Men’s tennis world number one Novak Djokovic says he cannot guarantee he will not make a similar mistake to the one that led to him being defaulted at the US Open for striking a line judge with a ball but he remains confident it will not affect his tennis in the future.
The Serb was defaulted in the fourth round in New York when he hit a ball in frustration after dropping serve in the first set against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, hitting line judge Laura Clark in her throat and causing her to fall to the floor.
Djokovic, who had already apologised for the incident, said that he called on the lineswoman to check on her health since the incident at Flushing Meadows.
“I checked with Laura after the match. She said that she was fine. No big injuries,” he said.
“But, yeah, I mean, it was totally unexpected and very unintended, as well, of course to hit her.
“But as I said, when you hit the ball like that, as I hit it, you know, you have a chance to hit somebody that is on the court.”
Despite Djokovic’s apparent remorse over the incident and what it cost him, a chance at an undefeated 2020 and a chance at an 18th grand slam singles title, he said he could not rule out something like that happening again.
“I cannot promise or cannot guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life,” Djokovic said in Rome ahead of the Italian Open.
“I’m going to take this in as profound as possible for me as a big lesson.”
Following the incident, tournament organisers confirmed Djokovic was fined $US250,000 ($342,000) his prize-money for reaching round four.
The 33-year-old was also fined an additional $US10,000 ($13,700) for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was deserved. I accepted it, I moved on,” Djokovic said.
“Of course I didn’t forget about it, I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it.”
Thiem takes title as Nadal looks to clay
In Djokovic’s absence, Austria’s second-seeded Dominic Thiem claimed his maiden grand slam title in New York after he came back from two sets down to beat Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the final.
“I watched the final last night until the end of the fourth set. You know, I want to congratulate both of these guys,” Djokovic said.
“For Dominic to lose three (slam) finals and start the match not on a very high level but then come back and win in such fashion is very inspiring.”
Rafael Nadal, bidding for a record-extending 13th French Open title, is returning after more than six months on Tour having skipped the US Open due to COVID-19 concerns.
“For the guys who are playing US Open, it’s very close, very tight after an exhausting month of tennis in the States on different surfaces,” said Djokovic.
“Rafa obviously decided to stay on clay and practice.
“I mean, surely that gives him more advantage, but even if he didn’t practice for that long on clay, he would still be the number one favourite in Roland Garros or any other clay tournament… he’s the ultimate challenge.”
Nadal, who has a record nine titles in Rome, is on the opposite side of the draw to Djokovic and remains reasonably confident of more claycourt success.
“I am similar to always — maybe a little bit worse because I didn’t compete for the last six months, Nadal said.
Nadal opens his tournament against Carreno Busta, who he said will provide “a good test”.