Top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia was disqualified from the US Open on Sunday, after a tennis ball he hit in anger struck a female line judge in the neck.
Though it was clear that Djokovic did not intend to hit the line judge, organizers said Djokovic was disqualified in accordance with the rules.
“In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open,” organizers said in a statement.
After dropping his serve to trail 6-5 behind in the first set of his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, Djokovic angrily smashed a ball in frustration, accidentally striking the line judge in the neck and causing her to fall to the ground.
Djokovic immediately rushed over to check if she was okay and placed his hand on her back as the judge struggled for air. After a few minutes she was able to get up and walked off the court.
After a discussion of around 10 minutes between tournament referees and officials, Djokovic was disqualified from the match.
Djokovic apologized later through 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,” Djokovic said.
“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.”
Djokovic’s exit means there will be a first-time Grand Slam champion in the men’s draw.
“There’s no past Grand Slam champions left in the draw,” said fifth seed Alexander Zverev from Germany, who made light work of Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in another fourth round match.
“It’s going to be one of the young guys, I think, if you count Dominic Thiem as a young guy, as well. He obviously has a chance to win. Now I think it is the time where it gets really interesting. We’ll see where we go from here,” added the German.
Elsewhere, Canadian rising star Denis Shapovalov stunned seventh seed David Goffin of Belgium 6-7 (0), 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to make last eight, while Croatia’s Borna Coric also advanced.
In the women’s singles, fourth seed Naomi Osaka of Japan finished a routine job as she eased past Anett Kontaveit from Estonia 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals.
There were shock wins for local players Jennifer Brady and Shelby Rogers. Brady stunned Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-4, while Rogers upset Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6). Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva also registered an upset as she overcame eighth seed Petra Martic of Croatia 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.