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What Happened with Novak Djokovic at US Open? What is the Rule that Got Him Disqualified?

Novak Djokovic was defaulted out of the US Open. (Photo Credit: AP)

Novak Djokovic was defaulted out of the US Open. (Photo Credit: AP)

Novak Djokovic was defaulted out of the US Open, which ended the Big Three's domination on Grand Slam events.

Novak Djokovic was sensationally disqualified from the US Open on Monday while playing at the Arthur Ashe Stadium against Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta in the Round of 16. The first time a player was disqualified from a tournament in the professional era was when Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman were defaulted at the Wimbledon after Henman accidentally fired a ball into the head of a ball girl following a point.

The last time a ball hitting incident of such sort happened on the tour level was when Denis Shapovalov was defaulted from a Davis Cup tie against against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017 after the Canadian inadvertently struck a ball into the umpire’s face.

Djokovic was a favourite to win the US Open with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal not a part of the Grand Slam event but after the Serb was defaulted, a new Grand Slam champion (apart from the Big Three) will be crowned for the first time since Stan Wawrinka won the 2016 US Open.

What was the incident that led to Novak Djokovic being defaulted?

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It looked like Djokovic was breezing through when Carreno-Busta was serving at 4-5, 0-40 down but Djokovic squandered the three set points and let the Spaniard back in the first set. That led to Djokovic becoming increasingly frustrated and then when he dropped his serve immediately after to trail 5-6, he lost his cool. He swatted a ball reasonably hard to the back of the court and inadvertently struck a female line judge on her throat.

Djokovic, realising his fault immediately, rushed to check up on her and apologised as the line judge fell out of her chair screaming in pain.

The tournament referee Soeren Friemel then came out on the court and spoke to chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor, before a long chat with the 33-year-old Serb, a three-time former US Open winner.

Djokovic pleaded his case for 12 minutes that it was completely unintentional and was even heard saying, “she doesn’t have to go to hospital for this." But he was defaulted and disqualified from the US Open.

What is the rule that led to his defaulting?

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."

Later Friemel told the reporters, “based on the fact that the ball was hit angrily, recklessly, that it went straight at the line umpire’s throat", he had no choice but to disqualify Djokovic, even though he did believe it was unintentional.

“There are two factors, one is the action and the result," he further said. “And the action - while there was no intent - the result of hitting a line umpire and (her) clearly being hurt is the essential factor in the decision-making process here."