DQ for DJOK?

Novak and the lines person

By now, every tennis player knows that Novak Djokovic was defaulted out of the US Open for hitting a lines person with a ball; but there is after-the-fact Debate as to whether the punishment fit the crime. 

The USTA Says…

In a statement, the United States Tennis Association said: “In accordance with the Grand Slam rule book, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the U.S. Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 U.S. Open. Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the U.S. Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”


Following the Rules?

If that is the rule, why wasn’t he even given a warning for more vigorously smashing a ball to the side of the court just a few minutes earlier in the match?

Don’t get me wrong, while I really admire how The Djoker plays, I don’t like him as a person and am happy to see he didn’t “steal” this Major, while chasing the career records of the Fed and Rafa. But the ball he hit for the DQ was not hit hard… it just happened to hit the lady lines person right in the neck. I bet that if it had bounced off her shoulder, he would not have been kicked out. 

It is the subjectivity of WHEN rules are enforced or not enforced that bothers me. In golf for example, I believe if a player makes any kind of error on their scorecard, they are automatically disqualified. No if’s, and’s or but’s. 

And, I think a player smashing his (I think I can safely use the male pronoun here!) racquet on the court should IMMEDIATELY be given at least a point/game penalty. 

What do YOU think about this issue?

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25 thoughts on “DQ for DJOK?

  1. I initially felt that maybe he should have been penalized by forfeiting the set. Thinking further, I felt it was the correct decision. You cannot hit a ball in the fit of anger and not care where it lands. Although the ball wasn’t hit very hard, it certainly wasn’t hit easily either. Djo needs to control his anger and not be so haphazard about his behavior. He would have been better off smashing a racket. JMO

    Ken, i bet he will never do that again! thanks, george

  2. Why didn’t he feel great bashing a ball high up into the empty seats? While I have you George, in you food. thing, I’m surprised nobody mentioned dark chocolate. In a close match I like its booth just before the finish. Except I’m usually thinking how to win this and forget all about the chocolate.

    Dick, of have a similar issue with dark chocolate; but mine is that, during the match, i am trying to decide which of my several options (dark chocolate Bark, fudge covered brownie, or Klondike bar) i am going to have AFTER the match! thanks, george

  3. I agree that he should have been given a warning when he first hit the ball into the side of the court, but, regardless, it was completely the right call to default him. If he was the 100th ranked player in the world we would not even be having this discussion and the rules have to be applied the same way to everyone. I think the USTA tends to get more wrong then they get right but this time they were right.

    David, one friend said he thought the USTA was “out to get him” on this call for his stance on Covid; but imo, it was just the opposite… they debated for so long because they did not want to have to do it! But they should and did. thanks, george

  4. As was said earlier, rules are rules. Djokovic’s penalty pales before the penalty Roberto De Vincenzo had to accept at the 1968 Masters when a friend keeping score wrote on Roberto’s scorecard a par (4) when he actually had a birdie (3). Once Roberto signed the card, his official score was a 66 not a 65. So, instead of heading to a playoff (he would have been tied with Bob Goalby), he became the runner-up.

    Phil. and that was an error against himself! thanks, george

  5. To hit a ball from the net to the baseline backdrop you have to hit it pretty hard . It was not a ” tap ” . Players know the rule and they know people are at the back curtain . Dumb move and too bad for the USTA who worked like crazy to pull the tournament off . To have your top player screw up like is a shame .

    Steve (we finally get a public comment from you!!), i think he was even further away in No Man’s Land when he whacked the ball; so your point is even stronger. PS Congrats to you and your club on Caty McNally’s play this year! george

  6. I think Serena Williams screaming at, threatening and berating a ball person (or line judge, I can’t recall which) was a flagrantly worse violation than this. If I remember correctly she wasn’t defaulted. Am I remembering incorrectly? Her event was definitely intentional. Djok’s was not. No, I don’t like him either but not for this. Irresponsible yes. The other stuff, no.

