Novak Djokovic has urged his passionate supporters to leave a US Open lineswoman alone after she became the target of their abuse following the world No.1's default in New York.
The tennis official has reportedly been named by Serbian media in the aftermath of the incident where Djokovic was sent packing from the US Open after he hit a ball in her direction.
In a stunning moment that unfolded on Arthur Ashe Stadium – without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic – Djokovic was trailing late in the first set against 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in their fourth-round match when the Serb hit a ball behind him after dropping a game.
The ball hit the female line judge in the throat. She dropped to her knees at the back of the court and was momentarily struggling to breathe. A horrified Djokovic ran over to her and apologised.
After a prolonged on-court discussion with officials, Djokovic walked over to shake hands with Carreno Busta, and his default was announced.
Djokovic decided to skip his media commitments in New York and later expressed his deep regret over the incident, saying it left him "sad and empty". However, some supporters of the controversial world No.1 have since turned their sights on the tennis official and accused her of taking a dive.
The official has also reportedly been the subject of death threats.
"Shame on you. Old lady full of evil," read one of the messages left on her Instagram account, while other users accused her of faking the injury and "bad acting".
The 17-time major winner took to Twitter on Tuesday to again voice his support.
"Dear #NoleFam thank you for your positive messages.. Please also remember the linesperson that was hit by the ball last night needs our community’s support too. She’s done nothing wrong at all." Djokovic said.
"I ask you to stay especially supportive and caring to her during this time.
"From these moments, we grow stronger and we rise above. Sharing love with everyone. Europe here I come."
Djokovic was the clear favourite at Flushing Meadows in the absence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and was yet to drop a match this year.
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