year-old was tossed from the tournament after accidentally hitting a tennis ball into the throat of a line official during his fourth-round match with Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.

“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” Djokovic said in a statement on Instagram. “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.”

Djokovic, who left Flushing Meadows without speaking to reporters following his exit, said he would try to learn from the incident.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Djokovic is one of only a handful of players to be defaulted from a Grand Slam tournament ever since John McEnroe was infamously booted out of the 1990 Australian Open.

The United States Tennis Association said Djokovic would lose all ranking points and prize money from the tournament.

Djokovic's disqualification prompted plenty of reaction from the tennis fraternity.

Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams, said Djokovic had perhaps taken on too much off court in addition to trying to extend a 26-match winning streak and bag an 18th Grand Slam.

“Trying to win this U.S. Open was already a huge goal,” Mouratoglou said on Twitter.

“Starting this players association and a campaign in order to convince players to be part of it is a full time job and a lot of extra stress. Nobody can afford to lose focus during a (Grand Slam).”

Sunday’s incident could yet have an impact on the breakaway players body as its success depended, at least in part, on his stature within the game. Federer and Nadal, who both missed the US Open, have voiced opposition to the move.

Alexander Zverev said of the incident: “It’s very unfortunate that he hit the line judge, and especially where it hit her.

“Very unlucky for Novak. I think he’s going to be a little bit upset about it. If he would have hit it anywhere else, if it would have landed anywhere else, we are talking about a few inches, he would have been fine."

But 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova tweeted:  “I’m a little bit in shock right now. Unbelievable what just happened on the court.

"Novak Djokovic defaulted for inadvertently but stupidly hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball and the officials had no choice but to default."

Mats Wilander, seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, said: “You are not allowed to do that. It’s as much bad luck as you can have on a tennis court. He didn’t just roll the ball back to the ball kid, that’s the bottom line.

“He hit it harder than he intended to, obviously a complete accident. It was a sign of frustration, yes. A little bit. But it doesn’t matter, you are not allowed to do it." – REUTERS, AFP

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