The line judge struck by Novak Djokovic during his US Open clash with Pablo Carreno Busta has been subjected to vile messages and death threats on social media.
Djokovic, 33, was disqualified from the tournament in bizarre fashion on Sunday, with his ill-tempered reaction to losing a point against Busta costing him dearly.
After falling 6-5 behind, the Serbian lost his cool and hit a ball to the back of the court, which appeared to hit Kentucky-based line judge Laura Clark straight in the throat.
As a result, he was told by match officials that he was being defaulted from the tournament despite lengthy protests.
The Daily Mail claim there were discussions among tournament chiefs about whether to temporarily stand Clark down and spare her a barrage of abuse from Djokovic’s fans.
The US open was reluctant to release her name, yet a Serbian tabloid allowed trolls to track her on social media by revealing her Instagram details.
This led to a series of vile messages on Clark’s account, with some even referencing her son Josh’s death in 2008.
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Clark’s son was killed in a bicycle accident at the age of just 25, and in one Instagram post dedicated to him a user wrote: “Don't worry, you'll join him soon”.
Another posted: “hahahahahahahaha YEEEEES, YEEEEEEEES.”
Almost every post on Clark’s Instagram account has been spammed by Djokovic’s online fan base, who are notoriously aggressive in defence of their beloved star.
Clark promotes a wine company on her social-media profiles, which led one user to write: “You can drink litres of alcohol but cannot survive small tennis ball?? Bad acting. Shameless.”
Djokovic issued an apology over the incident on Sunday night, saying on Instagram: “This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I‘m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress.
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“So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being.
“I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me.
“Thank you and I’m so sorry.”
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