US Open default ‘a big lesson’ for Djokovic

World No 1 Novak Djokovic claims he’s been working mentally to overcome the fourth round default at the US Open

Novak Djokovic

A day after Dominic Thiem was crowned US Open champion, World No 1 Novak Djokovic says he has accepted the default that forced him, an overwhelming favourite at the event, out of the tournament.

In his fourth round match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, Djokovic angrily hit a ball to the backboard after losing his serve at 5-5 in the opening set, accidentally hitting a line-umpire in the throat.

After a 10-minute discussion with the tournament referee and the Grand Slam supervisor, it was decided that Djokovic would be defaulted.

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On Monday, ahead of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, the Serb asserted he will use the experience as ‘a big lesson.’

“I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I am working physically,” he said. “I’m trying to be the best version of myself on the court and off the court and I understand that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.

“I’m going to take this in as profoundly as possible, for me as a big lesson. I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been comprehending. I’ve been talking to my team. It’s just one of these things that is just unfortunate and happens. You have to move on. It was totally unexpected and very unintended as well.

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“When you hit a ball like that you have a chance to hit somebody that is on the court. The rules are clear. So I accepted it. I had to move on and that’s what I did. Of course I did not forget about it.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it, because it’s one of those things that stays in your memory for the rest of your life. But I don’t think I’ll have any major issues coming back to the tour and being able to perform well and hit the tennis ball.”

Djokovic’s departure from the tournament meant that this would be the only loss he has suffered this entire season, with the 17-time Grand Slam champion’s 2020 run so far reading 26-1. It also ensured that there would be a new singles Grand Slam champion for the first time since Marin Cilic won the 2014 US Open.

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In the final on Sunday, World No 3 Dominic Thiem beat NextGen star Alexander Zverev in a fifth set tie-breaker to win his first major after reaching three Grand Slam finals prior to this year’s trip to Flushing Meadows.

Unlucky Djokovic, says Nadal

Meanwhile, two-time defending champion of the Italian Open Rafael Nadal has said Djokovic was unlucky, but that the rules were clear.

“The consequences have been always the same,” Nadal said

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“Nothing new on that. Novak was unlucky. The rules says clearly that’s a default. Sorry for him. He had an opportunity (to win the US Open). But in some way you should not be doing this. It’s very unfortunate, very unlucky situation. But it’s important to have the right self-control on the court, because if not, you can be unlucky.”

The World No 2 will be playing his first competitive match since winning the ATP 500 title in Acapulco back in February, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the tennis tours.

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Djokovic currently trails Nadal (19-time Grand Slam champion) and Roger Federer (20 major titles) for the all-time record for most number of Slams won in men’s singles.