Tennis fans and commentators have condemned the ‘disgusting’ online abuse directed at the line judge struck by a ball by Novak Djokovic at the US Open.
Djokovic was dramatically disqualified from the US Open on Sunday after accidentally striking a female line judge with a ball in frustration during his last-16 match, sending shock waves through the tournament.
NEVER LOVED: Why Djokovic is not the people's champion
But the ugly scandal has since taken a sickening turn, with the official copping a torrent of abuse on social media in the aftermath.
A Serbian tabloid reportedly shared the line judge’s social media accounts online, sparking a sickening backlash from angry fans.
A number of her photos were flooded with disgusting messages on Monday, with some even making fun of the death of her son, who passed away in 2008 after a motorbike accident.
Aussie tennis champion Rennae Stubbs was among those to condemn the trolls on social media.
“LET ME SAY THIS LOUDLY! Anyone who blames the lines lady for the default of Novak..... STOP!,” Stubbs wrote on Twitter.
“The lady had NOTHING to do with the default! Repeat! Nothing!!! Ok!!!! ITS A RULE! There was NOOOOO WIGGLE ROOM ON THIS! NONE.”
LET ME SAY THIS LOUDLY! Anyone who blames the lines lady for the default of Novak..... STOP! The lady had NOTHING to do with the default! Repeat! Nothing!!! Ok!!!! ITS A RULE! There was NOOOOO WIGGLE ROOM ON THIS! NONE!!— Rennae Stubbs (@rennaestubbs) September 7, 2020
New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg also slammed the treatment of the official.
“I have zero tolerance for anyone critiquing the reaction of the woman who got hit squarely in the throat by a tennis ball moving at decent speed off the racquet of a pro player. Grow a heart,” he wrote.
Folks, I’m have zero tolerance for anyone critiquing the reaction of the woman who got hit squarely in the throat by a tennis ball moving at decent speed off the racquet of a pro player. Grow a heart. https://t.co/dN6xmEXTxf— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 7, 2020
Others described the abuse as ‘disgusting’ and ‘shameful’.
Comments in this video are absolutely disgusting. Lineswoman fell to ground and had difficulty in breathing after being hit by tennis ball on her throat and people are making fun and judging that she is over reacting.https://t.co/TuBBF9CPnk— Amarendra Bandla (@ambandla) September 7, 2020
Get hit in the throat only softly and I promise you, you‘ll go down. This victim blaming is shameful and disgusting. That is not some person who randomly stands there but a line judge with decades of experience who will have been hit before.— Eve Lambert (@EveLambertBooks) September 6, 2020
There's a disturbing amount of victim-blaming of the line judge that Djokovic hit on here.— Mags Campbell (@writersblock08) September 7, 2020
It's really disgusting.
I think it’s absolutely disgusting that people are blaming the line judge and accusing her of overacting. Just unbelievable.— Helen Aqua (@HelenAqua) September 7, 2020
Novak Djokovic apologises in social media statement
The World No.1 apologised for hitting the ball in disgust after losing his serve to go 6-5 down in the first set to Spain's 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Djokovic appeared to be looking the other way when he pulled the ball from his pocket and smacked it in the direction of the official, it hitting her full toss in the throat.
The official cried out and began gasping for air as she collapsed to the ground.
Djokovic rushed over to check on her, placing his hand on her back as she struggled to breathe. After a few minutes she got up and walked off the court looking dazed.
Around 10 minutes of discussions then ensued between Djokovic and the tournament referee Soeren Friemel, during which the World No.1 pleaded his case.
The umpire then declared that Carreno Busta had won by default. Djokovic shook hands with his opponent before leaving the court without appearing to shake the umpire's hand.
He went then directly to his car and left the Flushing Meadows site in New York without speaking to reporters.
Djokovic, 33, later posted an apology on Instagram saying he was “so sorry.”
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” he wrote, adding that “thank God” the woman was okay.
“I'm extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong,” Djokovic said.
He also apologised to tournament organisers for “my behaviour” but did not say whether he thought they were right to default him.
The United States Tennis Association said Djokovic had been defaulted under the Grand Slam rules for “intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.”
The body added that he would lose all ranking points and prize money from the tournament.
Referee Friemel said Djokovic told him he should not be defaulted because it was unintentional.
Friemel said he agreed there was no intent but that it was a clear-cut case of Djokovic hitting the ball “angrily and recklessly.”
“She was clearly hurt and in pain. There was no other option,” he told reporters.