At a time when sport across the globe is taking baby steps towards return in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, the Adria Tour organised in the Balkan region by World No. 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic has come as a shock.
As many as 4 tennis players, including Djokovic, and a coaching staff tested positive for Covid-19 after featuring in the exhibition tennis tournament, aimed at helping raise funds for charity. The final of the Croatian leg, scheduled for Sunday was cancelled. So was the final leg in Bosnia.
It was revealed Grigor Dimitrov felt uncomfortable during his defeat to Borna Coric during the second leg of the Adria Tour in Zadar, Croatia. He was tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday after which it emerged Coric also contracted the novel coronavirus.
Victor Troicki, who participated in the tournament, also tested positive and Djokovic on Tuesday revealed he too, along with his wife Jelena, contracted the virus.
As Djokovic claims, there might have been ‘pure heart and since intentions’ when it came to organising the tournament but the consequences are proving to be detrimental to the sporting community.
There were packed stands in Belgrade during the opening leg of the Adria Tour. Players were seen hugging and fist-pumping even social distancing guidelines have become a norm across the country. There was kids’ day as part of the tournament. Players played basketball.
One of the most disturbing visuals from the tour was Djokovic and his mates partying at a night club in Belgrade as if it were pre Covid-19 times.
The visuals and the aftereffects have caused a lot of anger in the tennis fraternity with the likes of Andy Murray and NIck Kyrgios slamming the organisers.
“Obviously it’s not surprising how many players have tested positive when you see the scenes and the images and the videos from the tournament and the players party with no social distancing in place,” Murray said at the ‘Battle of Brits’ tournament,” Murray said.
Prayers up to all the players that have contracted Covid – 19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake. https://t.co/lVligELgID
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) June 23, 2020
Djokovic may have apologised but it’s come after the damage has been done.
As the head of ATP Players’ Council and one of the senior members of the tennis community, it was not right on Djokokvic’s part to invite his mates, mostly young ones, to the tournament amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought normal lives to a grinding halt across the globe.
Djokovic addressed the criticism that came the Adria Tour’s way even when it was in its initial legs, saying the situation in the West is completely different from the situation in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia.
“I know there have been some criticisms as well especially coming from the West: ‘why do we have a crowd? Why not have social distancing?” Djokovic had said.
“But it’s hard to explain to people that the situation is really, really different maybe in America or the UK than it is in Serbia or surrounding countries, and obviously from the day one of the organisation of the Adria Tour, [we have been] following the rules and the measures that have been regulated by the government institution and the public health institution.”
Djokovic’s tone changed even as he was quite late to respond to the positive tests of his fellow players.
“We believed the tournament met all health protocols and the health of our region seemed in good condition to finally unite people for philanthropic reasons. We were wrong and it was too soon,” Djokovic said as he apologised on Tuesday.
Djokovic had said his participation in the US Open was doubtful, citing ‘extreme’ coronavirus protocols before taking a U-turn on his stance. Djokovic had argued that the US Open organisers were looking at commercial reasons but wondered how many would be willing to travel to the US.
Djokovic did not seem to understand the gravity of the situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe.
ATP and WTA had suspended their tours in March and professional tennis is yet to return. Organisers of the US Open and the French Open have added pressure now, given the aftermath of the Djokovic-organised exhibition tourney.
It was certainly an ‘irresponsible’ and ‘bone-headed’ act from Djokovic. This is not the first time during the pandemic Djokovic has used his influence wrongly. In Instagram sessions, Djokovic was promoting a snake oil seller and made some baffling pseudoscientific statements.
He may return stronger on the court, win more Grand Slams and dominate the circuit. However, the mismanaged Adria Tour will certainly have an impact on the Serb’s legacy.