Novak Djokovic has pleaded with his fans to be “supportive and caring” of the line judge at the centre of his US Open default row after she was attacked by online trolls.
Djokovic said the official, who was hit in the throat by a ball bashed away in anger by the world number one, had “done nothing wrong at all”.
Some critics on social media accused the line judge, who fell to the ground and appeared to have trouble breathing, of exaggerating the extent of her injury.
“Please also remember the linesperson that was hit by the ball last night needs our community’s support too,” the 33-year-old Serb tweeted on Monday.
“She’s done nothing wrong at all. I ask you to stay especially supportive and caring to her during this time.”
Djokovic was disqualified because of the incident as he missed the chance to win his 18th Grand Slam title and close the gap on Rafael Nadal (19) and Roger Federer (20).
He later said he was “extremely sorry” for causing the accident and said he had apologised to US Open organisers for his “behaviour”.
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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. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.
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Prominent members of the tennis community said there was no doubt that Djokovic, who was playing Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the last 16, had to be disqualified.
The United States Tennis Association said he was defaulted under the Grand Slam rules for “intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences”.