    Joel, i agree that Serena’s tirade at the line judge (who called her for a foot fault) and was told, “I swear to God I’ll f***** take the ball and shove it down your f***** throat.” was worse. She was only awarded a point penalty (it just happened to result in her losing that game and the match). george

  7. I think most people agree that, because Novak did this in anger, the rule had to be enforced. But what about all the times players hit a ball to the opposite end of the court after they have won a service game? Federer does it all the time and almost always comes within a foot or two of hitting a ball person who is crossing the court. Would this be “negligent disregard of the consequences”? Under a strict interpretation of the rules, it probably would be. All players need to become more aware of their actions. The irony in this case was that, if they were using the Hawk-Eye Live system, as they did on all of the outer courts, there would have been no lines person there to get hit.

    Maybe there is some Karma at work here. Novak won’t get a chance to win a major that didn’t have Roger or Rafa in the draw.

    Jim, my exact view of the Karma of the situation. thanks, george

  8. Would agree with Steve C. It was hit rather hard for going back where ball boys and linesman stand. The decision was correct, though hard to see him out.

    After seeing it several times, he hit it fairly hard.

  9. One of the reasons I don’t play mixed doubles. A typically athletic ballperson woulda caught something like that behind his back. I got the sense that she. . . Oh, never mind. 🙂

    Kevin, oh, “the conspiracy theory”, eh? george

  10. Great player but a nasty piece of work. Better late than never I suppose. Why on earth was he allowed to argue the point with the referee for so long ? So embarrassing to watch his cajoling unfold, & then look how he reacted when he saw that it was to no avail.

    Howard, “But after all, i am the #1 player in the world!” Bah, humbug. thanks, george

  11. I agree with you, George, that the discussion went so long because officials were trying to find a way to not DQ him, when they and he immediately knew he had to go.
    Djoker would have come off more statesmanlike if he had profusely apologized to the linesperson, told her that his gull -wing Tesla in the parking lot was now hers, called the DQ on himself, tapped racquets with Pablo, packed his bag and walked off the court.

    Rick, yup. george

  12. Rules Rules are to be enforced. And we all know that the USTA, other governing authorities of the other three slams, and the ATP and WTA and its officials are 100% consistent in always enforcing rules. Right? Hmmm

    I predict in years to come we’ll reminisce…Remember back when there were linespeople and that crazy challenge system? And that time at the US Open when Djokovic hit the woman with the ball and they defaulted him? That was the first grand slam that [player name here] won.

    Alan, yup… i believe the lines people will soon lose their jobs to Hawk Eye. thanks, george

  13. In all my years of playing this game I have never seen or experienced anyone being seriously injured by a tennis ball on the court. “No one has ever died from a tennis ball” I would from time to time quip even after hitting an overhead smash directed to my opponent’s solar plexus to win the point. I take it all back after the Djokovic incident!

    Jim, don’t forget Denis Shapovalov almost blinding the chair umpire. george

  14. Even though Djoker did not intentionally hit the linesperson with the ball, and it probably would not even have produced a bruise if it had hit her on the arm. The neck or adam’s apple , though, are vulnerable spots. And although the odds were a lot higher than 100 to 1 that the ball strike would be a problem, it still qualifies as ‘negligently hitting a ball without regard as to the consequences”.

    I don’t think this paints Djoker as “a bad guy” – that is overdone. But I do think some of the golf rules, including the scorecard rules, and Dustin Johnson’s “sand trap” violation a few years ago, are ridiculous.

    Dag, no, this incident doesn’t paint him as a bad guy; but to me, he already established that belief. thanks, george

  15. Something to think about…..would they had the ” courage” to DQ Serena….I personally doubt it with her going for a record setting Slams in an already diluted women’s draw…..with the age clock ticking against her…..this year may be her best shot with a lot of great young players on the rise!

