If you were hoping for a heartfelt mea culpa from Novak Djokovic, prepare to be disappointed.
The 17-time grand slam champion shirked responsibility and made no promises in his first press conference since his controversial default at the 2020 US Open for hitting a lineswoman with a ball.
“The rules are clear. I accepted it and had to move on. That’s what I did,” Djokovic told reporters in Rome on Monday in a lukewarm acknowledgment of wrongdoing. “I cannot promise or cannot guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life. I’m going to try my best, obviously, but anything is possible in life.”
The Serbian tennis star was disqualified during the tournament’s fourth round for errantly hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball out of frustration after having his serve broken by Spain’s Pablo Carrreno Busta near the end of the first set.
“The ball hits a line judge, it was just unfortunate that I hit the line umpire in a very awkward place,” he said. “There was a lot of speculation and discussions whether it was deserved or not, I accepted it and I moved on.”
Djokovic’s past behavior doesn’t exactly lend itself to clemency. The 33-year-old was recently embroiled in controversy for holding the Adria charity tour in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that many felt had not implemented sufficient social distancing measures which was not unfounded. The tour was shuttered after Djokovic, his wife Jelena and a number of other players contracted the coronavirus.
Retired Slovak tennis star Daniela Hantuchova — who is a close friend of both Novak and Jelena — was highly critical of his actions and said his anger was sometimes “out of control.”
Djokovic even acknowledged that the error was “not completely out of the blue.”
“I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I am working physically,” he said on Monday. “I’m trying to be the best version of myself on the court and off the court and I understand that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.”
He further exacerbated the drama by storming away from Flushing Meadows afterward without addressing the media, but did apologize on social media afterwards.
“Of course it was a shock to finish the US Open the way it was finished,” he said. “It was the first time in my career that something like this happens, of course it could have happened earlier in my career you know, could have happened to many players.”
Djokovic’s next contest will be at the Italian Open that began on Sep. 12. Spain’s Rafael Nadal is also set to return to the tour after a seven-month absence and will taken on 2020 US Open semifinalist Carreno Busta on Tuesday.