Tennis fiasco: Per week to overlook for Novak Djokovic

Tennis fiasco: Per week to overlook for Novak Djokovic

As a substitute, the top-ranked Serb is concerned in a injury limitation train after his exhibition tour within the Balkans, meant to be an uplifting second through the sport’s hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, was cancelled when Djokovic, his spouse Jelena, three different gamers, three coaches and one participant’s pregnant spouse examined optimistic for the virus.

Not like different exhibition occasions through the pandemic, there was restricted social distancing on the Adria Tour, which was performed to crowded stadiums, with gamers hugging and high-fiving one another, taking part in basketball and dancing collectively.

“He hasn’t had an excellent lockdown,” British sports activities advertising professional Tim Crow put it bluntly in a cellphone interview with CNN Sport.

When Djokovic introduced in Could he would host the Adria Tour, it appeared like tennis was slowly rising from the shutdown, which had led to the primary cancellation of Wimbledon since World Battle II.

The Adria Tour, which was scheduled to be performed in 4 cities from June 13 via July 5, had attracted three-time grand slam finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, world No. 7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and three-time main semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, amongst others. Djokovic’s 24-year-old brother, Djordje, was named match director.

Talking at a launch press convention on Could 27, Djokovic stated he was “extraordinarily joyful” to announce the collection, organized by him and his household. He pressured “completely all earnings” from it might be going to humanitarian organizations, earlier than proudly asserting that each one the gamers could be taking part in at no cost.

He additionally stated the tour would “comply with to and cling to” the native rules and guidelines.

Belgrade occasion

When Djokovic performed his first match in opposition to fellow Serb Viktor Troicki on the afternoon of Saturday June 13 in Belgrade, some 4,000 spectators had stuffed the stadium near the Danube river to capability, with few followers sporting masks. The gamers, good buddies, hugged after Djokovic received in straight units.

Additionally they shook palms with the umpire, whereas ball children handed them their towels. They took selfies with followers afterwards, and signed autographs.

Serbia and Croatia, neither of which skilled main virus outbreaks, had lately lifted many lockdown measures. However the Serbian authorities was nonetheless asking individuals to stay one meter aside. The shortage of social distancing left many surprised.

“It’s as if Coronavirus has handed?” wrote former British No. 1 Greg Rusedski on Twitter two days later. “How was this managed and why no concern for public social distancing and face masks. I do know the figures in Serbia however why are they in a position to do that?”

The seemingly carefree nature of the occasion, which got here just a few days after a 20,000-strong crowd attended a soccer match in Belgrade, additionally shocked Crow, a former chief govt of London-based sports activities advertising company Synergy.

“It was a screw-up,” he stated. “As quickly as you turned the TV on, you suppose, ‘Dangle on a second, what is going on on right here?’ And sadly, everyone knows what occurred.”

Additionally throughout that weekend, gamers together with Djokovic, Thiem, Zverev and Dimitrov have been filmed dancing in a packed Belgrade nightclub.

Behind closed doorways

The restricted social distancing on the Adria Tour was in sharp distinction to different exhibition occasions through the pandemic within the US, Germany, Britain and France, which have been all held behind closed doorways.

When Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ long-time coach, wished to host an occasion at his academy within the south of France through the lockdown, he reached out to the federal government. It despatched him a protracted checklist of protocols, which he has applied in his Final Tennis Showdown collection.

“I wished to verify to do it in a manner the place nobody is in danger,” Mouratoglou instructed CNN Sport in a cellphone interview on Friday.

These embody all gamers being examined the day earlier than every weekend’s matches, no followers, no handshakes or ball-sharing between gamers, ball children sporting gloves and masks and ample distance between each seat within the gamers’ field.

Talking on the ceremonial opening of the Adria Tour the day earlier than his match in opposition to Troicki, Djokovic defended the restricted social distancing of the group.

He emphasised Serbia had “higher numbers” in contrast with different international locations. In line with the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Useful resource Middle, Serbia has had 13,372 confirmed circumstances, together with 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 circumstances, together with 107 deaths.

“You too can criticize us and say that is possibly harmful nevertheless it’s less than me to make calls about what is correct and improper for well being,” Djokovic added. “We’re doing what the Serbian authorities is telling us.”

Spectators watching matches at the Adria Tour in Zahar, Croatia on Sunday June 21, 2020. Later that day, tennis player Grigor Dimitrov said he had tested positive for Covid-19, leading to the cancellation of the entire Adria Tour.

Dimitrov’s bombshell

The subsequent leg of the Adria Tour on June 20-21 as soon as once more attracted 1000’s of spectators, together with Croatia Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who briefly met Djokovic. As a result of Croatia had eased its lockdown measures earlier than the occasion, gamers and followers did not have to stay to social distancing guidelines.

