Novak Djokovic said he has accepted the disqualification from US Open that sent shockwaves across the tennis world and has to move on now, trying to work on his emotions as much as his game itself.
Addressing the media for the first time since the incident in New York, before the Italian Open happening in Rome, Djokovic said, “I felt really sorry to cause the shock and drama to her.
“It was totally unexpected and very unintended but, when you hit the ball like that, you have a chance to hit somebody that is on the court.
“I accepted it and I had to move on. Of course, I didn’t forget about it, I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it. Of course, it was a shock to finish the US Open the way things finished for me,” he added, according to BBC Sport.
The 17-time Major winner was dramatically disqualified from the US Open on Sunday after accidentally striking a female lines judge with a ball in frustration during his last-16 match, sending shock waves through the tournament.
The world No 1 apologized 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, and it hit 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. The Serb was then see heard arguing his case with tournament referee Soeren Friemel and Grand Slam supervisor Andreas Egli during a long conversation at the net. But eventually, accepted the decision and walked away from the venue. He did not address the media on the day, releasing a statement on social media instead.
“I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I am working physically,” he was quoted as saying by Associated Press.
“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 profound 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.”
The 33-year-old wants to turn the page and look forward.
“It’s great that I have a tournament right after that happened because I feel like the earlier I get back in a competition mode, the faster I’ll overcome that memory and kind of reprogramme it,” he told reporters as per AFP.
Four-time Italian Open winner Djokovic has a first-round bye in Rome and opens his campaign midweek.
“Of course it was very hard for me to accept right after it happened,” he said.
“For a couple of days I was in shock, and I was shaken by the whole default thing.
“I checked with Laura [Clark] after the match. She said that she was fine. No big injuries.”
Djokovic’s New York default was his first defeat in 2020.
“I don’t think I will have any major issues coming back to the tour and being able to perform well and hit the tennis ball, of course during the point,” he said.
‘I have outbursts’
Djokovic however could not rule out it would not happen again.
“I have outbursts, and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been, you know,” he said.
“Obviously went through ups and downs in my career, managing to control my emotions more or less.
“But you’re alone out there. It’s a lot of intensity and a lot of pressure.
“I cannot promise or I cannot guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life. I don’t know.
“I mean, I definitely am going to try my best that something like that never happens again, obviously.”
Djokovic is the top seed ahead of world No 2 Rafael Nadal in the tuneup for the final Grand Slam of the season, the French Open which begins on September 27.
Nadal, who is bidding for a 10th Italian Open title, is returning after more than six months having skipped the US Open over coronavirus fears.
“For the guys who are playing US Open, it’s very close, very tight after an exhausting month of tennis in the States on different surfaces,” said Djokovic.
“Rafa obviously decided to stay on clay and practice.
“I mean, surely that gives him more advantage, but even if he didn’t practice for that long on clay, he would still be the number one favourite in Roland Garros or any other clay tournament because he’s Rafa, you know.
“And playing on clay, you know, he’s the ultimate challenge.”
(With AFP inputs)