WASHINGTON, September 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
There’s been plenty of bizarre things that have happened in the storied 140-year history of the US Open. In recent years, one need only look back to the contentious women’s singles final of two years ago between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, in which Williams was fined for code violations that included calling chair umpire Carlos Ramos a “liar” and “thief,” and was docked a game for verbal abuse and had a point penalty for racquet smashing and a code violation for coaching.
Also, there’s the 2009 women’s semifinals when Williams was hit with a point penalty for threatening language toward a line judge following a foot fault against Kim Clijsters. The penalty came on match point to complete Clijsters’ 6-4, 7-5 victory.
So, add Novak Djokovic‘s Sunday disqualification for striking a ball that hit a lineswoman in the throat to the list. It’s something that is going to resonate for the rest of his career.
“This was an unfortunate, unintended accident,” said Hall of Famer Jim Courier, during Monday’s Tennis Channel Live. “That’s exactly what it was. The rules were followed to a “T” and were correctly administered on the court.
“Novak is certainly remorseful about this, but it is certainly going to resonate for the rest of his career. He probably will have one less major title as a result of this. This is a big deal.”
Another Hall of Famer on the Tennis Channel broadcast, Martina Navratilova, added: “He will not be able to live this down ever because in every single interview, he will be asked about it. It was that moment of flicker of Novak’s recognition when he hit it that ball and saw that it hit her, he knew what was coming. He knew that he was done.”
Added Jon Wertheim, Tennis Channel Insider and tennis writer for Sports Illustrated: “A lot of complexity and a lot of context to the decision itself, but it was cut and dry.”
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) September 7, 2020
Tournament referee speaks out
Sunday night, US Open tournament referee Soeren Friemel spoke on the facts surrounding Novak Djokovic’s disqualification. He said that there was no other option but to default the World No. 1 and top seed after he hit a ball in anger which struck a lineswoman in the throat.
In a press conference for select media, according to Simon Cambers’s reporting for Tennis Majors, Friemel explained that “discretion had played no role in the decision and that though Djokovic had pleaded his case by saying he had not intended to hit the women, in the end there was no other option.”
Friemel began his press conference with a statement to explain what he saw when he arrived on Arthur Ashe Stadium court shortly after the incident had occurred.
— Tennis Majors (@Tennis_Majors) September 6, 2020
“I saw the line umpire was on the ground with the doctor, the physiotherapist, next to her as well, Novak and the chair umpire, making sure she is alright, then the Grand Slam supervisor (Andreas Egli), who was watching the match, who was assigned to Ashe, and the chair umpire, Aurelio Tourte, explained what happened. What was explained to me was that after Novak Djokovic lost the point, he took a ball out of his pocket, hit it recklessly and angrily, at the back and hit the line umpire on the throat. The line umpire was clearly hurt and in pain, she went to the ground and we had to take care of her. The facts were discussed or explained by the chair umpire and the Grand Slam supervisor. In this situation it’s especially important that we are 100 percent sure of exactly what happened, especially since I was in the referee’s office. But the facts were established and then I had to talk to Novak Djokovic, gave him the chance also to state his point of view, an based on the facts that the ball was hit angrily, recklessly, that it went straight at the line umpire’s throat, the line umpire was clearly hurt and in pain, the decision was made that Novak had to be defaulted.”
Among the questions Friemel was asked was: “Is this a judgment call on your part?”
He responded: “In the end, any code violation there is a part of discretion to it but in this instance, I don’t think there was any chance of any opportunity of any other decision other than defaulting Novak, because the facts were so clear, so obvious, that the line umpire was clearly hurt and Novak was angry, he hit the ball recklessly, angrily back and taking everything into consideration, there was no discretion involved.”
Window of opportunity
With top seed Novak Djokovic defaulted out of this year’s US Open, it means there will be a first-time Grand Slam champion crowned among the remaining eight in the tournament. The last time there was a first-time Grand Slam champion was back in 2014 when Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori. It’s been four years since a Grand Slam was won by a non “Big Three” (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic). That came when Stan Wawrinka lifted the 2016 US Open trophy after defeating Djokovic.
Borna Coric, who will face fifth seed Alexander Zverev in one of the men’s quarterfinal matches on Tuesday, said Sunday after his fourth-round win over Justin Thompson, “There’s going to be new Grand Slam champion, for sure. Yeah, that could potentially can happen that some of us can do something more in the future. But again, it doesn’t mean anything. I’m really looking forward to see who it’s going to be. I think we all have a very good chance. Yeah, it’s going to be very interesting.”
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What they’re writing
In London’s The Guardian, Bryan Armen Graham suggests that the only man who can beat Novak Djokovic is the World No. 1 himself. Read: It turns out the only man who can beat Djokovic this season is himself.
It turns out the only man who can beat Djokovic this season is himself | Bryan Armen Graham https://t.co/zFgBP6zL0X
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 7, 2020
What they’re saying
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What they’re tweeting
Billie Jean King / Hall of Famer
Here are my thoughts on the Novak Djokovic default.
First I hope the line judge is okay.
The rule is the rule. It is unfortunate for everyone involved, but in this specific situation the default was the right call. #USOpen
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 6, 2020
Patrick Mouratoglou / Serena Williams’ coach
I feel that Novak had too much on his plate: trying to win this US Open was already a huge goal. Starting this player’s association and a campaign in order to convince players to be part of it is a full time job & a lot of extra stress. Nobody can afford to lose focus during a GS
— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) September 7, 2020
Ben Rothenberg / New York Times tennis correspondent
In some ways this is a fitting moment in Djokovic’s 2020, which has dominated by a debate over whether one should be responsible for the negative outcomes of carelessness and reckless behavior despite having only “good intentions.”#USOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2020
Chris Fowler / ESPN tennis commentator
Reax to Djokovic DQ reflects the times. Many want to blame the woman who got hit in the throat. Or officials enforcing clear cut rule. Too many believe they are above the law (or the rules). And are allowed to get away with that. Novak must know that he is not. Or does now.
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) September 7, 2020
What they’re sharing on social media
It’s gotta be the shoes!
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2020
Denis Shapovalov’s sneakers are 😍 pic.twitter.com/75J5LijpS0
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2020
Frances Tiafoe has “Black Lives Matter” and “Respect Us!” written on his sneakers. pic.twitter.com/bObW6gzMWp
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2020