ROME – Novak Djokovic has learned a “big lesson” after being disqualified from the US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.
The incident, which took place eight days ago, marked the end of Djokovic’s 29 – match winning streak and his bid for the 18th Grand Slam title.
“I work as hard and mentally as I can physically,” Djokovic said at the Italian Open on Monday. “I try to be the best version of myself on and off the court and I understand that I have provocations and this is the personality and player I have always been.
“I’m going to take this as a big lesson as deeply as possible. I’m thinking about it. I’m realizing it. I’m talking to my team. It’s unfortunate and one of these things that can happen. You have to move on.”
Djokovic was disqualified during the fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.
As he headed for Arthur Ashe Stadium for a change, Carono Busta trailed 6-5 in the first set, with Djokovic – seed and No. 1 seed and favorite for the championship – angrily hitting the ball behind him. The ball flew to the right at the line judge who reached her neck, falling to her knees at the back of the court.
“It was completely unexpected and very unpredictable,” Djokovic said. “When you hit the ball there is a chance of hitting someone on the court. The rules are clear. So I agreed. I had to go ahead and do what I did.
“Actually I never forgot about it,” Djokovic added. “I do not think I will forget about it, because it will be in your memory for the rest of your life. But I do not think there will be any big issues like coming back on tour and good performance and hitting the tennis ball.”
Djokovic said he checked with Line Women after the incident and found she was not seriously injured.
“I’m really sorry for causing her shock and drama, because she does not deserve it in any way,” Djokovic said. “She’s clearly volunteering and doing her job. She loves tennis. As I understand it, she’s there.”
Djokovic has won five of the last seven Grand Slam tournaments, taking his total to 17, with rivals Roger Federer, men’s record 20, and Rafael Nadal 19.
Both Federer (injury) and Nadal (concerns about travel between the coronavirus pandemic) did not play in the US Open.
“Sorry him. He had a chance there, ”Nadal said. “It simply came to our notice then. … It is important to have proper self-control in court. ”
Djokovic had an opening round bye in Rome. His first match this week will be against Italian wild-card entry Salvatore Caruso or qualifier.
The tournament at Foro Italico has been rescheduled since May due to the epidemic and will be played without fans attending.
Nadal, who has won a record nine titles in Rome, is facing a draw from Djokovic. The Spaniard is returning to tennis for the first time since February.
“I’ll be the same – it could be a little worse because I haven’t competed in the last six months,” Nadal said. “You need matches to assume you’re 100%.”
Nadal opened against Carreno Busta.
“He’s playing great,” Nadal said. “Being a good test.”
As in the US Open, players are kept in a protected “bubble” and frequently tested for coronavirus. But contrary to New York conditions, players are not required to wear masks when entering and leaving the court.
“All the players have been tested, so it makes a whole lot of sense,” said sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas. “And they have no one to tell you what to do and what protocol to follow every minute you are in the bubble.
“Plus,” Citsipas added, “another level of accommodation.”
The men’s players stay at the five – star Rome Cavalier, which overlooks the city center from a hill.
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