World No.1 and raging French Open favourite Novak Djokovic admits he got lucky after going perilously close to being disqualified from the tournament following a careless racquet toss which narrowly missed a linesman.
Frustrated at having failed to convert a break point during the third set of his 6-3 7-5 6-3 quarter-final victory over seventh seed Tomas Berdych, Djokovic flung his racquet backwards where it crashed into the advertising boards behind.
But it was only the quick thinking of a linesman, who was forced into evasive action, which ensured the racquet didn’t collect him and put Djokovic’s bid for an elusive French title in jeopardy.
Had the racquet hit the linesman, Djokovic would almost certainly have been disqualified immediately.
“It’s obvious what I tried to do. I don’t understand your question,” Djokovic said when asked about the incident by a British journalist.
“I threw a racquet on the ground and it slipped and almost hit the line umpire. I was lucky there. That’s all.”
Djokovic immediately held up a hand in apology, but it was not enough to save him from a code violation handed down by umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore for racquet abuse.
The 11-times grand slam champion was also roundly criticised last month for shoving the arm of chair umpire Carlos Bernardes during a win over Rafael Nadal in Rome, but escaped sanction completely.
Djokovic insists he’s not worried that he is sailing too close to the wind and that one day a seemingly harmless incident could jeopardise a title run.
“I’m just not thinking about those kind of situations. I’m trying not to worry about it at all,” he said.
“I am aware that I have been lucky, and I apologised to people that have been in this particular situation with me and that could have been hurt by my racquet.
“But it was never the intention. It was just some unfortunate bounce, but fortunate ending of that scenario. That’s all I can say.”
The incident in Rome led to Australian star Nick Kyrgios hinting at double standards within the tennis elite – declaring “it would be an absolute circus” if he’d done similar.
“But he did it (and) nothing really happened of it,” Kyrgios said.
“It speaks for itself.”
Djokovic will almost certainly be slugged with a hefty fine when organisers meet on Friday morning.
The win takes Djokovic through to his sixth-straight semi-final appearance at Roland Garros – the only grand slam he’s yet to conquer.