Novak Djokovic was contrite on Instagram after being disqualified from the U.S. Open on Sunday for hitting a tennis ball in frustration that inadvertently struck a female line judge in the backcourt.
Djokovic pleaded his case for 10 minutes with tournament offiicials, left the grounds without giving a Zoom interview but had calmed down by Sunday night, saying he was “sorry,’ “really sad”’ and feeling “empty.”
After losing a game to fall behind 6-5 to Pablo Carreno Busta, the 33-year-old Djokovic took a ball out of his pocket and flicked it to the backcourt, hitting the line judge in the throat.
She stayed down on the court for a few minutes before being helped off.
Djokovic, the overwhelming favorite and No. 1 seed, was disqualified for “abuse of ball.’’ He stated his case that he should be docked only the first set, with him trailing 6-5.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,’’ the Serbian wrote hours after the incident. “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.
“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.’’