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Right to disqualify Djokovic – Henman

Novak Djokovic (right)
Novak Djokovic (right) was on a run of 26 matches unbeaten
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 31 Aug-13 Sept
Coverage: Selected live radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sounds, the BBC Sport website and app.

World number one Novak Djokovic’s US Open disqualification was “no doubt the right decision”, says former British number one Tim Henman.

The Serb, 33, was defaulted after striking a line judge with the ball in Sunday’s fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta in New York.

After a lengthy discussion, he was defaulted by tournament officials.

Henman told Amazon Prime: “He was not aiming for the official, but you’re responsible for your actions.”

He added: “There was no other consequence.

“We saw a couple of points earlier when he whacked the ball into the advertising hoardings. He was frustrated.”

Henman was 20 when he was disqualified from Wimbledon in 1995 for a similar incident, where he accidentally struck a ball girl during a men’s doubles match.

Djokovic showed his frustration after losing serve to trail 6-5 against Spain’s 20th seed Carreno Busta, taking a ball out of his pocket and hitting it behind him, striking the female line judge in her throat.

Henman added: “It’s amazing for me to talk about this. It was a moment of frustration for me too – I hit the ball away when I wasn’t looking and I hit a ball girl.”

There was another incident more recently when, in 2017, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov was defaulted from a decisive Davis Cup rubber with Britain’s Kyle Edmund for hitting the ball in anger and striking the umpire in the face.

Henman disqualified at Wimbledon 1995

Djokovic will bounce back – Becker

Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker backed the Serb to bounce back quickly from the incident and return to winning ways at the French Open, which starts at Roland Garros later this month.

“You made a mistake and paid the most expensive price for a tennis player,” the German six-time Grand Slam champion wrote on Instagram.

“Take your time and learn from your most difficult lesson.”

German fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who is among the favourites for the title with Djokovic out of contention, felt the Serb had been “unlucky” but acknowledged officials had no choice but to disqualify him.

“It’s very unfortunate that he hit the line judge, and especially where it hit her,” he said. “Yeah, there is a rule in place for it. I think the supervisors and all of them are just doing their job.

“Very unlucky for Novak. I think he’s going to be a little bit upset about it. If he would have hit it anywhere else, if it would have landed anywhere else, we are talking about a few inches, he would have been fine.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m a little bit in shock right now.”

Multiple Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova felt that the correct punishment was given to Djokovic, tweeting:external-link “Djokovic defaulted for inadvertently but stupidly hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball and the officials had no choice but to default. Glad the woman is OK – we must do better than that.”

British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith said that Djokovic’s “whole world had been rocked”.

“You saw on the footage that he turned straight away,” Smith told BBC Radio Five Live Sports Extra.

“It was panic. He knew he was wrong, but of course his mind would have been scrambling. He’s going to try to plead his case.”

Meanwhile, world number 40 Nick Kyrgios, who elected not to play at the US Open because of coronavirus concerns, suggested that he might have received a worse punishment. The 25-year-old Australian has on several occasions been reprimanded and fined for his on-court actions.

He tweeted:external-link “Swap me for jokers (Djokovic) incident. ‘Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat’ – how many years would I be banned for?”

The Australian then offered the chance for people to vote for 5, 10, or 20.

How you reacted on #bbctennis

Kenny Koala: Totally agree that rules need to be followed and you can’t hurt anyone on the court. I’m a primary school teacher and we wouldn’t allow this in a PE lesson!

Philip West: Denis Shapovalov, who was a lot younger and a lot more inexperienced, fronted up and apologised back in 2017external-link after striking an umpire. Djokovic, in contrast, has scuttled away without saying a word. If that’s not the mark of the man, I don’t know what is.

Liz Curran: I don’t care whether it was accidental or not. He shouldn’t have done it. No excuse for this behaviour.

Paul Christie: A mountain out of a molehill. Tennis really doesn’t do itself any favours. She’s been accidently hit by a ball and gets up straight away. Just award the set to his opponent, get on with the match and fine him afterwards.

Rifat Jawaid: Absolutely unacceptable behaviour by Djokovic. He deserved to be disqualified. It doesn’t matter whether his action was deliberate or intentional. If you’re world number one, you have to behave like one.



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