4th December 2020

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US Open 2020: John McEnroe says Novak Djokovic will be the bad guy after hitting ball at line judge

Novak Djokovic has been disqualified from the US Open for hitting a ball at a line judge

‘He’s going to be the bad guy for the rest of his career’: John McEnroe says ‘bone-headed’ Djokovic’s disqualification from US Open is ‘a stain he won’t be able to erase’ after hitting ball at a line judge

Four-time US Open champion John McEnroe believes Novak Djokovic is ‘going to be the bad guy for the rest of his career’ after he was disqualified from the Grand Slam for smashing a ball at a line judge.

The World No 1 looked frustrated as he was broken in the opening set against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta and hit the ball backwards as he was set to change ends – striking the woman, who keeled over after being hit in the throat. 

While it was not intentional, the Serbian was defaulted after a 10-minute discussion with referee Soeren Friemel and umpire Aurelie Tourte, despite his pleas for leniency and claiming ‘she doesn’t have to go to the hospital for this’.

Novak Djokovic has been disqualified from the US Open for hitting a ball at a line judge

Four-time winner US Open John McEnroe says Djokovic will struggle to live the incident down

Four-time winner US Open John McEnroe says Djokovic will struggle to live the incident down

The World No 1 apologised for striking the woman but officials had no choice but to default him

The World No 1 apologised for striking the woman but officials had no choice but to default him

And McEnroe believes Djokovic caved in under pressure from the game as well as a turbulent year that has seen the star come under fire for staging his failed Adria Tour in June that saw three players and himself diagnosed with coronavirus.   

‘The pressure just got to him I think,’ he told ESPN. ‘I think a lot’s been going on off the court. It’s obviously affected him and now whether he likes it or not, he’s going to be the bad guy the rest of his career. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.’

McEnroe has experience of being defaulted from a Grand Slam. He was booted from the Australian Open by British umpire Gerry Armstrong in 1990 for verbal abuse, and believes the incident will become ‘a stain he’s not going to be able to erase’.

McEnroe believes Djokovic will be 'the bad guy for the rest of his career' after disqualification

McEnroe believes Djokovic will be ‘the bad guy for the rest of his career’ after disqualification

The American was famously defaulted from the Australian Open in 1990 for verbal abuse

The American was famously defaulted from the Australian Open in 1990 for verbal abuse 

‘I didn’t say he couldn’t recover,’ he added. ‘If he embraces that role, I think he could recover, absolutely. 

‘He’s chasing history, he’s trying to pass Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer on the all-time Grand Slams list]. He’s younger, we all know that. He’s got a lot of things going for him, but this is obviously a stain that he’s not going to be able to erase, whether he likes it or not.’

McEnroe said he was keen to see how Djokovic reacts to the set-back and called his decision to hit the ball without looking ‘bone-headed’. 

Djokovic has suffered a turbulent year and has come under fire for staging his disastrous Adria tour that saw three players and himself diagnosed with COVID-19

Djokovic has suffered a turbulent year and has come under fire for staging his disastrous Adria tour that saw three players and himself diagnosed with COVID-19

‘It’s about how will he deal with this moving forward? What type of reaction will he get from the other players? What type of reaction will he get when fans start coming back to the sports arenas? 

‘These are all issues that you don’t know the answers to… I’m just amazed, amazed that he did something as bone-headed as that in a situation where he was the overwhelming favourite.’  

Speaking after his exit from the US Open, Djokovic apologised for hurting the woman, who is yet to be named, and said he would use it as a lesson to ‘grow as a player and human being’.  

Djokovic walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman

Djokovic walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman

‘This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,’ he wrote on Instagram. 

‘I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling OK.

‘I‘m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being.

‘I apologise to the US Open tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry.’ 


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