Disgraced Novak Djokovic has pleaded with his fans to stop abusing the line judge who was involved in his disqualification from the US Open.
The world No 1 was booted out of the Grand Slam in dramatic fashion on Sunday night when he swiped a ball to the back of the court angrily, only for it inadvertently to strike Kentucky-based official Laura Clark in the throat.
Djokovic was disqualified despite pleading his case to officials and in the hours that followed Clark was the target of vile abuse on her personal social media profiles.
Novak Djokovic called on his fans to show support to the line judge that was hit in the throat
Laura Clark, from Kentucky, was accidentally struck by Djokovic and his reckless swipe of the racket saw the world No 1 disqualified from the US Open in dramatic fashion on Sunday night
Djokovic took to social media to ask fans to support Clark as she was subjected to vile abuse online after her identity was made public by a Serbian tabloid following his disqualification
Her identity, which had not been revealed by Djokovic, emerged from a Serbian tabloid and some of Djokovic’s notoriously aggressive fan-base directed abuse towards her for her role in his disqualification.
The milder end of the abuse saw her accused of play-acting from the strike while others subjected her to vile abuse about her son, who died in a bicycle accident in 2008.
The 33-year-old Djokovic has now taken to Twitter to plead with his loyal legion of fans to cease the insults directed at Clark.
Clark posts regular photos on her Instagram and has now received thousands of comments
Clark’s son died in 2008, and one of Djokovic’s fans told her ‘don’t worry, you’ll join him soon’
Josh tragically died in a bike accident
He wrote: ‘Dear #NoleFam thank you for your positive messages.. Please also remember the linesperson that was hit by the ball last night needs our community’s support too.
‘She’s done nothing wrong at all. I ask you to stay especially supportive and caring to her during this time.’
He went on to add: ‘From these moments, we grow stronger and we rise above. Sharing love with everyone. Europe here I come.’
A US Open tournament official provided an update on the condition of Clark 24 hours on from the dramatic dismissal in the first set of the last-16 tie against Pablo Carreno Busta.
‘The line umpire who was struck by the ball is resting comfortably in the hotel today and is under the observation of the tournament doctor and will return to work when she and the doctor feel it is appropriate,’ the statement read.
Djokovic was frustrated and fired a ball behind which struck the line judge in the throat
Fans of Djokovic have been quick to blame Clark for his disqualification. She has worked her way up through the ranks to be a line judge at some top competitions around the world
Djokovic was handed a fine of $10,000 (£7,600) for ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ and was also stripped of his $250,000 (£190,000) prize money for reaching the last-16.
Djokovic had looked extremely likely to add to his 17 Major titles before his disqualification at the US Open and had been in imperious form, boasting a 26-0 record for 2020 which may have extended to the end of this strange season.
The disqualification is a massive blow to his hopes of usurping Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, both absent from Flushing Meadows, who stand on 19 and 20 Grand Slam titles respectively.
His participation in the French Open, postponed until later this month, was confirmed on Monday night by Tournament Director Guy Forget. Whether or not he will take up his place in next week’s Italian Open is far less likely as he returns home to lick gaping wounds.
The clay of Paris is the most difficult environment in which for him to win. Nadal is putting everything into collecting another title there, while Dominic Thiem is already established as a formidable challenger.
Djokovic looked to plead his case to tournament officials but was disqualified and later fined
As someone who can be thrown off by adverse crowd reaction it will be interesting to see how he will be greeted in Paris. Audiences will, however, be reduced to 5,000 on the main courts there as part of Covid restrictions. Prize money is down to €38million from €42m.
At the age of 33 Djokovic can hardly afford to spurn such opportunities at Slams, especially with no Nadal or Federer to go through.
One upshot of the drama is that there will be a long-awaited new Grand Slam champion in men’s tennis for the first time since Marin Cilic won in New York six years ago.