With the French Open set to start at the end of the month, the world No.1 still has an opportunity to add to his all-time tally during this curtailed season — but has the Serb tarnished his reputation?
Seven-time grand slam champion John McEnroe, who was famous for his on-court outbursts, believes the incident will have an impact.
“I didn’t say he couldn’t recover,” added McEnroe. “If he embraces that role, I think he could recover, absolutely. He’s chasing history, he’s trying to pass Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer].
“He’s younger, we all know that. He’s got a lot of things going for him, but this is obviously a stain that he’s not going to be able to erase, whether he likes it or not.”
Djokovic left Flushing Meadows without speaking to the media, but did write an apology on his Instagram account, saying he was “extremely sorry to have caused her such stress.”
McEnroe knows all too well how hard it is to shake a “bad boy” reputation in tennis and is surprised somebody with as much experience as Djokovic would make such an error.
“Just when you think something crazier couldn’t happen [in 2020], it does happen,” he added. “We talked before the event that the only way Novak could lose is if he beat himself.
“I didn’t anticipate in my wildest dreams that this would happen. So it’s terrible for everyone, it was a rookie mistake.”
Kyrgios starts Twitter poll
Nick Kyrgios, often dubbed the “bad boy” of tennis’ current generation, posted a tongue in cheek Twitter poll asking what his punishment would have been in the same situation.
“Swap me for jokers [Djokovic’s] incident. ‘Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat,’ how many years would I be banned for?” he asked.
Five, 10 and 20 years were the options, with 20 winning by a considerable margin at the time of writing.
“We’d be bailing you outta jail right now,” American player Tommy Paul responded.
Former British tennis player Tim Henman, who was disqualified in similar circumstances when he hit a ball girl at Wimbledon in 1995, believed Djokovic made a mistake by not facing up to the media following the incident.
“Unfortunately he’s compounding the error,” he told Prime. “He needs to face up to it, apologize and accept he made a mistake. By, in essence, running away, it’s going to go on longer.”
Billie Jean King, a 12-time grand slam winner, said the officials made the right decision.
“First I hope the line judge is okay,” she tweeted. “The rule is the rule. It is unfortunate for everyone involved, but in this specific situation the default was the right call.”
Djokovic was unbeaten so far in 2020, boasting a 26-0 record going into Sunday’s match against Pablo Carreno Busta. Former tennis player Steve Darcis jokingly gave credit to the one person who was able to break Djokovic’s winning run — the line judge.