Novak Djokovic defaulted from U.S. Open after hitting linesperson with ball by accident

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic was defaulted from his U.S. Open fourth-round match after he accidentally hit a linesperson with a ball he struck after a point.

Djokovic, trailing Spainiard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-5 in the first set, hit a ball to the back of his side of the court, angry after having his serve broken. That ball struck a linesperson in the neck area, and the linesperson dropped to the court, holding their throat among yelping more than 10 times in decreasing intensity.

Djokovic was defaulted “in accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook” for “intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences,” according to the U.S. Tennis Association.

“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” was posted on Djokovic’s Instagram nearly three hours later. “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 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.”

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Djokovic swung to hit the ball underhand without directly looking where it was going. When he realized where it went, he looked concerned, put out his left hand and went over to help the linesperson. The linesperson got up and walked off about two minutes after being struck.

A discussion including Djokovic and officials continued regarding his penalty.

“Whatever call you make, it’s tough, I understand,” Djokovic said to an official. “It could be a game penalty. It could be a set penalty. You have many options. … You have to evaluate the situation. You cannot just default like that. … You choose to default for this situation that happened to me first time. … My career, Grand Slam, center stage.”

“His point was that he didn’t hit the line umpire intentionally. He said, ‘Yes, I was angry. I hit the ball. I hit the line umpire. The facts are very clear. But it wasn’t my intent. I didn’t do it on purpose.’ So he said he shouldn’t be defaulted for it,” tournament referee Soeren Friemel, who made the decision to end the match, said, according to The Associated Press. “And we all agree that he didn’t do it on purpose, but the facts are still that he hit the line umpire and the line umpire was clearly hurt.”

Eleven minutes after the ball strike, Djokovic walked toward Carreno Busta, shook his hand, acknowledged the chair umpire and walked off the court. It was announced that he was defaulted. Djokovic left the New York tournament site without speaking to media.

“The rules are the rules,” Carreno Busta said when asked if he thought Djokovic should have been defaulted. “These kind of things never likes. The referee and the supervisor do the right thing, but is not easy to do it, no?”

There is precedent. At Wimbledon in 1995, Brit Tim Henman accidentally hit a ball girl with a ball, causing he and doubles partner Jeremy Bates to be defaulted. In 2017, Canadian Denis Shapovalov was defaulted from a Davis Cup match after he inadvertently hit the chair umpire in the head with a ball.

“Novak was angry. He hit the ball recklessly, angrily back. And taking everything into consideration, there was no discretion involved,” Friemel said, according to the AP. “Defaulting a player at a Grand Slam is a very important, very tough decision. And for that reason, it doesn’t matter if it’s on Ashe, if it’s No. 1, or any other player on any other court, you need to get it right.”

Djokovic had been 26-0 in 2020. He was the last man left in the draw who owns a Grand Slam singles title. Roger Federer (injured) and Rafael Nadal (opting not to travel during the pandemic) did not enter the tournament.

Now, there will be a first-time male Grand Slam singles champion for the first time in six years. And the first male Grand Slam singles champion born in the 1990s or 2000s.

The top seeds remaining are Nos. 2 and 3 Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev on the bottom half of the draw. The top half — Djokovic’s half — includes No. 5 Alexander Zverev.

Djokovic owns 17 Grand Slam singles titles, trailing only Federer (20) and Nadal (19). Nadal can tie Federer’s record if he wins a record-extending 13th title at the French Open, which begins in two weeks.

This U.S. Open will mark the first Slam without any of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal in the semifinals since the 2004 French Open. Those semifinalists were Guillermo CoriaGaston GaudioDavid Nalbandian and Henman.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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