The best-manned Novak Djokovic was behind in the fourth round of the US Open after accidentally hitting a linesman in the neck with a tennis ball on Sunday.

It was a breathtaking end to Djokovic's bid for an 18th Grand Slam title and his 26-0 start this season.

"In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, the US Open tournament referee has delayed Novak Djokovic of the 2020 US Open after deliberately hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly on the pitch or hitting a ball in negligent disregard for the consequences would have." US Tennis Association announced.

"Because he was in default," the USTA statement continued, "Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and the prize money won with the tournament in addition to some or all of the fines imposed in relation to the incident in question, fined. " ”

With the 2019 champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer out of the field this year, Djokovic came to New York as an overwhelming favorite.

But on Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium, when Djokovic had just lost a game against his opponent Pablo Carreno Busta, everything fell apart and fell 6-5 in the first set.

When he went to the sideline to switch, Djokovic hit a ball behind him. The ball hit a linesman who fell to his knees in the back of the court and grabbed the back of her neck.

After several minutes of discussion with court officials, including tournament referee Soeren Friemel, Djokovic went over to shake Carreno Busta. The referee Aurelie Tourte then announced the default setting.

It was clear that Djokovic had no intention of meeting the linesman; He wasn't looking that way when his bat made contact with the ball, and there was concern on his face as soon as he realized what had happened.

But players who hit a ball in anger and contact an official on the pitch have historically fallen behind.

In 2017, for example, Denis Shapovalov – the 21-year-old Canadian who is due to play his fourth-round game on Sunday night – was banned from a Davis Cup game against Great Britain when he accidentally hit the referee in the face with a ball.

At Wimbledon in 1995, Tim Henman hit a ball girl in the head with a ball and was excluded from a double game with partner Jeremy Bates.

"I think the superiors and everyone are just doing their job, but very unhappy for Novak," said Alexander Zverev, the number 5 man in the tournament who reached the quarter-finals by winning Sunday. "If it had landed anywhere else – we're talking a few inches – he would have been fine."

Among the many curiosities about the 2020 US Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since the coronavirus pandemic began, is that there are no spectators.

Another is that only in the two largest arenas – Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadium – is the number of linesmen who make calls at games fully complemented. In other courts, arbitrators are supported by an electronic management system.

Djokovic's mood had deteriorated in the last few minutes on Sunday. In the previous game he wasted three consecutive breakpoints and after the last one, which Carreno Busta won with a drop shot, Djokovic hit a ball off an advertising sign on the field.

On the second point of the final game at this year's US Open for Djokovic, he tripped while chasing a shot, fell to the ground and clutched his left shoulder.

The game was delayed for a few minutes while a coach checked that shoulder.

On the second point after their resumption, Carreno Busta hit a temporary winner to break Djokovic's serve.

Then Djokovic got into trouble.

His departure means that there is no longer a man on the field who has previously won a Grand Slam individual title. Whoever emerges as the winner is the first major cup winner in men's tennis since 2014, when Marin Cilic won the US Open.

In addition, each of the last 13 Grand Slam trophies had won a member of the Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

“I'm going to be a new Grand Slam champion, that's all I know. There are no Grand Slam champions left at the draw. Now it's getting interesting, "said Zverev, who beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Sunday 6: 2, 6: 2, 6: 1." Now I think the time has come when it gets really interesting. "

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