Novak Djokovic was defaulted from the US Open after hitting a lineswoman with a ball

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I’ve been watching hours and hours of the US Open, which is being held this year with no fans in the stands. Players and their small teams have had free rein of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, and it’s created a unique atmosphere and a strange kind of vibe. Some players enjoy it, you can tell, but others seem off-kilter. Novak Djokovic has been one of the off-kilter players. He arrived in New York weeks ago for the Western & Southern/US Open double, and first let me say – the USTA was so happy that Novak showed up. He really did them a solid by deciding to play, especially in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s absence. Novak (and Serena Williams) gave the tournaments legitimacy.

But Novak has been in a foul mood the entire time in New York. I think his New York Times interview was particularly telling – he’s still mad about how poorly his coronavirus-ridden Adria Tour was received, and all of the bad press he got during the lockdown because of that and his anti-Vaxx crap. I won’t even get into the PTPA mess, but that didn’t help with Novak’s mood either. Basically, he was just waiting to explode at someone or something. He’s been spiking balls right and left in his matches, and then in Sunday’s fourth round, on Arthur Ashe Stadium, he spiked a ball on a lineswoman’s throat.

This video shows everything that happened, starting with Novak’s fall (he jammed his shoulder), then Pablo Carreno Busta breaking Novak’s serve, which led to Novak hitting the ball at the lineswoman:

As you can see from the video, the woman collapsed and struggled to breathe. Here’s another angle:

She was taken off the court and the on-site doctor saw her. She reportedly has a bruise on her throat but she is expected to be okay. The tournament supervisor came out onto the court and it was clear immediately that Novak would be defaulted, but the supervisor still allowed Novak to plead his case (from what we could hear, Novak sounded like a massive douche). The default still happened and Pablo Carreno Busta is on to the quarterfinals. Because of the default, Novak will not receive any US Open prize money or ranking points and he’ll be fined steeply. Within minutes of being defaulted, Novak left the tennis complex and he did not do any media (another fine). He did release this statement hours later on his social media:

This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. 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’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. 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. 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.

[From Novak’s IG]

I mean… yeah. I’m not an anti-Novak person but he’s not my fave. I think this year has been awful for him and for his image. He needs to get the pseudoscience gurus out of his life and he needs to try… something else. His anger was palpable throughout the past few weeks and there was no reason for it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: he feels like he doesn’t get the respect he deserves, so he has a chip on his shoulder and then people respect him less. The cycle continues. I do think the career-obituaries are overblown though.

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Photos courtesy of Getty.

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63 Responses to “Novak Djokovic was defaulted from the US Open after hitting a lineswoman with a ball”

  1. ABritGuest says:

    See you Djoker! I’m guessing there won’t be a disgusting cartoon for Novak though right?The mild language the media used for this offence- putting it down as frustration compared to Serena was very telling.

    • Liz version 700 says:

      Absolutely he knocked her down but the media made it sound like a handshake. The racism/sexism at play uugh

      • hindulovegod says:

        I agree. How is this inadvertent or an accident? He looked in the lineswoman’s direction and then hit a ball toward her head. It’s only accidental if you think the number one men’s tennis player can’t aim. But the media is doing backflips to excuse it, even after the previous incident in Doha 2017 when Djokovic nailed a spectator in the face. He went on to have a meltdown and smash a racket. He was deducted one point total for that spectacle, though the rules necessitated default. Where’s the “rules are rules” crowd for him? Or for the obvious coaching from Tsitsipas’s box (and Zverev’s) that is treated like some amusing family drama? The flagrant double standards are making it hard to enjoy this sport.

  2. Sylvia says:

    He didn’t mean it. The look of sheer horror on his face when he realized he’d struck her with the ball was genuine, I think.

    I’m no fan of Djoko but this one gets a pass from me. Accidents happen.

    • VS says:

      No one said he meant it! he was being an asshole on the court trying to defend it

      A rule is a rule; according to him the judge should have considered his career; that this is a slam and the line judge would be ok.

      He deserves a hefty fine for that BS defense alone

    • Carol says:

      To me, hitting a ball anywhere without looking because you are mad is not an accident. If this were a student who was angry and did this there would be consequences including working on anger management issues. This man needs to reevaluate his life and work on anger and how to deal with it without striking out in any direction.

