It was a grand slam that the Serb would have expected to win, having won 3 times in the past, and not having to face last year’s winner Rafa Nadal at any point. The bookies had Djokovic at strong favourite to pick up his fourth grand slam title in the States, and it was all going very well to begin with. Convincing wins over Damir Džumhur, Kyle Edmund and Jan-Lennard Struff in the first three rounds set the Serbian up in great fashion going into the last 16.
A similar level of ease was expected in the round of 16 for Djokovic, as he came up against Spaniard Pablo Carreño Busta, who was ranked 20th seed in the competition.
The match started with many slick and challenging exchanges, with long rallies and strategically placed drop shots
The Spaniard was managing to hold his own early on in the first set, but a win was still quite easily expected from Novak.
The tide of the match seemed to turn in the tenth game of the match, where Djokovic was leading Carreño Busta 0-40, about to take the first set in dramatic fashion. A powerful baseline forehand down the line from the Spaniard was called out, giving Djokovic the first set. Carreño Busta challenged the call (with nothing to lose) and the decision was overturned, due to the ball hitting the baseline by the width of a fingernail.
The Spaniard then managed to recover two further set points off Djokovic, bringing the game to deuce. This seemed to be the beginning of the downfall of Djokovic, as he smacked a ball into the side of the stand in frustration. The set then went to 5-5, going to a further two games. The set then saw its first break, with Carreño Busta managing to break Djokovic.
From the post-match interview, the Spaniard then did not see what was about to unfold, which would eventually lead to his progression into the quarter final. In a fit of rage following being broken, Djokovic hit a ball at chest height towards the back board where the line judges are positioned. What the Serb did not realise was that this ball would end up hitting a nearby line judge in the throat, causing her to collapse and have breathing problems.
Following a long discussion with the officials, Djokovic was then disqualified from the US Open due to the event, ending his 26 match unbeaten run in 2020.
This has been a decision that has split opinion, with many people standing by the decision of the officials on the day, and some calling the decision out as being a harsh punishment for an accidental action. As a massive tennis fan and player myself, I stand completely by the decision of the officials.
What many non-tennis fans don’t realise is the speed with which the ball was hit at. Hitting the throat at that speed is certainly a very serious injury to experience. People believe that it was a harsh decision because Djokovic ‘didn’t mean it’, however, he hit a ball at speed towards the backboard where there are usually multiple line judges and sometimes ball boys situated, and the ball was hit at a height above chest height. Had the ball been smacked at a much lower height, the risk of danger is obviously a lot less.
The punishment for Djokovic was just in my opinion, as his rage at being broken led him to commit a very reckless act, that on this occasion caused a potentially serious injury. It is vital that players learn the lesson of how they can endanger those on the court with their rage, as the power that pro tennis players can put into a racket can have serious consequences if directed in the wrong way. Djokovic is no stranger to rage on court either, so certainly from the perspective of somebody who watches a lot of tennis, it is beneficial that Djokovic can now feel the full consequence of his distraught on court.
Although besides the point, a very exciting opportunity has come of this for his Spanish opponent, as he has managed to overcome Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the quarter finals, booking his place into the semi-finals, versus Sascha Zverev. It has been quite a rollercoaster of a slam for Pablo Carreño Busta, and I for one hope he can go all the way.