Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open for accidentally hitting a ball at a line judge in his fourth-round match.
It was a stunning end to Djokovic's bid for an 18th Grand Slam title and his 26-0 start to this season. Djokovic, 33, showed his frustration after losing serve to trail 6-5 against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.
As he walked to the sideline for the changeover, Djokovic smacked a ball behind him. The ball hit a female line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court and reached for her neck.
After a discussion of several minutes with officials on court, including tournament referee Soeren Friemel, Djokovic walked over to shake hands with Carreno Busta. Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte then announced the default.
It seemed clear Djokovic did not intend to hit the line judge; there was concern written on his face as soon as he realized what happened. But players who hit a ball out of anger and make contact with an on-court official have been defaulted in the past.
With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer not in the field this year, Djokovic arrived in New York as the overwhelming favourite. With Djokovic's departure means there is no man remaining in the field who previously has won a Grand Slam singles title. Whoever emerges as champion will be the first first-time major trophy winner in men’s tennis since 2014, when Marin Cilic won the US Open.
Nadal opted not to travel to New York because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, while Federer is recovering from knee surgery. But soon after Djokovic was disqualified from US Open, Federer and Nadal fans were thrilled and took to Twitter to add to the drama.