Novak Djokovic, the top seed of US Open 2020 (and world #1 as of the start of the tournament) was defaulted from his 4th round match against Carreno Busta after hitting a line judge with a ball. This reminds me of when in 2009 also at the US open, Serena Williams was given a point penalty when down a match against Kim Clijsters point for verbally abusing a line judge. Serena was the second seed in that tournament, but the top remaining seed at the moment of the incident.

Has a top seed - male or female - in any grand slam ever been defaulted/disqualified from a match?


2 Answers 2


At least in reasonably recent history, the answer is no.

The highest seed to have been defaulted (as opposed to retired voluntarily) was John McEnroe (1990 Australian Open, 4th seed). This Sydney Morning Herald article lists the disqualifications since 1990.

Serena Williams (2009 US Open, 2nd seed) also lost a match as a direct result of an official penalty, although she was not actually defaulted but rather lost a point penalty which happened to be the final point in the match.

Prior to 1990, the most recent Grand Slam disqualification was in 1963, and I don't see anyone significant disqualified prior to that.

  • John McEnroe's disqualification was discussed by the commentators right after Djokovic's disqualification. Sep 7, 2020 at 18:57
  • It is wrong that Serena Williams has been defaulted at the 2009 US Open. She received a point penalty that led to her losing the match. Taken from Wikipedia: "The violation ended up as a point penalty due to receiving a warning for racquet abuse earlier in the match, thus ending the match in controversial fashion"
    – beta
    Sep 10, 2020 at 12:09
  • @beta Hmm, it looks like you're probably right, although there's a lot more information out there using the word 'default' than not (including the piece I link to). Thanks, internet. I'll edit to make that clear, although I think it's appropriate to leave it in there in some fashion since she did lose the match on an official penalty (even though only a point penalty).
    – Joe
    Sep 10, 2020 at 15:54
  • I am curious though if it would've been actually a default if she hadn't been in the doubles finals the next day; it seems like it was almost as bad if not as bad as what Djokovic did... there was some speculation about that in some articles.
    – Joe
    Sep 10, 2020 at 15:57
  • Based on the facts, it was not a default. That's all I can say. Every person or article stating that she was defaulted is incorrect.
    – beta
    Sep 11, 2020 at 9:11

I was watching ESPN's coverage of the US open today (day after the incident). There was a few minute special coverage by Tom Rinaldi on Djokovic's default after the Thiem vs Auger-Aliassime match. During that program with former #4 ranked player James Blake, the host Chris McKendry mentioned that this was the first time ever the top seed had been defaulted in a grand slam tournament.

  • If I find the clip online I'll add a link for it
    – alamoot
    Sep 9, 2020 at 18:08

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