Novak Djokovic has issued an apology after he was disqualified from the US Open for hitting an official with a ball.
The world No 1 apologised for hitting the ball in disgust after losing his serve to go 6-5 down in the first set to Spain’s 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
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Djokovic appeared to be looking the other way when he pulled the ball from his pocket and smacked it in the direction of the official, it hitting her full toss in the throat.
The official cried out and began gasping for air as she collapsed to the ground.
Djokovic rushed over to check on her, placing his hand on her back as she struggled to breathe. After a few minutes she got up and walked off the court looking dazed.
Around ten minutes of discussions then ensued between Djokovic and the tournament referee Soeren Friemel, during which the world No 1 pleaded his case.
The umpire then declared that Carreno Busta had won by default. Djokovic shook hands with his opponent before leaving the court without appearing to shake the umpire’s hand.
He went then directly to his car and left the Flushing Meadows site in New York without speaking to reporters.
Djokovic, 33, later posted an apology on Instagram saying he was “so sorry.”
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” he wrote, adding that “thank God” the woman was okay.
“I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong,” Djokovic said.
He also apologised to tournament organisers for “my behavior” but did not say whether he thought they were right to default him.
The United States Tennis Association said Djokovic had been defaulted under the Grand Slam rules for “intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.”
The body added that he would lose all ranking points and prize money from the tournament.
Referee Friemel said Djokovic told him he should not be defaulted because it was unintentional.
Friemel said he agreed there was no intent but that it was a clear-cut case of Djokovic hitting the ball “angrily and recklessly.”
“She was clearly hurt and in pain. There was no other option,” he told reporters.