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U.S. Open Line Judge Receives Torrent Of Death Threats After Novak Djokovic Disqualified For Hitting Her With Ball

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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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.”

 

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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.

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

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.”

Koh Mochizuki

Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1