Djokovic says US Open disqualification was a ‘big lesson’

World number one removed from tournament after hitting a line judge with a ball

Novak Djokovic talks to Head of Officiating at International Tennis Federation (ITF) Soeren Friemel after he accidentally hit a linesperson with a ball in the throat during his US Open match against Pablo Carreno Busta. Photo: Jason Szenes/EPA

Novak Djokovic talks to Head of Officiating at International Tennis Federation (ITF) Soeren Friemel after he accidentally hit a linesperson with a ball in the throat during his US Open match against Pablo Carreno Busta. Photo: Jason Szenes/EPA

 

Novak Djokovic has taken his shock disqualification from the US Open as a “big lesson” but admitted he cannot guarantee he will not do the same thing again.

The world number one spoke at a press conference in Rome for the first time since he was dramatically ejected from the year’s second grand slam for hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball struck in annoyance during his fourth-round clash with Pablo Carreno Busta.

It is not the first time Djokovic has expressed frustration in a similar way — he whacked a ball angrily against the advertising hoardings earlier in the same match — and he accepted that the fire that makes him a champion can also come out in negative ways.

He said: “Of course as anybody else I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I’m working physically, trying to be the best version of myself on the court and off the court.

“I understand that I have outbursts and this is the personality and the player I have always been. I obviously went through ups and downs in my career in managing to control my emotions more or less but you’re alone out there, it’s a lot of intensity, a lot of pressure and you have to deal with all of that so sometimes situations like this happen.

“I cannot promise that I will never, ever do anything similar to that. I’m definitely going to try my best that something like that never happens again, obviously, but anything is possible in life. I’m going to take this in as profound as possible as a big lesson.”

Djokovic argued his case for several minutes with tournament officials after the incident before accepting his fate and leaving Flushing Meadows.

He contacted the affected line judge, Laura Clark, to check on her condition and insisted he has now moved on.

He said: “Of course it was very hard for me to accept right after it happened. For a couple of days I was in shock and I was shaken by the whole thing.

“Of course it could have happened earlier in my career, it could have happened to many players. It was just unfortunate it did hit the line umpire in a very awkward place.

“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was deserved. I accepted it, I moved on.

“I checked on Laura after the match, she said that she was fine. I felt really sorry to cause the shock and drama to her because she didn’t deserve that in any way.

“I felt very good about myself, my game. It was totally unexpected and very unintended but, when you hit the ball like that, you have a chance to hit somebody that is on the court.

“I accepted it and I had to move on. Of course I didn’t forget about it, I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it.”

The upside for Djokovic was that it gave him more time to prepare on clay for this week’s Italian Open and the French Open starting on September 27.

Djokovic said: “I don’t think I’ll have any major issues coming back to the tour and being able to perform well. I have my first chance here in Rome.

“It’s great I think I have a tournament a week or 10 days after it happened because I feel the earlier I get back in competition mode the faster I’ll overcome the memory and re-programme it. I’m hoping for the best.”

Rafael Nadal chose not to defend his title in New York and will play his first tournament since the end of February in Rome.

The Spaniard, famous for his self-control, said of Djokovic’s misfortune: “The consequences have been always the same. Novak was unlucky. The rules say clearly that’s a default.

“Sorry for him. He had an opportunity there. But in some way you should not be doing this. It is important to have the right self-control on the court because, if not, you can be unlucky as he was.”

Nadal played down expectations for his return to the match court, saying: “It’s obvious that to feel you’re 100 per cent that you need matches. But here I am. I arrived with plenty of time to try to have the right practices.

“I’m excited about going back to the competition without big expectation. Go on court, feel myself competitive, and then I will see how I feel and what kind of goals I can look for.”

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