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USO referee explains why Novak Djokovic was defaulted even though he didn't intend to hit the lineswoman

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic
Rudra Biswas
Modified 07 Sep 2020, 15:19 IST

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was disqualified from his 2020 US Open fourth round encounter against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, after the Serb hit a lineswoman with a ball in a bout of frustration.

Djokovic had failed to convert three set points on Carreno Busta's serve at 4-5, and seemed visibly frustrated. After getting broken at 5-5, the Serb swatted a ball towards the wall in anger, which ended up hitting the line judge in the throat.

Subsequently, Novak Djokovic was defaulted from the match by the referee, who believed that the 17-time Major winner had violated the code of player conduct.

US Open chief referee Soeren Friemel has now clarified his stance on the controversy, claiming that the USTA officials had no choice but to disqualify Novak Djokovic for his misbehavior.

Novak Djokovic's action, although there was no intention, led to the result: USO chief referee

Novak Djokovic tended to the injured linesperson right away
Novak Djokovic tended to the injured linesperson right away

Many fans have questioned why Novak Djokovic wasn't shown a little leniency, given that he clearly didn't intend to hit the woman. The US Open chief referee shed some light on the whole situation, and said that the disqualification was inevitable even if there was no intent.

"There are two factors - action and result. The action, although there was no intention, led to the result, and that is hitting the referee with the ball and the fact that she was obviously injured," Friemel said. "These are the main factors in making a decision in this case."

The lineswoman audibly gasped for air after Novak Djokovic clocked her in the throat accidentally, and the Serb immediately went over to apologize to her. Little did the World No. 1 know that his spur of the moment act would end up causing his exit from the tournament.


Novak Djokovic pointed out that he didn't hit the line judge on purpose: Soeren Friemel

Novak Djokovic exited 2020 US Open on Sunday
Novak Djokovic exited 2020 US Open on Sunday

The victory was later awarded to Novak Djokovic's opponent Carreno Busta following a lengthy conversation between the match referees and the Serb. Friemel claimed and the referees had played by the rules in the end, and that Novak Djokovic had to be punished for his misdemeanor - especially at a Major event like 2020 US Open.

"Novak pointed out that he did not hit the referee on purpose," Friemel said. "He said: 'Yes, I was angry and I hit the ball that hit the line judge, the facts are very clear, but I did not intend that to happen and I should not be disqualified.' We all agreed that he did not do it on purpose, but the fact remains that he hit the line judge and that she was obviously injured."

The US Open later vindicated the match referee's decision, noting that the default was due to Djokovic's action of hitting the ball with 'negligent disregard of the consequences'.

Soeren Friemel, who had been appointed the chief referee of the US Open last year, said that he never had to punish a player at the Grand Slam before and that it was important to take an unbiased decision.

"Punishing a player at the Grand Slam is an important and very difficult decision," Friemel said. "It doesn't matter on which field everything happens or which player it is, you have to make the right decision. Everyone on the field was aware of the role in this case."
Published 07 Sep 2020, 15:19 IST
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