In his first media appearance since he was disqualified from the U.S. Open after accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball, Novak Djokovic said his disqualification was warranted but wouldn't guarantee he would never commit an offense like that again.
"I cannot promise or cannot guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life," Djokovic said. "I'm going to try my best, obviously, but anything is possible in life."
Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, was behind Pablo Carreno Busta 6-5 in the first set when he hit the ball toward the wall out of frustration, and it struck the line judge on the neck.
In a statement, the USTA said that "intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting the ball with negligent disregard of the consequences" carries a penalty of being defaulted from the tournament. Djokovic lost all ranking points along with $250,000 in prize money from the tournament, and he was fined $10,000.
The 33-year-old left the court after discussions with officials and later issued an apology on Instagram.
Djokovic admitted Monday he has acted in a similar fashion before, saying the incident at the U.S. Open was "not completely out of the blue." At the Monte Carlo Masters in 2019, Djokovic threw his racket at the ground and into the crowd before defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber without penalty.
Former world No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova, an analyst with Amazon Prime UK and a good friend of Djokovic, his wife, Jelena, and his coach, Marian Vajda, said during the U.S. Open that the Serbian star struggles with anger issues (h/t Yahoo Sport Australia):
"It feels like sometimes the anger comes out of control. I care so much about him and respect everything he is doing for our game, but I just hope there is a lesson to be learned, even if this one came at the worst possible time, where pretty much the only thing standing between him and an 18th grand slam title was himself, with all my respect to the other players."
In addition to pausing Djokovic's ride to the top of the career men's major title list, where he trails Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) while seeking his 18th title, the incident at the U.S. Open closed a 29-match winning streak.