    • Peanutbuttr says:

      Rules are rules. Tim Henman did that to a ball girl many years ago (also an accident) and was promptly defaulted.

    • Sarah says:

      I agree that he didn’t mean it and that the action itself, though reckless, was a mistake. He should be experienced enough not to make such a mistake but he did.

      The issue is his reaction – If you injure a line judge or a ball person outside of a point then you are defaulted. Your intention is irrelevant. All the commentators on my feed said immediately that he would be out, and all the tennis players who have commented said it was the right and only decision. He claims to be a leader for the players and wants to be liked but his reaction was to plead his case on the basis that special circumstances should apply to him and then failed to man up and apologise at his press conference – a 17 year old Shapo behaved better in the same circumstances. Those are factors that are the most telling of his character. He certainly is not statesman of the game.

    • Paperclip says:

      It was unintentional, but it wasn’t an accident. He deserved the default full stop.

    • AnnaKist says:

      I’m also saying he probably didn’t mean to hit the line judge. That isn’t the point, though. There is a code of behaviour that he agrees to abide by every time he sets foot on the court. If he hadn’t thrown a tantrum, the line judge would not have been hit. He did and she was. I’m sick and tired of all these bloody men who expect to – and mostly do – get away with arsey behaviour because they are good at hitting a ball, swinging a club or bat, kicking a ball, driving a fast car, blah blah blah. Now leave him alone to whine about his harsh punishment.

    • Original Jenns says:

      Of course he didn’t mean it. But that’s why you don’t spike the balls that way! They are powerful and then these things can happen. And while it wasn’t intentional to hit the lines woman, it wasn’t an accident. He meant to pout and spike the ball. It was a consequence of that.

      His excuse of “she didn’t have to go to the hospital” should also be weighed when judging this. He needs a big slice of humble pie and an examination of his own behaviors.

    • josephine says:

      I agree that he didn’t aim for the woman he hit and probably was not fully aware of where she was. But the rule takes that into account — it forbids negligently hitting the ball, and his actions were definitely negligent in that he did not take care or bother to look. I did feed bad that he defaulted in this way but also believe that default was the right ruling. I think those sentiments are entirely consistent.

  3. VS says:

    He is a jack****; He tried to plead his case by saying the line judge will be fine; he then made it worse by avoiding his press conference ( Serena and Shapo still did theirs after similar incident).

    The Twitter and IG posts were written by his publicist; you are right, he wants to be as loved as Roger and Rafa but every single time, he makes it worse

    Isn’t being a great player enough? He will never be as loved as Rafa and Roger; he should have accepted it by now.

  4. Lemons says:

    One, if you play tennis, instead of lashing out at your racquet or others, sometimes you hit a ball. I do not understand why he would hit a ball at that speed and not look at where it was going. That is d**che behavior. No concern for others. Where did he think the ball would end up? Ball kids aren’t always going to be there to take those hits.

    Two, he really needs to refocus on his mental game on and off the court. I get it, at a certain point, players need to think beyond what they do on the court and prepare for what comes after. So yes, creating a new tour is a great next step. But everything he has done to get there just seems toxic.

    • Coz' says:

      I play tennis and it’s one of the most frustrating sport : you miss far more than you succeed.
      I am constantly talking to myself and once in a while I scream out of sheer frustration. But I have never once throw a ball.
      But he is an experienced player :you don’t throw a ball, you don’t throw your racket.
      I have seen Nole played twice. Twice he was an angy d!ck on court. The worst time was during last year semi at RG. He spent more time complaining to the empire or his team about the weather than actually playing tennis. The public was so fed up with him.

      • Lemons says:

        Yeah, tennis is one of the toughest sports mentally. There’s not much time to regroup after errors and you don’t have others to rally around you and help fix your mistakes. You’re alone, and it can go downhill fast.

        As a pro, I want to say that they should behave better, but we’ve seen that it’s just as difficult for the pros. He didn’t scream or anything, but players know what that “spike” was and if it BRUISED someone, he really should rethink where he’s at mentally. If you are injuring others out of negativity, carelessness and negligence, rethink why you are playing the sport.

