Djokovic disqualification was the right decision

The tennis world has been stunned by the incident leading up to the world No1’s dramatic exit from the US Open yesterday, Sunday. Novak Djokovic’s disqualification is in fact only the sixth to have been awarded at a Grand Slam in the Open era, the previous five players who suffered that fate were John McEnroe, Tim Henman, Carsten Archers, Jeff Tarango and Stefan Koubek.

I’ve seen the replay now, and it is a pretty obvious default and there is nothing you can do. The only thing I’d question is why the umpire didn’t look at a videotape before making a decision, but there’s no question that is a default Mats Wilander

Speaking on Eurosport immediately after witnessing Djokovic striking the ball aimlessly and with force to hit a female line judge in the throat leaving her gasping for air, the seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander, said the organisers had no choice but to issue the Serb with a red card.

“You are not allowed to do that,” the Swede stated. “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.

“We should also hope the linesperson is OK; it looked like she could hardly breathe. I’ve seen the replay now, and it is a pretty obvious default and there is nothing you can do. The only thing I’d question is why the umpire didn’t look at a videotape before making a decision, but there’s no question that is a default.”

Tim Henman recollects his own unfortunate incident

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Former US Open semi-finalist Tim Henman, who suffered a similar fate at Wimbledon in 1995 when he struck a ball in frustration during a doubles match with Jeremy Bates and hit a ball kid, was also clear in his mind that it was the right decision.

“It’s a massive shock, but there’s no doubt that it’s the right decision,” Henman said on Amazon Prime where he is a pundit. “It’s amazing for me to talk about this because it happened to me at Wimbledon in 1995. It was that moment of frustration, hit the ball away when I wasn’t looking and I hit a ball girl in the ear.

“It happened to me at the biggest tournament in the world and clearly is not a pleasant situation to be in. I remember going back to the locker room in a state of shock and then going into the press conference.

“It was probably one of the busiest press conferences I’ve ever been into and the first question was: ‘How do you feel, the first person in 120 years to be disqualified at Wimbledon’. I was shocked, I was embarrassed and I was very disappointed.”

Eurosport tennis expert Alex Corretja admitted he was left stunned by Djokovic’s exit from the US Open, but again agreed the right decision had been made by USTA officials.

“I am absolutely frozen like everyone else,” he stated. “It’s amazing how one centimetre can change not only the match, but the future of our sport, the history of our sport.

“After losing some important points, Novak clearly lost his focus, he’d already hit one ball into the side which was very dangerous if people were there [this year the event is being played behind closed doors without any spectators].

“He didn’t control his emotions in that instance. After being broken, he couldn’t control his emotions and unfortunately, he was unlucky to hit the lineswoman. With the rule as it is, you need to disqualify him. It’s obvious they had no other choice, it’s a pity.

“First of all, I hope the lady isn’t hurt, but they had no other choice to make. It’s absolutely a shame that this match finished like that. He had a great opportunity but you need to know how to handle your emotions on court. It’s a big lesson for kids growing up and for everyone on the tour. You need to be very careful what you do on court because you can hurt someone badly.”

Nick Kyrgios wonders what would have happened if it had been him

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Many players took to Twitter to voice their opinion, mostly in support of the referee, Soeren Friemel’s decision

“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 said on Twitter.

“Unbelievable what just happened on the court at the @usopen – 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. Wow…#sad Glad the woman is ok- we must do better than that,” came from Martina Navratilova.

“RULES ARE RULES! @usopen | #USOpen #Djokovic,” Nicolas Kiefer, a former German professional tennis player concurred on his Twitter account.

“Almost every high-performance player I train does what Novak did in firing the ball. I tell them to stop it, and break the habit for this exact reason, they eventually hit someone and it won’t be good. Yes, Novak deserved it,” Tim Mayotte, a former US Open and Wimbledon semi-finalist said.

Djokovic left the tournament venue without speaking to the media.

Greg Rusedski, former British No1 and US Open finalist, commented on Amazon Prime where he is also acting as a pundit, wrote: “Unbelievable that @DjokerNole has been defaulted. This was the correct decision under the rules regardless of intent or not. Novak should have stayed for the press conference & apologise. We must take responsibility for our actions no matter how difficult the situation is.”

Nick Kyrgios, the controversial Australian bad boy of tennis who has never attempted to disguise his contempt of Djokovic, added his view to the discussion.

“Swap me for jokers incident. ‘Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat’ how many years would I be banned for ?5? 10? 20?” he tweeted.

What is clear is that the disqualification has opened up the draw and for the first time since the 2004 French Open, the semi-finals of a grand slam will be played out without the presence of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal the last two absent from the event this year.



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