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Controversy promises renewal at Flushing Meadows in the Round of 16

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Roar Guru
7th September, 2020

A new grand slam men’s champion is guaranteed after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was sensationally defaulted from the US Open.

Going into the second week of the year’s second major, 33-year-old Djokovic was the only active US Open champion – and grand slam champion for that matter – remaining in the men’s draw.

His fourth-round match against 20th seed Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta proceeded without incident for most of the opening set, and the Serb looked set for another comfortable victory when he held three set points in the tenth game of the opening set.

Djokovic thought he’d taken the first set 6-4 when a forehand from Carreno Busta landed just wide, but a successful challenge from the Spaniard proved to be the turning point as he would later level at five-all.

A game later the 29-year-old broke to take a 6-5 lead, after which major controversy erupted.

Following the change of ends, Djokovic hit a ball behind him in frustration without looking only to find out that his shot landed accidentally on the throat of one of the line judges.

The Serb immediately apologised but the tournament referee was called out onto Arthur Ashe Stadium, and following ten minutes of deliberation the Djoker was defaulted, bringing an end to his 26-match winning streak to start the abridged 2020 season.

Despite this season being significantly interrupted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this is believed to be the latest into a calendar year in which any man or woman has suffered his or her first defeat of a season.


The result advanced Pablo Carreno Busta to his second quarter-final in New York in four years (after he reached the semi-finals in 2017), while it also guarantees that there will be a new major champion in the men’s draw and a new finalist from Djokovic’s half of the draw.

After the match, Djokovic didn’t front the media to explain his actions but posted a statement on Instagram apologising for his version of events.

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This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. 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. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. 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 @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.

Un post condiviso da Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) in data:

He is the first man in two decades to be disqualified from a major. The last was Stefan Koubek, who defaulted for unsportsmanlike conduct in a match against Attila Savolt at the 2000 French Open. Interestingly, Savolt then lost to Lleyton Hewitt in his next match.

Djokovic also joins the likes of Tim Henman and John McEnroe, whose match misbehaviour has resulted in disqualifications, while in recent times Serena Williams was defaulted from her US Open semi-final match against Kim Clijsters in 2009 for verbally threatening a lineswoman at the death.

All this means that this will be the first major since the 2004 French Open to not feature either of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, and it will also bring to an end a streak of 13 straight majors won by either man dating back to the 2017 Australian Open.


A streak of 14 straight majors featuring either man has also ended, the last final not to feature either man being Wimbledon in 2016 when Andy Murray defeated Milos Raonic in straight sets.

The last time a man outside of Djokovic, Nadal or Federer to win a major title was when Stan Wawrinka, who chose to bypass Flushing Meadows this year, defeated Djokovic to win the US Open in 2016.

It also guarantees a first-time major champion born in the 1990s. Of the men still remaining in the draw, Vasek Pospisil, who lost to Australian Alex de Minaur on Tuesday morning (AEST), was the oldest of them at age 30, born on 23 June 1990.

A first-time champion is also guaranteed for the first time since the 2014 US Open, when Marin Cilic, who lost to Dominic Thiem on Sunday morning (AEST), defeated Kei Nishikori to win his lone major title to date.

Both Cilic and Nishikori had beaten Federer and Djokovic in their respective semi-finals that year.

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Significantly, none of the remaining quarter-finalists this year has previously won a major title. The last time this happened was at Wimbledon in 2003, when Federer defeated Mark Philippoussis to win the first of his 20 major titles a month short of his 22nd birthday.

Of the men still remaining, only Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem have reached a major final, and so you’d think that one of these two men will now become the US Open title favourite.

In other men’s matches, Borna Coric backed up his comeback victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas by defeating Australian Jordan Thompson in straight sets to advance to his maiden grand slam quarter-final.

There he will play German fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who thrashed Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for the loss of only five games as he starts to firm as the favourite to reach the final from the top half of the draw.

Denis Shapovalov, having defeated David Goffin, will play Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarter-finals.

Two more title favourites departed the women’s draw, with 2016 champion Angelique Kerber crashing to a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Jennifer Brady and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova wasting four match points as she fell to Shelby Rogers in a three-set cliffhanger.


Naomi Osaka, 2018 champion is the favourite to reach the final from the top half of the draw, having dispatched fourth-round opponent Anett Kontaveit.

If Osaka were to crash out from here, a new grand slam finalist will be guaranteed from the top half of the draw.

The quarter-final line-up in both the men’s and women’s draws will be completed on Tuesday morning. As mentioned above, Medvedev is the favourite to meet Thiem in the final eight and potentially set up a semi-final clash towards the end of this week.

The only Australian remaining, Alex de Minaur, has a maiden grand slam quarter-final in his sights after defeating Vasek Pospisil, while last year’s semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini is up against 2017 quarter-finalist Andrey Rublev.

In the women’s draw Serena Williams settled a score by defeating Greek rising start Maria Sakkari, who won the pair’s only previous meeting at the Western and Southern Open not very long ago.


The resurgent Victoria Azarenka will start favourite to defeat Karolina Muchova, after which she could come up against reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, who is up against Elise Mertens in the second night match in the world’s largest tennis arena.

The other fourth-round match guaranteed a first-time US Open quarter-finalist, with comeback queen Tsvetana Pironkova overcoming Alize Cornet to potentially play Serena Williams in the last eight.