Then got here the bombshell announcement by Dimitrov on Sunday June 21 that he had examined optimistic for coronavirus.

The organizers swiftly canceled your entire collection, whereas a lot of the different gamers have been examined the identical night time. Then, on Monday, Croatia’s Borna Coric confirmed he too had examined optimistic, whereas Zverev, former US Open winner Marin Cilic of Croatia and Russia’s Andrey Rublev all examined destructive however promised to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution.

Spectators watch a tennis match during an exhibition tournament in Zadar, Croatia, Sunday, June 21, 2020.

Troicki revealed he had examined optimistic quickly after after which, on Tuesday, Djokovic confirmed that he, too, and his spouse, Jelena, had finished the identical. Troicki’s pregnant spouse, Djokovic’s health coach and Dimitrov’s coach have been additionally optimistic. Then on Friday, Djokovic’s co-coach, Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, revealed he additionally examined optimistic.

Djokovic’s mom Dijana instructed Serbian newspaper Blic that though the world No. 1 is optimistic it “does not imply he’s in poor health.”

“He’s a younger man and might bear it simpler,” she stated. ‘I additionally suppose this virus is near the tip so this appears identical to a second wave of Corona, which isn’t as sturdy as at first.”

“It’s horrible, too horrible, what they write (worldwide media), however we’re used to it. It’s like they could not look ahead to it (unhealthy information) to occur. It’s apparent that they’ve one thing in opposition to Novak.”


The condemnation was fast, with Australian participant Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded choice” to go forward with the occasion. Britain’s Andy Murray stated that after seeing a few of the photos of the post-event occasion in Belgrade and of children’ day it was “not stunning how many individuals had examined optimistic.”

Djokovic, who went from Zadar to Belgrade earlier than being examined, stated he was “deeply sorry our match had brought about hurt.” Stressing that every part had been finished with good intentions, he stated he had believed the match met all of the protocols however that “we have been improper and it was too quickly.”

The blame sport was shortly in full circulate, with Djokovic’s father Srdjan pointing the finger at Dimitrov.

“Why did this occur? It’s as a result of the person (Dimitrov) has in all probability arrived in poor health from who is aware of the place after which every part occurred. Apparently he did not check right here however someplace else and I do not suppose that that is proper,” the world No. 1’s father instructed RTL Croatia.

“He brought about main hurt to you in Croatia, to us as a household and to us as Serbia,” Djokovic’s father added, persevering with to level the finger at Dimitrov.

Dimitrov’s agent did not instantly reply to CNN Sport’s request for remark, however he was broadly quoted as telling different media that “Grigor landed straight in Belgrade after three months of full isolation. Neither in Belgrade (the primary cease) nor later in Zadar was he provided or required to check for coronavirus.”

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic (L) talks to his wife Jelena during a match at the Adria Tour, Novak Djokovic's Balkans charity tennis tournament in Belgrade on June 14, 2020.

Reputational fallout?

This hasn’t been Djokovic’s solely brush with controversy through the pandemic.

Shortly earlier than the beginning of the Adria Tour, Djokovic, who can be president of the participant council of the boys’s ATP Tour, angered some gamers by suggesting he might not participate within the US Open in New York on the finish of August as a result of organizers stated they wished to restrict participant entourages to only one further individual.

In April, he raised eyebrows for saying he was in opposition to the thought of getting to be vaccinated for Covid-19 as a potential prerequisite to play on Tour once more. And in Could, he urged throughout an Instagram Reside that polluted water could possibly be cleaned with positivity.

“He is at all times been an unconventional thinker,” stated Crow. “That is a part of his make-up.”

However Crow, who has labored with a few of the world’s largest corporations, would not suppose the collapse of the Adria Tour has broken Djokovic’s private model.

“It is not preferrred however I believe it is only a blip,” stated Crow. “He did it with one of the best intentions and he realizes he has screwed up. And everybody screws up, each every so often.”

Djokovic’s consultant hadn’t responded to CNN’s request for remark on the time of publication.

Djokovic made $33 million up to now 12 months from company offers with seven sponsors, together with racket producer Head and French automobile maker Peugeot, in response to Forbes.

If it hadn’t been for the virus, he might have been effectively on his technique to tying and even surpassing each Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as essentially the most profitable male participant of all time.

When the game shut down in March, Djokovic had received 5 of the final seven majors, taking his whole tally to 17. That is simply two shy of Nadal and three of Federer, who’s out all season with a knee damage.

However as an alternative of chasing his sixth Wimbledon title within the coming fortnight, Djokovic will spend most of it self-isolating along with his household.

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