NEW YORK. — A petulant swipe at the ball after having his serve broken brought a sensational end to Novak Djokovic’s US Open on Sunday after the world No. 1 was disqualified for striking a line judge in the throat.
The dramatic moment came when the overwhelming title favorite reacted angrily to going 5-6 down to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the first set of their fourth-round encounter at an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.
What would have been an innocuous incident had the ball flown a foot either side of the official instead left her lying on the ground, clutching her throat and screaming in pain.
There was no question that Djokovic hit her inadvertently, and he quickly rushed to apologize, but it was a clear breach of Grand Slam rules forbidding the physical abuse of anyone within the tournament precincts.
Tournament referee Soeren Friemel came out and spoke to chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor, before a long chat with the three-time US Open champion.
Djokovic, who was clearly making the point that he had not intended to hit the official, was overheard saying “she doesn’t have to go to hospital for this” but after 12 minutes of pleading his case his fate was sealed.