Professional tennis player Novak Djokovic was disqualified after hitting a ball out of frustration that struck a U.S. Open female line judge in the throat.
According to CBS Sports, the incident occurred during the 2020 U.S. Open on Sunday when Djokovic—who is a 17-times Grand Slam singles champion—lost his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.
You can watch Djokovic’s expression instantly changing from anger to immediate concern after slamming the ball that hit the lineswoman in the clip below.
— Mohamed Hashem (@mhashem_) September 6, 2020
Stunner. @DjokerNole defaulted from @usopen as he whacks ball in anger (without looking) and it strikes a lineswoman in the throat hard. She was injured and it’s an automatic DQ. After a very long conversation, rule was finally enforced. Wow. Tournament changes course like that
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) September 6, 2020
The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) was initially hesitant to release the identity of the lineswoman and with good reason.
Trolls riled by Djokovic’s disqualification sent vile comments and death threats to her social media accounts.
The New York Post learned from a tennis source that the injured lineswoman—who fell to the ground and clutching her throat after being hit—was Laura Clark of Owensboro, Kentucky.
The US Tennis Association didn't want to confirm Laura Clark's name because vicious trolls have been sending her abuse over the incident at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.
— Ko Htoo Thar (@KoHtooThar) September 8, 2020
I really think as a global tennis community we all need to get behind Laura Clark, she is innocent in all of this and does not deserve this abhorrent treatment. Please RT #JusticeForLauraClark #USOpen @JoelFruch @usta @usopen @TennisAustralia @rennaestubbs @BillieJeanKing
— Val Febbo (@VFebbo96) September 8, 2020
Novak did commit a serious violation and had to be sent home. That’s the end of the story.
All my support goes to Laura Clark and all other tennis umpires.
— Samuel Ranz 🇬🇧#staySafe (@sam10rc_en) September 8, 2020
Clark is currently resting at a hotel under the care of a tournament doctor and plans to return to work when she and the doctor feel she is ready.
“Abuse of the Ball” is one of several code of conduct violations on the court and is defined in the Grand Slam rulebook as:
“…intentionally hitting a ball out of the enclosure of court, hitting a dangerously or recklessly within the court, or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.”
Djokovic was defaulted minutes after pleading his case to tournament officials that he had no intention of hurting Clark.
What A piece of work is this guy..
— Dipak Ragav (@dipakragav) September 7, 2020
Djokovic has had issues with this previously in his career, throwing his racquet etc very close to linespeople/ballkids.
Debate is still ongoing with officials. #USOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2020
"She doesn't have to go to the hospital for this." -Djokovic trying to downplay the effects of hitting the lineswoman, saying she wasn't seriously injured.
"You're going to choose a default in this situation? My career, grand slam, center stage"#USOpen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2020
I bet he hasn’t been hit by the death threats issued by his fans to the injured lineswoman.
— The Nancer #BLM #BidenHarris2020 (@TheNancer212) September 7, 2020
People on social media had mixed feelings about whether or not Djokovic—a highly revered athlete and no. 1 ranked champion—deserved to be disqualified.
Should we feel bad for him? Immature baby! This disgusts me! Anger will get you no where! I feel bad for the judge!
— Bernadette McDougal @bernadettemcd (@sonabuioch) September 6, 2020
Watch it in full speed. It was a REALLY stupid thing for him to do; however, he didn’t do it on purpose. Not sure disqualification is deserved, but he definitely needed to be reprimanded somehow.
— zitro_tweet (@TweetZitro) September 7, 2020
So bogus! Totally not intentional. Seen other players do much worse without being disqualified…
— West Coaster (@WestCoastEv) September 7, 2020
Welp…Djokovic got defaulted out of the US Open b/c he hit a lineswoman with the ball (unintentionally) and she was injured…this why you should smash rackets in anger, NOT hit balls!
— Anne Davis (@jonnieanne) September 6, 2020
@CliffDrysdale Who CARES that he didn’t mean it? Does that matter to the injured lineswoman? And who cares that the number 1 player is out? Maybe tennis players can learn to control their anger after this. The decision took ridiculously long.
— Alexia Madigan (@PIMof3) September 6, 2020
The incident was all-too-familiar for Canadian tennis player Denis Shapovalov, who was defaulted during the 2017 Davis Cup match against Britain after unintentionally hitting a line judge in the eye with a ball.
Shapovalov—who will be Carreno Busta’s next opponent—said:
“I’ve been through that myself. Honestly, I feel awful for him.”
“I feel terrible for everybody. Nobody wants to be in this situation.”
“Just a fluke. It’s accidents like this that happen. Same thing with me.”
Djokovic later took to Instagram and issued an apology before Clark’s identity had been made public.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the linesperson 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.”
View this post on Instagram
This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. 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 apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. 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. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.
The U.S. Open said of Djokovic in a statement following Sunday’s incident:
“Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and will be fined prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”