Because of a temporary change in the ranking system to adjust to the five-month tour hiatus, Djokovic will still be able to count his results from last year’s U.S. Open in his ranking. He retired in the fourth round in 2019. Djokovic also faces a fine of up to $20,000 for skipping his mandatory post-match news conference.
Djokovic, 33, has won five of the last seven Grand Slam singles titles and had dropped just one set in his first three matches at the U.S. Open. But the first set against Carreño Busta was a tight affair, and Djokovic was testy. At one stage earlier in the set, he smashed a ball in frustration toward the side of the court, hitting no one.
But when serving at 5-5, he fell hard on the second point while shifting direction and got up wincing and grabbing at his left shoulder. He received treatment in his chair, returned to the court trailing 0-30 and then lost the game, still looking uncomfortable with his two-handed backhand and resorting to a one-handed drop shot on two occasions.
Miffed, he smacked another ball in frustration, extending his left arm in apology toward the lineswoman as soon as he saw she had been struck. Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach, slumped in his seat in the players box in the cavernous, nearly empty stadium: seemingly aware of the implications.
Andreas Egli, a Grand Slam supervisor, and Friemel soon arrived on court to investigate the situation and discuss the incident with Djokovic and the on-court officials.
“I know it’s tough for you whatever call you make,” Djokovic said to Friemel as they talked at the net.
The incident was reminiscent of what happened to former British star Tim Henman in 1995 when he became the first player in the Open era to be disqualified from Wimbledon after striking a ball and inadvertently hitting a ball girl, Caroline Hall, in the head from close range. Henman, playing with Jeremy Bates, was defaulted during a doubles match for unsportsmanlike conduct.