Novak Djokovic tried to talk his way out of disqualification at the US Open by claiming he hit the line judge with a ball by accident, the tournament referee has revealed.
The world No 1 was thrown out of the American Grand Slam in the first set of his fourth round match with Pablo Carreno Busta.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion remained on court for 12 minutes arguing his case with US Open Tournament Referee Soeren Friemel and Grand Slam Supervisor Andreas Egli.
He then immediately left the Billie Jean National Tennis Center before later releasing an apology on Instagram.
Friemel revealed: “His point was that he didn’t hit the line umpire intentionally. He said, ‘Yes, I was angry, I hit the ball, I hit the line umpire, the facts are very clear, but it wasn’t my intent, I didn’t do it on purpose, so I shouldn’t be defaulted for that.’
“We all agreed that he didn’t do it on purpose but the facts are still that he hit the line umpire and that the line umpire was clearly hurt.
“Intent is part of the discussion but there are two factors, one is the action, and the result.
“And the action, why there was no intent, the result of hitting the line umpire and clearly being hurt is the essential factor in the decision-making process here.
“We wouldn’t even, I don’t think we would have had this long-ish discussion if he had done it on purpose, but here both factors are taken into consideration.
“In the end, any code violation there is a part of discretion to it but in this instance, I don’t think there was any chance of any opportunity of any other decision other than defaulting Novak.
“Because the facts were so clear, so obvious, that the line umpire was clearly hurt and Novak was angry, he hit the ball recklessly, angrily back and taking everything into consideration, there was no discretion involved.”
A USTA statement read: “In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open.
“Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”
In a post on Instagram, Djokovic wrote: “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 apologise 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.”