US Open 2021 Introduces Major Change Following Disqualification of Novak Djokovic

Published 05/26/2021, 1:30 PM EDT
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic of Serbia walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman Laura Clark with a ball hit in frustration during his Men’s Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)


Going into this year’s US Open, Novak Djokovic would still have memories of the bizarre incident that put him out of the tournament last year.

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Trailing 5-6 in the opening set of his pre-quarters clash against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, the Serb, in a moment of frustration and fury, smacked a tennis ball which accidentally caught a woman line official flush on the neck.

Novak Djokovic was sent packing at last year’s US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge

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Even as Djokovic apologized to the official, his offense was deemed one which merits immediate disqualification from the event and he soon received his marching orders.

However, keen to avoid a deja vu this year, the organizers have decided to do away with line officials and turn to technology instead.

The US Tennis Association and the ATP and WTA, who are primary stakeholders of the year’s last Grand Slam, announced on Monday that the chair umpire would be the only match official on the court during the tournament this year.

It was further announced all line calls would be adjudged electronically, with the benefit of Hawk-Eye cameras.

The cameras would take real-time pictures of where the ball landed, thereby taking away the element of human error and helping the umpire arrive at an accurate judgment while awarding points.

SEPTEMBER 06: Novak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge Laura Clark who was hit with the ball during his Men’s Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The electronic line-calling technology was introduced at this year’s Australian Open, with encouraging results, and the practice would be carried forward at the US Open.

Even in the tournament’s last edition, the USTA had leaned on the Hawk-Eye technology for line calling, with the exception of matches hosted at the two main arenas – the Arthur Ashe Stadium and the Louis Armstrong Stadium.

This year, however, the technology would be introduced uniformly across all the arenas.

Djokovic was deemed to have merited disqualification with his act

Even as the line official was taken to a hospital last year, tournament officials and the chair umpire went into a huddle and eventually decided to send Djokovic packing.

Tournament referee Soeren Friemel, who took the eventual call, was quoted as saying later, “We all agree that he didn’t do it on purpose but the facts are still that he hit the line umpire and the line umpire was clearly hurt.”

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Since the incident, Djokovic has made a strong pitch for the introduction of line-calling technology at all events, including the Grand Slams.

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It was primarily on his request that Tennis Australia formally rolled out the e-calling system at Melbourne Park this year.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

1015 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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