US Open: 9 times tennis players have been disqualified mid-match after Novak Djokovic saga


Following Novak Djokovic’s disqualification for hitting a line judge during his fourth-round match against Spanish opponent Pablo Carreno Busta, the Serbian joins a select few as being removed from a tournament. 

So rare is it that Djokovic became only the ninth player to be disqualified in tennis’ Open era, despite the frequency of fines and warnings.

With that in mind, we’ve got the other eight players to have fallen foul of severe punishment and what they actually did to be disqualified mid-match.

John McEnroe – 1990 Australian Open

Arguably tennis’ most infamous bad boy, McEnroe found himself up against Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors – also in the fourth round – and was removed after three code violations. 

The first was for glaring at a lineswoman whom he believed had made an incorrect decision. The second was for twice throwing his racket on the ground, eventually causing the head to crack. Third, the American verbally abused the umpire Gerry Armstrong, who issued the final violation and disqualification, with support of Grand Slam chief of supervisors Ken Farr. 

Tim Henman – 1995 Wimbledon

During his double’s match at Wimbledon, Henman hit a volley into the net. Out of frustration, he hit a ball with force and, similarly to Djokovic, struck a ball girl on the ear. Tears followed, as did shock from the crowd. 

Henman apologised and presented the girl with flowers, but only after he and his partner Jeremy Bates were disqualified. 

Irina Spirlea – 1996 Palermo Open

The first female player to be disqualified from a WTA match, the Romanian was removed after she verbally abused a match official in Italy.

Spirlea was also involved in controversy the following year, when she appeared to intentionally collide with Venus Williams during a changeover in the 1997 US Open semi-finals. 

Anastasia Rodionova – 2007 Cincinnati Open

Facing Angelique Kerber during the first round of the 2007 Cincinnati Open, the Russian hit a ball at fans who appeared to be cheering for Kerber. 

Despite her protests, that she received no warning and had not verbally abused anyone, Rodionova was swiftly removed from the tournament. 

Stefan Koubek – 2007 Metz Open

As he led the final set 4-2, Koubek looked to dispute a call made by tournament official Thomas Karlberg. But Koubek, in the process, used abusive language, which he claimed was in response to the situation. 

He was disqualified regardless, and Sebastien Grosjean advanced to the next round. 

David Nalbandian – 2012 Queen’s Club

During the pursuit of what would’ve been his 12th career title, the Argentine was disqualified from the 2012 Queen’s Club final when he kicked an advertising board and injured a line judge. 

Nalbandian led Marin Cilic 7-6, 3-4, but the match, and the title, were both awarded to Cilic by umpire Fergus Murphy. 

After the event, Nalbandian complained of the treatment of players by the ATP, saying: “The rule book is very big and I can tell you the ATP do a lot to the players and nothing happens.

“There are a lot of rules and sometimes they don’t do anything.”

Denis Shapovalov – 2017 Davis Cup

Playing for Canada against Great Britain, the then 17-year-old was down to Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-4, 2-1. He hit a ball in anger, which struck umpire Arnaud Gabas in the eye. 

The match was defaulted, and Shapovalov accepted responsibility for his poor conduct on the court.

“Obviously it’s unacceptable behaviour from me. I just feel awful for letting my team down, for letting my country down, for acting in a way that I would never want to act.”

Nick Kyrgios – 2019 Italian Open

The player who pushes McEnroe for his title of tennis’ bad boy, Australian Kyrgios was given a game penalty for swearing at a judge during the second round match against Casper Ruud. 

In response, Kyrgios smashed his racket onto the court, kicked a water bottle and threw a chair. Before he could be officially disqualified, he picked up his bags and left the court. 

“Emotions got the better of me and I just wanted to say that the atmosphere was crazy out there today, just super unfortunate that it had to end in a default. Sorry Roma, see you again, maybe,” posted Kyrgios on Instagram.

Novak Djokovic – 2020 US Open

Sunday’s match saw the Serbian against Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round, as Djokovic looked to claim his 18th career Grand Slam. 

After dropping his serve to trail 5-6 in the opening set, a ball hit by Djokovic out of anger struck a lineswoman.

Although the world number one rushed over to check on her, he was disqualified after a lengthy discussion with match officials. 

So there you have it, tennis players can see red and can lose their cool during the heat of battle. 

If anything, we’re surprised a disqualification has only been handed out on nine separate occasions, especially given how many hot heads are in the sport.

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