Novak Djokovic’s disqualification from the US Open will change the course of tennis history, Australian great Todd Woodbridge says.
Djokovic was defaulted from the New York Grand Slam after hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.
The Serbian world No.1 pleaded his case with officials but was handed a mandatory suspension, ejected from an event that he was a hot favorite to win. An 18th major title went begging as Djokovic departed in shame.
Djokovic’s Australian archrival, Nick Kyrgios, responded with this question. Woodbridge was stunned by the scenes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s sensational – you could throw so man adjectives at it. It’s crazy, to say the least,” Woodbridge told MM. Was it the right decision? Absolutely. There was no choice for the officials but to send Novak on his way, send him packing. It sits in our rules that if you hit anybody that is on the court – whether it be intentional or unintentional like Novak’s was – if you hit the ball quite hard and you hurt them, that it’s an automatic default. It’s going to change the course of tennis history, this result today.”
Woodbridge said that Djokovic, playing in New York in the absence of great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, had thrown away a decisive Grand Slam crown.
“He certainly has [thrown one away], Woodbridge said. He was on his way to win another Grand Slam title, it would have been his 18th. He was far and away the best player at this tournament at the moment. [He was] chasing Roger at 20 [Slams] and Rafael Nadal at 19. It was a free Grand Slam title, if you like. He was in good form, he’s done everything properly.”
Woodbridge rebuked Djokovic for not facing the music afterwards.
“He’s compounded the error too today by no going to the press conference straight after the match, Woodbridge said. He let the grounds about 30 minutes later, after this incident happened. He hasn’t faced up to the press. He’s going to be talking about this for weeks to come, when he gets to Paris for Roland Garros. This has sort of changed the whole storyline of tennis and perhaps is may change that question we have: Who is the greatest of all time, that these three (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) seem to be playing out.”
Djokovic got some sympathy, from No.5 seed Alexander Zverev. He claimed that the world No.1 was unlucky.
“I think the supervisors and all them are just doing their job, but very unlucky for Novak, Zverev said. If it would have landed anywhere else we’re talking a few inches he would have been fine.”
New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg said that the incident epitomized Djokovic’s 2020 season; seemingly referring, primarily, to his decision to host the Adria Tour event mid-coronavirus pandemic.
Swap me for jokers incident. ‘Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat’ how many years would I be banned for?
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) September 6, 2020
Unbelievable what just happened on the court at the @usopen – Novak Djokovic defaulted for inadvertently but stupidly hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball and the officials had no choice but to default. Wow…#sad
Glad the woman is ok- we must do better than that.
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) September 6, 2020
Amazon Prime show Novak Djokovic getting into a car and leaving Flushing Meadows. Woeful misjudgement by the world No 1 and leader of the new player association not to front up and apologise for his actions (a 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov fronting up in 2017 comes to mind…)
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) September 6, 2020
In some ways this is a fitting moment in Djokovic's 2020, which has dominated by a debate over whether one should be responsible for the negative outcomes of carelessness and reckless behavior despite having only "good intentions."#USOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2020