  5. Yamayo says:

    Whether or not she was hurt is irrelevant.
    Novak reacted badly, and instead of attending the press conference and apologising and taking responsibility like an adult, he ran like a petulant toddler.
    The pathetic insta apology was clearly written by a PR guy.

    The worst thing about the whole situation is the sexist abuse this poor woman is getting on SM.
    Calling her a Karen, saying she’s faking to get Novak disqualified, she should an Oscar etc

    It’s disgusting.

    Incidentally, before people go on about how overblown this story is, let’s all remember that about 30 years ago Stefan Edberg (one of the nicest guys on the tour) hit a linesman and the man died the next day of a ruptured spleen.

    • lemonylips says:

      I agree. I checked out some EE papers to see what the twist will be and it is horrible. They’re digging out her photos with wine and calling her an alchocol lover, implying that she’s a boozer. Borna Coric got attacked for seeing an opportunity to advance without Novak in the tournament and not defending him enough. Which is so stupid, cause they are really close. They are not allowing Coric to celebrate his win. To be fair, Novak has nothing to do with it. It just shows the insane length media will go through to attract trolls, political right and more clicks… Pathetic really.

  6. Eleonor says:

    I get the mistake but I wonder can you imagine if the player was Serena?

    • BB8 Squirrel says:

      I had the same exact thought. The media coverage would be a lot different if Serena did this. “Angry Serena violently lashes out at lineswoman” or some BS.

  7. Chica1971 says:

    Karma! he got to play and infect others when he shouldn’t have been, now he cannot play because he could but made self-inflicted error. Ms Rona.. I see you.. Follow the rules

  8. Dalloway says:

    Before 2020 I was ambivalent to Novak. He is a great player, a champion, but I find no joy in his style of play, so I usually didn’t watch him play unless it’s a final.

    But now, he’s shown his ass. From the IG Lives with his pseudo-science, to the Adria Tour fiasco and his anti-vax comments to the whole PTPA handling. This was just the end of a serious of poor choices, and I’m glad we will have a new GS champion.

    Novak should listen to Goran Ivanisevic and keep his head down and on focus the tennis. I feel like he does everything in the shadow of Fedal. Adria Tour to counter the cancellation of Laver Cup. IG Live after Fedal did a video in lockdown, PTPA to solidify his legacy as a champion of player rights while Fedal ”side with the ATP.” None of it is working his way and so his anger and frustration led to this embarrassment and he took the cowards way out last night by along the National Tennis Centre and going to JFK before releasing a statement on social media.

    He could just win the most GS, have that undisputed title, but he wouldn’t be loved, and that kills him.

  9. Hollah says:

    I’m not a tennis watcher, so was the ball he hit from his own pocket because he would no longer be serving? What does a player usually do with the extra ball? Toss it to a ball person on the perimeter?

    • Dalloway says:

      He was tossing the leftover ball away. Typically they lightly swat it back behind them at ground level of the ball boys/girls to easily bend down and catch it.

      Novak hit the ball with a lot of force and at neck/eye level in anger.

      The rules would stand regardless. Default isn’t about intention. He hit a member of staff he’s out.

    • Yamayo says:

      Yes. Or let it drop off your pocket and a ball kid will run and pick it up.

  10. Angela says:

    Novak bothers the shit out of me. Great tennis player but his personality sucks that’s why he doesn’t relate well pr/marketing in usa and parts of europe

  11. Kyla says:

    I don’t believe that Novak “did the USTA a solid” by agreeing to play in the tournament. I think he saw it for what it was, a golden opportunity to win another slam title without having to play Roger or Rafa, or deal with the crowds that are lukewarm to him.

    It’s been pretty obvious that he doesn’t take the pandemic seriously so I doubt he believed he was risking anything by coming to the US to play in the two tournaments. He was thinking about the win and getting closer in numbers to Roger and Rafa‘s total # of slams, and extending his own winning streak.

    I’m so happy he’s out. I’m looking forward to seeing a champion who isn’t one of the Big Three.

