While Novak Djokovic cruised to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Karen Khachanov in the fourth round of the French Open, the rare dramatic moment came when the World No 1 accidentally hit a linesman.
During the first set, Djokovic’s attempted forehand return hit a linesman smack in the face. But since the ball was in play, there was no default this time.
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“My gosh, it was very awkward déjà vu,” said the 17-time Grand Slam champion after reaching the quarterfinal at Roland Garros on Monday.
“I’m actually trying to find the lines person and see if he’s okay because I saw he had a little bit of a bruise, like redness, in that place in the head where the ball hit him.”
For Djokovic, and tennis fans, it brought back memories of the US Open, when the Serb had to default his fourth round match.
After losing serve at a crucial stage against Pablo Carreno Busta in the opening set in New York, a frustrated Djokovic hit a ball at the backboard without looking.
Unfortunately, it struck a lineswoman in the throat. Though Djokovic pleaded his case to the Tournament Referee and Grand Slam supervisor for more than 10 minutes, the rules meant that the World No 1 had to be defaulted.
“Obviously because of what happened in New York, people I guess are going to make the story out of this,” he said. “It has happened to me and to many other players in the last 15 years that I’ve been on the tour.”
Commenting in the Eurosport studio, Tim Henman said the whole situation must have been a ‘nightmare’ for Djokovic.
“I’m sure he would have had his heart in his mouth at that stage,” the former No 1 Brit said.
“It’s a great serve out wide from Khachanov, it’s skidded off the line and he gets it at full stretch at the end of the racket and it hits the line judge.
“Obviously it’s totally different circumstances [to his US Open disqualification] because this was in play within the rally.”
Djokovic has bounced back from the US Open incident and has looked almost unbeatable so far in Paris. He reached the final eight without dropping a set — it is the second straight edition in which Djokovic has reached the last eight without dropping a set.
The Serbian has accomplished that feat three times in his 16 appearances.
The 33-year-old, who is now 35-1 in 2020, also equaled Rafael Nadal’s French Open record of 14 quarterfinals (or better). He will take on Carreno Busta for a place in the semi-final.