Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic was the favorite to win the men’s U.S. Open going into this weekend, but an errant ball during his fourth-round game has cost him not just his potential win, but his place in the tournament entirely. According to ESPN, Djokovic was defaulted from the U.S. Open after inadvertently hitting a line judge during his match with opponent Pablo Carreno Busta at New York’s audience-less Arthur Ashe Stadium. However, it wasn’t a ball hit during game play (nor was he trying to hit a line judge), but instead a ball Djokovic peevishly struck in frustration behind him after losing a point to Busta. While TV cameras weren’t focused on the line judge at the time, video of the incident, here posted by PopCrave, shows her grabbing her neck and collapsing, suggesting she was struck in the throat.
While he momentarily protested his dismissal, the tennis pro later took to social media on Sunday to apologize for the incident, and to note that the line judge has recovered. “This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” Djokovic posts. “I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong.” Writes Djokovic, “I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior.”
In a statement, the United States Tennis Association says the tournament referee defaulted Djokovic under Grand Slam guidelines forbidding “intentional hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.”