OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - Family of Owensboro resident Laura Clark says that she was the line judge Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 ranked men’s tennis player in the world, accidentally hit with a ball on Sunday, causing his premature departure from the U.S. Open.
Clark’s family members told 14 News she was the person that Djokovic, who was the clear favorite to win the men’s singles championship at the event, inadvertently hit in the neck after angrily slamming the ball behind him without looking.
Clark dropped to the ground and immediately grabbed her throat. After noticing what happened, Djokovic rushed to her side and checked to see how she was doing.
The incident happened late in the first set with Djokovic trailing 6-5 in the match against No. 20 seed Pablo Carreno Busta.
According to tournament rules, players who hit another person on the court can be automatically disqualified.
“Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site,” according to the Grand Slam rule book.
After nearly 10 minutes of conversation following the incident, tournament officials decided to default Djokovic from the competition, which is the tennis equivalent of an ejection.
The U.S. Tennis Association released a statement afterward, detailing that Djokovic will forfeit all of the ranking points and $250,000 in prize money he won in the tournament.
Djokovic was pursuing his 18th career Grand Slam victory. He began the season with a 26-0 record.