Novak Djokovic, the favorite for the men’s singles title at the US Open, is out of the competition via a default.
Djokovic, the world No. 1, accidentally hit a line judge in the neck when he hit the ball back off his racket. He had just lost a point in the opening set.
Players who hit another person on the court can be automatically disqualified from the competition by way of a loss. Djokovic realized immediately he hit her and approached the person.
Pablo Carreno Busta, the No. 20 seed and a 2017 semifinalist, will advance to the quarterfinals. The score of the first set was 6-5.
There will be a new Grand Slam men’s singles champion for the first time in six years.
Djokovic hits line judge after bad run
Carreno Busta went on a run after trailing 5-4 and rattled off five points in a row. One of those was overturned by a challenge and he evened up the match.
After a third break point, Djokovic smashed the ball and hit the sideboard after play ended, via BBC Sports. Commentators noted that it could be bad if he did that and were to hit someone, and wondered why he hadn’t been given a warning for the dangerous move.
He has a history of similar actions.
Djokovic has had issues with this previously in his career, throwing his racquet etc very close to linespeople/ballkids.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2020
Debate is still ongoing with officials. #USOpen
At one point before his default, Djokovic fell over when Carreno Busta forced him to change directions. He appeared to hurt his left shoulder.
He was trying to win his 18th career Grand Slam. He was 26-0 so far this season.
Djokovic attempts to plead case
Djokovic attempted to state his case to stay in the competition, telling the officials he could take a game penalty or set penalty rather than a full tournament ouster.
Via Ben Rothenberg at The New York Times, Djokovic also noted that the line judge was able to get up and didn’t need to be taken to the hospital.
"She doesn't have to go to the hospital for this." -Djokovic trying to downplay the effects of hitting the lineswoman, saying she wasn't seriously injured.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2020
"You're going to choose a default in this situation? My career, grand slam, center stage"#USOpen
Official Andreas Egli reportedly stood firm, while Djokovic continued his plea, saying, “If she would have gotten up right away ...” per Rothenberg. The line judge dropped to her knees on the hit near the back of the court and reached for her neck.
Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte made the announcement to an empty stadium — no fans are allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — after Djokovic went over to shake hands with Carreno Busta.
Djokovic will lose all ranking points and be fined the prize money he won for reaching the round of 16, per the USTA statement.
USTA statement. Djokovic loses all ranking points and prize money earned at the US Open. pic.twitter.com/uSyT9kod6f— Ava Wallace (@avarwallace) September 6, 2020
Only two courts have line judges this time around as the tournament organizers attempt to keep the number of people in the arenas at a minimum due to the pandemic. Calls on other courts are being made electronically.
Djokovic apologizes on Instagram
Djokovic issued an apology in Instagram on Sunday afternoon.
“This whole situation left me really sad and empty,” he wrote, in part. “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 … As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize to the US Open tournament and everyone associated for my behavior.”
US Open will have first-time Grand Slam winner
Djokovic was the favorite for the US Open men’s singles title since fellow star competitors Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had opted out due to the pandemic.
The victor will now be a first-time winner. It’s the first time since 2014, when Marin Cilic won the US Open, that a Grand Slam will have a first-time trophy winner.
Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have won 52 of the past 61 majors, per the Associated Press. The only non-“Big 3” competitor to win a major since 2017 is Stan Wawrinka, who won the 2016 US Open.
And the last time there was a Grand Slam without at least one of them as a semifinalist was at the 2004 French Open.
More from Yahoo Sports: