Novak Djokovic felt “sad” after he was disqualified from the U.S. Open for hitting a line judge with a ball. His former coach says he is still “in pain,” while other players have said little about the incident.
The top-seeded Serbian became frustrated after he failed to win the first set of a match against Pablo Carreno Busta. He turned and smacked the tennis ball toward the back wall, hitting a lineswoman in the throat.
Djokovic was defaulted from the match and immediately left without speaking to the press. He later posted an apology on social media.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” Djokovic wrote. “I checked on the linesperson 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.”
Radek Stepanek, Djokovic’s friend and former coach, told CNN Tuesday that Djokovic still was distraught about his exit.
“I know he is very sad inside himself and he is in pain,” Stepanek said. “He is in pain because it was unintentional and, in that moment, the pain is bigger.
“And it’s hard for him because we know how hungry he is to become the player with the most Grand Slams.”
The lineswoman has received an abundance of negative messages on social media since the incident. Djokovic on Monday posted a message asking his fans to support the official.
“Please also remember the linesperson that was hit by the ball [Sunday] needs our community’s support too,” Djokovic wrote on Instagram. “She’s done nothing wrong at all. I ask you to stay especially supportive and caring to her during this time. From these moments, we grow stronger and we rise above.”
Carreno Busta said he didn’t see the incident, but noticed the lineswoman on the ground after she was hit. He also said he didn’t think Djokovic intended to hit the official.
“I was in shock,” Carreno Busta said. “I never expected this moment against Novak.”
Several tennis stars were asked about Djokovic’s behavior during their news conferences Sunday in Queens. Naomi Osaka said she thinks incidents like Djokovic’s will make players “more aware” of their surroundings during matches.
Serena Williams and several other players did not respond to questions about the disqualification.
“I’m not going to touch that,” Williams said when asked about the decision to disqualify Djokovic. “I’m going to leave that to [reporters].”
Second-seed Dominic Thiem is now the highest remaining seed in the men’s singles circuit. World No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Roger Federer did not compete in the U.S. Open due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
“What happened, happened,” Thiem said Monday. “None of the other players had any influence over it. We just need to focus on ourselves. Now there is probably a better chance for all of us to win our first Grand Slam, but things didn’t change all that much.”
Carreno Busta will battles Denis Shapovalov in a quarterfinal match at 8:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday. The winner will face Borna Coric or Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.