Novak Djokovic says Alexander Zverev’s disqualification was “not too harsh” after the German was kicked out of the Mexico Open for hitting out at the umpire.
Zverev has apologised for his conduct on social media while former British number one Andy Murray said his actions were “dangerous” and “reckless”.
Eurosport tennis expert Alex Corretja said Zverev crossed the line and that players should be handed harsher punishments for insulting officials.
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Speaking after his straight sets win over Karen Khachanov at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday, Djokovic – who was disqualified from the US Open in 2020 for hitting a ball at a line judge – says he can empathise with the German but feels the punishment was the correct one.
“I made mistakes in the past where I’ve had tantrums on the court,” the world number one said in his press conference.
“I understand what the player is going through. But, of course, I do not justify his actions. He has, with the words that he had in the statement, handled it in a right way.
“He said he made a mistake and his actions were not appropriate. I think the disqualification decision was, you know, not too harsh.
“I think it was correct under the circumstances. Of course, it is harsh for a player to get qualified from a tournament. A year and a half ago I had something I can’t say similar, but I was disqualified from a Grand Slam with unintentionally hitting the line umpire.
“I realise it is a mistake and I have to take it. Hopefully he can reflect on that and not let something like that happen ever again in his life. I’m sure he’s going to approach it maturely.”
Zverev apologised for his unsportsmanlike conduct on his Instagram story earlier on Wednesday.
He wrote: "It is difficult to put into words how much I regret my behaviour during and after the doubles match yesterday.
"I have privately apologised to the chair umpire because my outburst towards him was wrong and unacceptable, and I am only disappointed in myself.
"It should not have happened and there is no excuse. I would also like to apologise to my fans, the tournament and the sport that I love. As you know, I leave everything on the court. Yesterday, I left too much.
“I’m going to take the coming days to reflect - on my actions and how I can ensure that it will not happen again. I am sorry for letting you down."
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