US Open referee Soeren Friemel, who expelled Novak Djokovic from the 2020 edition of the tournament in New York, has reportedly been suspended for 12 months over claims of unethical conduct and abuse of power. The German umpire has been mostly absent from the Grand Slam circuit since the build-up to last year’s Wimbledon, supposedly for personal reasons, but is said to have entered a period of voluntary suspension back in June.
Friemel was the subject of allegations made by a younger male umpire over his behaviour which sparked a five-month investigation by an independent QC, according to The Telegraph.
It is said that a 12-month suspension was initially handed down in December, but the sentence was only rubber-stamped when Friemel lost his appeal against the ban on Monday.
He has been employed as the International Tennis Federation’s head of officiating since 2014 and has been among the most renowned umpires on the Tour for the best part of the last decade.
A spokesperson for the governing body is quoted as saying: “The complaint was that Soeren made inappropriate comments and invitations to an individual.
“The issue was the situation of power imbalance, which led the investigating officer and the panel to find a breach of the code.
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“Soeren remains under suspension and we are reviewing our course of action.”
The report adds that four different instances, all involving the same younger umpire, were brought to the attention of the sport’s decision-makers in May.
The subsequent investigation was said to involve a number of interviews with multiple sources before the verdict was reached in December and then upheld on Monday.
Friemel was found to have broken three clauses of the Joint Certification Programme Code of Conduct, including Article 13, which states that ‘officials shall not engage in unfair, unprofessional, criminal or unethical conduct’.
He was also said to be in breach of Article 14, ruling that ‘officials shall not abuse his/her position of authority or control, and shall not compromise the psychological, physical or emotional wellbeing of other officials, players or tournament personnel’.
The year-long suspension that was handed down to Friemel has reportedly been backdated to June 19, 2021 and will end at midnight on June 18.
He made plenty of headlines back in 2020 when he defaulted Djokovic from the US Open after the Serb inadvertently struck a line judge with a ball during his fourth-round meeting with Pablo Carreno Busta.
Friemel was spotted in deep conversation with the world No 1 in the immediate aftermath of the incident before the decision was made to expel him from the tournament.
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Djokovic went on to voice his frustrations with a post-match statement in which he insisted that he did not mean to cause any harm to the line judge in question.
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” said Djokovic on Instagram.
“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. So unintended. So wrong.
“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 US Open tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me.”