Novak Djokovic, the highest ranked, has earned much praise in an illustrious career that has produced 17 Grand Slam titles. He has been praised as a champion, a Serbian national treasure, a game ambassador, a philanthropist, and a spiritual seeker.
Djokovic will now also be known as a warning story after the collapse of his Adria Tour after several players, including himself, tested positive for COVID-19. The four-city tour, conceived and promoted by Djokovic, crashed prematurely on Sunday, before the final of the second leg in Zadar, Croatia, after receiving criticism for the apparent lack of coronavirus protocols, including those recommended by most from medical experts during the global pandemic. .
Djokovic released his test results Tuesday in a statement on his website and social media.
“The moment we got to Belgrade we went to do the test,” wrote Djokovic. “My result is positive, just like Jelena’s [Djokovic’s wife], while the results of our children are negative. Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intent. Our tournament was intended to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region. “
– Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) June 23, 2020
Other players who tested positive after two weeks on the Adria Tour include ATP No. 19 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 33 Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki, 34. In addition, Dimitrov’s coach Christian Groh and Djokovic’s physical trainer Marko Paniki tested positive.
The reaction to the barrage of positive tests was rapid.
Nick Kyrgios, the Australian star who has been skeptical of various plans to restart tennis, wrote on Twitter: “Outlandish decision to go ahead with the ‘recovery’ quick-recovery boys, but that’s what happens when you ignore all protocols. . This is not a joke.”
Other components of tennis were equally critical. A former Grand Slam champion coach who asked not to be identified told ESPN: “The big question on my mind is: was Djokovic this ignorance or arrogance?”
It’s a valid question, and maybe it was a bit of both. Djokovic’s responsibility is tempered by the fact that Croatian and Serbian officials, encouraged by the lack of a large coronavirus outbreak in their nations, recently lifted all restrictions on social distancing. That opened the door for Djokovic to organize his tour with little or no protection.
Djokovic, who is also chairman of the ATP players council, has recently come under considerable criticism for his attitudes and actions regarding COVID-19. Noah Rubin, an officer who has become an advocate for lower-ranking players, called Djokovic for playing soccer with other Adria Tour participants while the ATP was conducting a full-body briefing of players including plans to restart the game in the safest way. possible conditions.
Djokovic was accused by some players, including Danielle Collins and Daniel Evans, of selfishness for not becoming a leader when he suggested that he could not play in the US Open, if protocols limit how many members of his entourage he would be allowed to bring.
Djokovic said earlier this year that he opposed vaccines and did not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19, even if it was mandatory for international travel. Always an unconventional thinker, Djokovic once suggested in a live Instagram chat that the psychological power of thinking and positive emotions could clean up contaminated water.
Djokovic’s beliefs in “positivity” could help explain how he could design and launch the Adria Tour without paying attention to the pandemic.
“We organized the tournament at the time the virus weakened, believing that the conditions for organizing the Tour had been met,” Djokovic said in his statement. “Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to confront and live with.”
Djokovic mistakenly believed that he could present tennis in the familiar and relaxed way that had always been organized in times before the coronavirus.
“It was like I wanted to bring tennis back to 2019,” Paul Annacone, a tennis channel analyst and former Roger Federer coach, told ESPN. “This tournament went from A to Z, omitting all the letters in between. When it started, I found myself simultaneously excited and holding my breath.”
“It was obviously not a foolproof plan,” said ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe, who tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced modest symptoms a few weeks ago. “It was a reckless plan.”
Before the start of the grim return in Zadar, Djokovic told Croatian magazine Jutarnji List that the tournament “would send a wonderful, strong and positive message to the entire world.”
You may not have realized at the time that the public was already removing a very different message after watching the opening event the week before in their hometown of Belgrade.
Images of thousands of fans sitting side by side, none in face masks, with ball people and line people deployed in the usual way, before the coronavirus, alarm bells rang. So did the way the players hugged each other, exchanged shocks with those five, and played basketball and soccer games in their spare time. The last straw, for many, was the video of players celebrating and dancing in a busy Belgrade nightclub at the end of the first leg.
“That ended,” said McEnroe. “There they were, partying shirtless and screaming, which is perhaps the worst thing you can do in terms of virus transmission.”
“Oh, it’s beyond arrogance,” said Rubin. “He and the other players were too much in their own bubble to see perhaps the consequences of their actions.”
Rubin also asked why the governments of Serbia and Croatia put “a pedestal” of tennis while in France, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), organized by Serena Williams coach Patrick Mouratoglou, was played without fans amid numerous protocols of security. .
According to Mouratoglou’s team, ranking number 3 Dominic Thiem, who joined UTS after playing in the Adria Tour event in Belgrade, has tested negative three times for the coronavirus since switching to UTS.
“I think about what is happening in Europe,” said Annacone, who lives in California. “Did they even try any of these guys on the Novak tour? How are they supposed to track down what happened to Grigor, Borna, those trainers, all those fans? The process is now so skewed. It’s like a dog chasing its tail “
Tennis officials looked closely at the events in Serbia and Croatia in hopes of hosting a spectator-free United States Open under a comprehensive plan with many New York state-approved security features. Some are concerned that the fate of the Adria Tour will impact if the US Open continues. The largest will take place from August 31 to September 13.
Dr. Alexis Colvin, USTA’s medical director, told ESPN in a statement: “Our medical team continues to monitor the pandemic and will make adjustments to our protocols as appropriate. This incident has not affected our current protocols.”
Djokovic installed his inexperienced 24-year-old younger brother, Djordje Djokovic, as director of the Adria Tour tournament. Young Djokovic seemed to shirk responsibility for the collapse of the tour.
“We are very sorry,” he said, according to the Serbian newspaper Blic. “We tried to respect, and we did, all the measures issued by the Government of the Republic of Serbia, as well as by the Government of the Republic of Croatia. We have done everything necessary on our part. Unfortunately, Grigor is positive.”
Dimitrov said in an Instagram post on Monday that he regretted any damage it may have caused.
“I had a positive result in Monaco for COVID-19,” wrote the Bulgarian star after returning home. “I want to make sure that anyone who has been in contact with me for the past few days is tested and takes the necessary precautions … I am back home now and recovering.”
Coric also visited Twitter on Monday to offer an apology and urge anyone who has had contact with him to be tested.
Andrey Rublev, a finalist in the canceled Zadar match, wrote on Twitter that, although it came back negative, “we all need to help reduce the spread of this virus. So I am going to quarantine the next 14 days. Thank you for your support. “
Ranking number 7 Alexander Zverev, the main draw card after Djokovic on the Adria Tour, wrote: “I just received news that my team and I have tested negative for COVID-19. I apologize to anyone who has potentially put at risk playing this tour. I will follow the self-isolation guidelines recommended by our doctors. “
Although Marin Cilic was unapologetic, she announced on Twitter that she would be quarantined for two weeks.
Until now, Djokovic is the last Adria Tour player to reveal that he tested positive.
“I am very sorry for each individual case of infection,” Djokovic wrote. “I hope it does not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone is well. I will remain in isolation for the next 14 days and repeat the test in five days.”