In the wake of the Novak Djokovic’s default in the fourth round of the US Open, tennis is potentially going to get very interesting.
His demise against Pablo Carreno Busta is his first loss of 2020 and dented his chase for majors. This US Open was the closest thing to a gift for Djokovic as he works to move closer to Roger Federer (20) and Rafa Nadal (19) in the tally of majors.
Obviously, there will be many other opportunities for him, it is not as if he is done and dusted, but the way he was playing and the fact this was a depleted US Open draw, this was like passing “Go” on a Monopoly board and picking up free money.
The decision that was made by Tournament Referee Soeren Friemel and Grand Slam Supervisor Andreas (Andi) Egli was 100% correct. The rules are clear, you are responsible for your actions on court and if a ball that is out of play is struck by a player and it hits someone, that is an automatic default. There was no other option.
No question there was no malice involved or there was intention, but the fact in he injured someone, a court official.
“Intent is part of the discussion but there are two factors, one is the action, and the result,” Soeren Friemel said. “And the action, why there was no intent, the result of hitting the line umpire and clearly being hurt is the essential factor in the decision-making process here. We wouldn’t even, I don’t think we would have had this long-ish discussion if he had done it on purpose, but here both factors are taken into consideration.
“In the end, any code violation there is a part of discretion to it but in this instance, I don’t think there was any chance of any opportunity of any other decision other than defaulting Novak, because the facts were so clear, so obvious, that the line umpire was clearly hurt and Novak was angry, he hit the ball recklessly, angrily back and taking everything into consideration, there was no discretion involved.”
But it is beyond what happened on court that could be fascinating to watch unfold.
Djokovic has been installed as Co-Chairman of this new and controversial Professional Tennis Players Association. What he did on court and then after when he skipped out on the mandatory post-match media conference does not highlight in a positive manner the behaviour of someone who is supposed to be a leader.
His potential role in this developing group could very well come into question. He has not handled himself in an appropriate manner. Would there be a question with governing bodies or events or players about negotiating with someone who has not set the best example to those that are supposed to be members?
His on-court ability has never been in question but when you take on the type of responsibilities off-court that go into such a role as he has at PTPA, how you handle yourself in public is of the utmost importance. Novak Djokovic did not endear himself to that role.
The words of Rudyard Kipling’s incredible and moving poem “If”, which is connected indirectly to tennis via Wimbeledon, is all about how you handle yourself.
His demeanour is one aspect of this default, the other is the state of the men’s draw at the US Open and this is where things have become incredibly fascinating when you look deeper.
This 2020 US Open is now without Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
On top of that no player left has ever won a major before; two have been to finals of majors, Daniil Medvedev was in last years US Open final and Dominic Thiem was in the 2018 and 2019 French Open final and this year’s Australian Open final. It throws things wide open.
Federer and Nadal would be spewing. They were not in New York, so they left the virtual keys to the Grand Slam Club with Djokovic and those keys are now down the drain.
The last time a player outside the “Big3” won a major is as follows: Australian Open – Stan Wawrinka 2014, French Open – Stan Wawrinka 2015, Wimbledon – Andy Murray 2016, US Open – Stan Wawrinka 2016.
The silver cabinet is open for raiding.
There will be a new name on the list of major winners with this US Open and it will mark the first time a player born from the 1990s onwards will hold one of the four biggest and most important tournaments in the world. That in itself is a milestone.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have dominated the big four events and between them they have won 56. It is indeed rare for anyone else to have had a look in.
This is now an opportunity for the younger names to break that triumvirate and once they get a taste of what that sort of glory is like, it might just be the start of things, as we know, dismantling.
This just might see the end of the club as the exclusive domain of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. It will be quite something to watch and if it happens, one will know where to point the finger.