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The moment Djokovic stared into the void

Mark Knight, September 10, 2020 6:15PM Kids News

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Novak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on day seven of the 2020 US Open, New York, US on September 6, 2020. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraNovak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on day seven of the 2020 US Open, New York, US on September 6, 2020. Picture: Getty Images


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Tennis has provided us with some of our greatest sporting champions and memorable moments. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Raphael Nadal and our own Ash Barty are just some of today’s giants of the court. They inspire us and are a source of national pride.

But sometimes our professional tennis players show us a side of human nature that is not so glorious. The tennis tantrum!

We see players taking out their frustrations on their racquets, the umpires or linespeople. Sometimes it’s directed at a spectator. It usually happens when things are not going so well. Frustration with how their game is going leads to anger and the next thing you know a perfectly good tennis racquet is no more after being hammered into the court.

One of the most famous tennis tantrum throwers was John McEnroe, the US champion from the 1980s. He would yell at umpires, scream in the face of linespeople and smash truckloads of racquets. He was a great player and won many Grand Slams but when the going got bad, McEnrude, as he was sometimes called, spat the dummy big time! Not a great role model for our youngsters!

Serena Williams had her moment a few years ago at the US Women’s Final when she was penalised by the chair umpire for smashing her racquet and calling the umpire a thief. She was losing at the time too.

And then there’s our own tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios. A highly talented young player but with a tendency to go rogue* when things don’t go to plan.

I have cartooned many of these moments so this week when Men’s World No.1 player Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open for firing-off a tennis ball in anger into the back wall of the court, carelessly hitting a lineswoman in the throat, I felt it was worthy of comment.

It is big news for the world’s best player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament so I wanted to show the shock and realisation of what Novak had done. Not that he did it deliberately, but it was a reckless act. In championship tennis, if you strike an official with the ball in such an act, you are automatically out. These tennis balls travel at blinding speed and can hurt people, especially if they hit you in the throat. And Djokovic has had a habit of sending off tennis balls into walls at matches in frustration over the years.

My drawing started with a shocked Novak looking down at the injured lineswoman and offering assistance, just as he did when it happened.

Cartoonists use exaggeration to make a point and I felt the cartoon could be stronger so I decided to draw the cartoon from the perspective of the linespeople courtside.

Then I thought the view should be from the official herself. Using my cartoon licence I exaggerated the point at where the ball struck her and Djokovic is staring straight through a hole in the head of the lineswoman caused by his errant* shot. He is aghast* as he looks through the void* to make eye contact with the reader of the cartoon. That is the moment of realisation for both the world No.1 tennis player and the reader of the cartoon that this is not a good situation!

Mark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-sized image. media_cameraMark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-sized image.

To bring home the point that if you do something rash* and foolish you must suffer the consequences of your actions, the lineswoman is still able to make the call on the ball as out. Or is she making an even bigger call that Novak Djokovic is ‘out’ of the US Open for reckless behaviour? The answer to that is yes.


  • go rogue: behave in an unpredictable way, especially with dangerous consequences
  • errant: not in the right place
  • aghast: filled with horror or shock
  • void: space with nothing in it
  • rash: done without thinking carefully; reckless


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Ash Barty crowned world No. 1 tennis player


  1. Which tennis player is playing?
  2. Why is there a hole in the person’s head?
  3. Why is the line umpire calling “out”?
  4. At which tournament did this happen?
  5. Who drew this cartoon?


1. What Happens Next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the middle of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the first and last cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
‘To be a great cartoonist, being able to draw is only one of the skills that you need.’

Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job. Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design

Describe It
Look at the cartoon and make a list of 5 nouns that you see. Then describe those 5 nouns with 5 adjectives.

Be specific and add where those nouns using prepositions and another noun.

Now choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Was it right that Djokovic was disqualified?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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