    Dave, like with DJ, i really admire how she plays; but don’t like her personally. thanks, george

  16. Belaboring the point – A little bad behavior and really bad luck on the unlikely strike to the vulnerable neck made the unintentional but reckless disregard rule defaulting Djoker appropriate . The physical trauma that resulted to me pales in comparison to the emotional damage to the lines woman who called the foot fault on Serena – the volcanic verbal assault from inches away with the explicit threat of physical violence in front of packed stadium and millions of TV viewers has to still be a source of nightmares for her.
    We have heard nothing from her and my guess is a payoff with nondisclosure clause. Serena being allowed to play doubles the next day was a USTA disgrace. A noted TV commentator was “fired” for vehemently questioning the non disqualification.
    My apologies if any of the above is inaccurately remembered or interpreted.

    Winder, you saw my posting of the threat Serena spewed at the lines lady. She too should have had a DQ on the spot. thanks, george

  17. DQ was exactly the right decision, and Joker should have apologized to one and all, on the court, and then should have apologized again at an in person press conference….that Twitter apology was only “ok”.

    Scoot, yes, i agree (but better than Serena). thanks, george

  18. It is always potentially harmful to hit a tennis ball recklessly or inappropriately on the court. It does not matter the intention, the emotions involved – whether in anger or celebration or playfully horsing around or just careless.
    Some have commented that a couple inches this way or that and no consequence or harm would have resulted. That reasoning works both ways. It easily could have been worse. Tennis is wonderful, let’s continue to try to keep it safe for everyone.

    Mary, yes, our game is wonderful … at any age and at any level! thanks, george

  19. DQ – correct decision.
    DJ should have been ‘warned’ for his ‘ball abuse’ earlier – but pros are generally given too much leeway. I recall a well-qualified official who works Grand Slams saying to a junior that when he grows up he will be able to smash his racquet with no penalty and get away with it – but for now – that’s a code violation! Totally wrong in my view – juniors do what the pros do… just look at towel use by juniors!
    The line umpire is from Kentucky and a very respectable lady,I know, who has worked many tournaments in Florida. She is not the type of person to exaggerate the situation. To travel over 40 ft almost level and arrive at her throat it must have been hit with a fair amount of pace. Lucky it didn’t hit her in the eye.
    A lesson for all officials – always watch the loser of a point until they have either sat down or until they are ready to start the next point – at least 30 secs.
    There is also a discrepancy between USTA, ITF and Grand Slam code of behavior rules; first code in USTA is a point penalty – ITF and Grand Slams – a ‘Warning’. DJ could have been ‘warned’ for the earlier ball abuse and the DQ probably would not have been an issue.
    With the SW match against Clijsters, I think SW had been given a code previously for hitting her racket on the ground, The foot-fault was her second code and because it was match point the Referee chose the easy way out. Point penalty, Game-Set-Match.
    I liked the crowd reaction when the Referee said she threatened to kill the line umpire. SW protested she had not said that and the crowd responded – ‘Oh yes you did’! A DQ was in order.

    Allan, i agree with all you said… especially that Serena deserved a DQ for he vile verbal assault. thanks, george

  20. Novak is my favorite player. He felt terrible about what he did and accepted his disqualification graciously. i really think he gets a bad rap, overall. I cannot understand why he has a reputation as a “bad” guy. His problem is that he is compared to Fed and Nadal (who are “perfect”)

    Joe, i am really surprised that you like him so much. For me, his early on histrionics still linger. thanks,george

  21. In Novak’s early years, I disliked his attitude on the court and at times he seemed like he was not trying hard, was not motivated. He would wilt in the heat while others plowed thru. After he changed his diet and got away from the foods that possibly were instrumental in his emotionally inconsistent play, he became a well oiled machine on the court.
    I respect talent but even more the will to train, play with maximum motivation. That is respecting the sport. My favorite athletes are the talented players who also trained at an extraordinary level because of complete commitment – Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Jerry Rice etc.
    I now am a Novak fan (unless he is playing Federer)- he may not be my favorite personality but his tennis has won me over – I think having your childhood during active partisan warfare at the most awful level might mold one’s personality differently , not a particularly lighthearted upbringing for him.

    Winder, yes, there are external circumstances that frequently make all of us who we are. I respect his work ethic and his skill; but still have trouble with his personality. thanks for your perspective. george

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