US shocked: Novak’s ball target a ‘victim’
The Kentucky hometown of the line judge involved in the US Tennis Open controversy has vowed to stand by "the victim" after she received death threats in the wake of the incident.
Local sports writer Jim Pickens, who has known Laura Clark for many years, said the people of Owensboro - population 60,000 - were shocked to see footage of "our southern girl" fall to the ground after being struck by a tennis ball hit in anger by Novak Djokovic, who was ejected from the tournament.
"When the TV images and photos started coming out and we realised it was Laura, people were shocked in town," Pickens told News Corp Australia.
"With one little action, she was suddenly in the middle of an international sports controversy. People around here are very proud of her, she is a wonderful lady. It's just a shame that it took a freaky incident like this for the world to get to know her. It was just the perfect storm.
"She is a fine lady and is passionate about the game so I hated to see this happen to her. I hated it for Djokovic too, I don't think he did it deliberately, but rules are rules.
"Laura was the victim in all this, she is not the one who made the decision to eject Djokovic from the tournament.
"There are no winners in what happened".
Pickens said the town felt pride to see one of their own citizens work her way up from the grassroots level of tennis to become an international line judge and umpire.
Clark was born in the tiny Kentucky town of Bremen - population 365 - but has called Owensboro her home for years.
It was reported that Clark's son Josh died in 2008 from a bicycle accident at the age of just 25.
"She is a strong lady, very confident and I'm sure she'll be back in action soon," Pickens said.
"She has impressed people by rising to the heights she has, especially coming from a tiny little place like Bremen. You have to have something special inside you to do that.
"She's a southern girl, a great personality and very friendly."
Pickens said Owensboro had been shocked and saddened to hear about the vile comments made about Clark on social media after the incident, which has led her to close down her accounts.
Many of the comments were attributed to Djokovic fans, who took to social media to tell them to be kind to Clark.
"She's done nothing wrong at all."
Some of the comments included making fun of a tribute to her dead son Josh, one saying: "You'll join your dead son soon."
But Pickens said Owensboro stood ready to support her and welcome her back.
Originally published as US shocked: Novak's ball target a 'victim'