Anyone can get frustrated when playing a sport or a game. You make a silly mistake, the opponent scores, and moves ahead in points, or you cannot play well. Rules in sports are extremely strict, especially in tennis, where unsportsmanlike conduct can have real consequences.
So, when Novak Djokovic hit the ball toward the wall in frustration during the US Open, you might think it’s something anyone would do. Except in Djokovic’s case, it hit a line judge in the throat and injured her. The Grand Slam Rule Book states that officials had two options—they could cite the player or disqualify the player.
After consulting the player and the line judge, officials deemed it severe enough to oust Djokovic from the tournament, which is known as defaulting the player. Wait, what? Couldn’t they have just cited him? That’s what many fans are asking. When Serena Williams shouted at a line judge, she was cited by the officials but not defaulted. Plus, Djokovic didn’t knowingly hit the ball at the umpire—it was merely a frustrated shot that hit the line judge!
But, as they say, rules are rules. Even though a similar action might have earned a penalty point in the past, the US Open officials believe that the behavior was both unsportsmanlike and reckless. Djokovic was the only male Grand Slam who progressed to play in the US Open tournament this year. While fans are disappointed, our question is … What would you have done if you were the umpire at this game? Would you have let the player go because he didn’t mean to hit the umpire? Or is a rule a rule?