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The fall-out from the Djokovic default – Match Points #13

In the latest US Open special episode, the panel discuss the aftermath of Novak Djokovic’s default from the US Open after he hit a ball that struck the throat of a line judge.

September 9, 2020
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The tennis world hasn’t stopped talking about Novak Djokovic’s shock default against Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday evening.

The latest episode of Match Points is no different – but the panel are unanimous that the right decision was made.

“This is a pretty easy situation,” said New York Times writer Ben Rothenberg. “It’s not a rule that comes up very often at all. This is a pretty clear-cut thing.

“It’s shocking to see it…but once you see the replay, and you see what happened, and you see the effects, and who caused it I thought it was an easy decision.”

‘The first rule you learn’

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli thought the entire situation was “surreal” but agreed that the default was the correct decision.

“The amount of bad luck in a row, it’s incredible to arrive in that situation – but once it happened, for sure he had to be defaulted,” she said.

Rothenberg didn’t think it was bad luck, though, pointing out that Djokovic as well as other top players have been lucky to never hit anyone before as they strike the ball around the court recklessly, or throw rackets – describing it as “not always being conscientious or careful”.

Bartoli recalled her first days on the WTA Tour, revealing: “The first thing you learn when you arrive on the WTA Tour…the first lesson, the first rule, if you hit someone with or without intention, a straight hit, no matter what your name is or what your ranking is, you’re going to get defaulted.”

She wondered whether the strange circumstances of the tournament led to a build-up of pressure on him as the massive favourite to win, leading to stress and anger – and Rothenberg wondered if he was trying to psych himself up as he could not feed off the buzz of a crowd.


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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

‘It’s part of your job’

The panel also discussed the aftermath – how Djokovic spoke to the tournament officials on court, and how he refused to speak to the press.

Bartoli was not surprised to see him attempt to negotiate a way to continue to play – but criticised what she saw as a lack of courage in not facing the media afterwards.

“I’ve been to a lot of press conference when I really didn’t want to be there…You just have to do it, it’s part of your job,” she said.

Rothenberg said he did not expect the incident to change Djokovic’s public image with the media, fans, or fellow players – and said that the Serbian’s lack of self-doubt, necessary for any top athlete, was perhaps also causing a certain amount of recklessness.

“This fits into a pattern for me this year of Novak not acting responsibly,” he said, and referred back to the summer’s Adria Tour, which resulted in a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

‘As close as possible to a normal US Open’

Back on the court, the panel talked about the wide-open women’s singles draw, enthusing about the achievements of Tsvetana Pironkova, playing her first tournament in three years.

Bartoli said that a Naomi Osaka versus Serena Williams final would be ideal, making the tournament look as close as possible to a normal US Open, with two former Grand Slam champions battling it out.

But Rothenberg pointed out that some of the lower-ranked players in the second week were American – such as Jennifer Brady and Shelby Rogers – which makes for a perfect US Open as far as the home audience is concerned.

“In this weird tournament, why not have a weird result too?” he said.

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