    • Tanguerita says:

      Me too. Really happy. I might have yipped yesterday when I heard that he was out. Can’t stand him. The arrogance, the stupidity, the sense of entitlement – you name it, he’s got you. I hope Nadal and Federer keep beating his sorry ass on and off court for as long as it takes him to get the message.

  12. trace_smiles says:

    I am no Kyrgios fan by any stretch (he does my head in) but, his tweet asking his fans how many years of a ban they thought he would’ve received with the same infraction, 5, 10 or 20, was amusing.
    Joker has shown his true self this year and as much as I want to, I can’t unsee it.

  13. Chrissy says:

    It was an accident. This kind of behaviour for some reason is part of the game. He seemed really sorry. Lucky she was not more hurt.

    • Lemons says:

      You don’t watch enough tennis. That is not a part of the game. Especially not at his level. You can tap a ball or roll a ball to the back, but you don’t smack a ball hard enough to bruise someone. Honestly.

  14. lisa says:

    imagine taking a ball in the throat and then having that unmasked sweaty person leaning over you

    • Sof says:

      That was my first thought too! Are there no regulations regarding that?
      The poor woman’s face said it all, really.

      • Lemons says:

        The players are tested and are supposed to be in a bubble but knowing that he already had COVID would make me pause.

    • Amy Too says:

      I wasn’t even thinking about it Covid wise but more like I wouldn’t want to be “comforted” by the person who hit me in anger, even it was an accident. This person was recently so angry that they got recklessly violent and now they’re standing over me with their hands on me? I would feel like I wouldn’t be able to cry or express the pain I was feeling properly, or ask for what I needed, because I would be very disturbed by the fact that they were there looming over me. I would want to scream “go away! Leave me alone!” so I could deal with my injuries and fright on my own without feeling like I was “overreacting” and needing to reverse comfort the person so hurt me by being like “it’s okay, it’s not that bad, I’m not that hurt.” And he’s a big celebrity professional and she’s someone with a lot less power so I doubt she felt like she could be like “go away! I don’t want to see you right now!”

  15. Sojaschnitzel says:

    “I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy”
    sounds like a threat.

    • K.T says:

      Exactly, it seemed like a threat! And he and his team know they are feeding the horrible vitriol that this poor line official is getting. An ESPN UK tweet just fed the misogyny by putting up her photo and saying that ‘if looks could kill’. She’s a VICTIM.
      You could kind of hear the sound of when she was choked by the force of the ball hit to her throat. And now all his toxic fans are saying she was only pretending because of her anger. Shocking!

    • megs283 says:

      RIGHT it is not for him to disclose her name. Would a driver disclose the name of the person who they ran over?

  16. Sof says:

    Oh, to be universally loved as Roger Federer, that’s Nole’s dream, isn’t it? The more his image suffers, the more we’ll see him f***ing up his game.
    While I agree with you that he should get rid of that witchy pseudo science he favours, I’ll say that the main problem with him is his family. His dad, mainly. They are the ones who should have kept him grounded, not encourage his frustrations.

    • SomeChick says:

      He is a grown-ass man and he should know better on his own not to have done that in his anger.

      • Sof says:

        Oh, I 100% agree with you. He always gets away with his tantrums, so it’s nice to see him finally getting checked for it.
        I was referring to his constant need for the crowd’s affection, which his family is also vocal about.

  17. DS9 says:

    He looked far more annoyed that she was hurt than concerned or embarrassed by his shit ass behavior

  18. Lizzie says:

    Did I miss something? He apologized for her stress, I think the apology should be for injury, pain and if pressed assault. Needs to apologize for his apology.

  19. Catherine says:

    Great article!! Very thoughtful and I agree on all points. EXCELLENT POINT: Serena and Novak gave the tournament legitimacy. Can you imagine if they weren’t there? Yesterday was so shocking, and I’ve never seen him as a “bad sportsman” type of player. Not my favorite either but I really love watching him play, he is a SPECTACULAR PLAYER. He is so fun to watch. But, his vibe has ….just been off.

    He has that COVID angst a lot of us have. And it jumped all the way out. Horrible horrible horrible thing. Agree on the pseudoscience- it’s helped his fitness but enough is enough.

