NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Novak Djokovic has pleaded for compassion for the line judge he struck in the throat with a ball at the US Open on Monday (Sept 7) after the female official faced a backlash from fans of the world No. 1 on social media.
The Serb was disqualified in the fourth round after he hit a ball reasonably hard to the back of the court in frustration after dropping serve in the first set against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, sending the official to the floor.
A section of Djokovic fans took to social media to hurl abuse at the official after her Instagram username was carried by Serbian media.
“Shame on you. Old lady full of evil,” read one of the messages left on her Instagram account, while other users accused her of faking the injury and “bad acting”.
Djokovic on Tuesday defended the official on Twitter, while thanking fans who had left him positive messages of support.
“Please also remember the linesperson that was hit by the ball last night needs our community’s support too. 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. Sharing love with everyone. Europe here I come.”
With the line judge screaming out in pain as she fell to the ground, a horrified Djokovic ran over to her and apologised.
A tournament spokesman told Reuters later that the line judge appeared to be okay and was not brought off-site for treatment.
Tournament referee Soeren Friemel came out on to the Arthur Ashe Stadium and spoke to chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor, before a long chat with the three-time former US Open winner.
Djokovic pleaded his case for 12 minutes but the Grand Slam rules are clear, and his fate was already sealed.
The Grand Slam rules state: “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.
“The referee, in consultation with the Grand Slam chief of supervisors may declare a default for either a single violation of this code.”
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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.