Novak Djokovic's disqualification from the US Open for hitting a line judge with a tennis ball is a rude reminder to everyone that fit of rage could cost you dearly. Clearly the world No. 1 did not mean to hurt anyone and was just letting out his frustration during the fourth round match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta when the unfortunate incident occurred. The Serb was quick to realise his mistake and apologised to the line judge. But it was too late as the organisers, the United States Tennis Association, disqualified him from the tournament as per Grand Slam rules. He was also fined $250,000 – his prize money for reaching the fourth round.
Credit to the organisers for sticking to the rules and making the correct decision even if it involved a player of Djokovic’s reputation. It sends out a strong signal to the rest of the players that any misdemeanour will not be accepted regardless of the player’s stature.
As for Djokovic, it was the culmination of a frustrating few months. First there was the barrage of criticism after a few players, including himself, tested positive for COVID-19 following the Adria Tour organised by him during the ATP Tour's shutdown due to the pandemic.
Though his intention was right, the fact that COVID-19 protocols were not followed went a long way in him becoming an easy target of his critics. The 17-time Grand Slam champion was also in the news for trying to form a new players' association.
Swiss great Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slams was one of the main reasons Djokovic travelled to New York despite the strict health protocols and the COVID-19 threat. In the absence of Federer and 19-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, Djokovic was the clear favourite to win his fourth US Open title. The 33-year-old was unbeaten in 2020 coming into the tournament.
Now that the damage has been done, Djokovic has done the sensible thing. “This whole situation has left me really sad and empty," he wrote on Instagram. He has apologised to all concerned and made the promise that he will try to become a better player and person.
Djokovic is not the first player to commit such an offence and he won’t be the last either. It is no secret that Djokovic is the least favoured among the 'Big Three' by the fans and this act alone should not undervalue his greatness.