    Also, I feel like he’s trying to take on a persona, so people will love and respect him. He needs to just be himself, and let his game speak for himself. All this other messy stuff he’s trying to accomplish with the union, isn’t working. He wants to be a leader, but it’s not working.

    What a terrible thing. Really hated it.

  20. Katie says:

    This is the same attitude that led to his covid-19 outbreak tour. He wanted to do something and that was way more important to him than the chance he’ll hurt somebody, so he does it, and people got hurt. He was mad, he wanted to slam the ball and that poor lineswoman got hurt.

    At some point it stops being unintentional accidents if the intention is to always do what you want without thinking of how it could hurt people.

  21. Ana Maria says:

    I think he meant it: he was in a foul mood, turned around, saw someone and wished the ball would strike them, not thinking that it would actually strike them; just a hunch

    • Sid says:

      That was the impression I got too Ana Maria. He hit the ball in that direction to be an asshole, not thinking it would hit the line judge the way it did.

  22. Lolafalana says:

    I completely agree. I used to like watching him play, but his personality has changed that over time. And I’m super sick of his sharing the love after the matches. If you are an entitled a$$hole, we don’t want it, and it’s a stupid schtick. I am really really tired of athletes feeling entitled to special treatment within the rules of their own sport. For me, this applies to Serena as well as others like Kyrgios. It was really annoying too to watch Brad Gilbert sitting there after (ESPN) talking about things that were irrelevant to the situation, and acting super disappointed that Novak was out. How about being angry at the shitty example he set after it all happened? How about being angry that an athlete of his stature would allow himself to be so careless? The rules are the rules and they apply equally for everyone.

  23. Debra says:

    His fans on Twitter are saying utterly unhinged things, blaming everyone (especially the woman hit), except Djokovic

    • Eugh says:

      People/his fans saying the woman overreacted is really agitating me. She got hit in the THROAT at high velocity (new angles show it had speed).

      Nole is, was, and may possibly always be an unsportsmanlike asshole, and that is why he is not beloved. I never understood how he had defenders on here. I’ve followed him his entire career and it started out with a lot of anger and frustration back then. No one remembers he would fake injuries, not finish matches? No?

  24. Mariane says:

    I never liked him and this year I know why!! The sheer arrogance of this guy… I know its unlikely but hope he gets disqualified from future plays or loses sponsors. He thinks he can get away with his arrogant attitude

  25. lili says:

    To be honest, this year was a pr disaster for him and he tried to do better pr wise but everything backfired SPECTACULARLY! Like I can’t imagine worse. He has a temper, he’s Serbian, he’s not my fave but he was/is both stubborn and unlucky.
    I think punishment – being defaulted from a tournament he’d probably win and chase Nadal/Federer’s records is a punishment enough for everything he’s done.
    I kind of feel bad for him. He let his anger but obviously didn’t mean to hit the lady.

  26. Kathryn says:

    I too have been watching the US Open for hours on end. Novak is not my fave but I don’t hate him. He clearly didn’t mean to hit the linesperson. But yeah, his image rehabilitation, which had been going pretty well until that stupid tour he organized is now back to zero. He has a lot of work to do. Apparently, the USTA didn’t trust Nole and put a tracker on his phone to make sure he was just on the grounds or at the house he rented in NJ – and not out clubbing etc like he did in Europe.

  27. nikki79 says:

    Did you see her face ? Was that a reaction of a person who suffer? She is a very good actress and somehow managed to ruin Djokovic reputation.

    He is a very nice guy, natural and you have to respect his choice considering vaccines, gurus and other stuff.

    As he said he has to learn his lessons and he will.

    • msd says:

      Sexist crap. The lineswoman was just standing there. Djokovic is to blame 100%.

      The person ruining Djokovic’s reputation is Djokovic; he’s his own worst enemy. All his problems lately are self-inflicted. He needs to accept that he isn’t going to be a crowd fave like Roger and Rafa, or seen as a tennis leader, and just play. The neediness is conversely irritating to most people, and worse it’s a distraction to his tennis. Who cares if you aren’t beloved outside Serbia, really? Respect rather than love is fine. Weirdly, if he relaxed and accepted that about himself he may actually get some more affection from the general public.

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