Novak Djokovic: A week to forget for world No. 1 after exhibition tennis fiasco

Novak Djokovic: A week to ignore for world No. 1 soon after exhibition tennis fiasco

Instead, the leading-ranked Serb is included in a problems limitation training just after his exhibition tour in the Balkans, meant to be an uplifting minute all through the sport’s hiatus since of the coronavirus pandemic, was cancelled when Djokovic, his spouse Jelena, a few other players, a few coaches and one player’s pregnant spouse analyzed beneficial for the virus.

In contrast to other exhibition occasions throughout the pandemic, there was restricted social distancing on the Adria Tour, which was performed to crowded stadiums, with gamers hugging and significant-fiving every other, actively playing basketball and dancing collectively.

“He hasn’t had a good lockdown,” British athletics marketing qualified Tim Crow set it bluntly in a cellular phone interview with CNN Sport.

When Djokovic introduced in Might he would host the Adria Tour, it seemed like tennis was little by little emerging from the shutdown, which had led to the initial cancellation of Wimbledon given that Entire world War II.

The Adria Tour, which was scheduled to be performed in four towns from June 13 as a result of July 5, had attracted a few-time grand slam finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, planet No. 7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and a few-time main semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, between many others. Djokovic’s 24-yr-outdated brother, Djordje, was named event director.

Talking at a start press meeting on Might 27, Djokovic mentioned he was “very happy” to announce the collection, structured by him and his household. He pressured “unquestionably all earnings” from it would be likely to humanitarian companies, in advance of proudly asserting that all the players would be taking part in for free of charge.

He also claimed the tour would “stick to to and adhere to” the community polices and regulations.

Browse: Djokovic exams positive for coronavirus

Belgrade bash

When Djokovic performed his 1st match in opposition to fellow Serb Viktor Troicki on the afternoon of Saturday June 13 in Belgrade, some 4,000 spectators experienced crammed the stadium shut to the Danube river to ability, with couple admirers donning masks. The players, great good friends, hugged following Djokovic won in straight sets.

They also shook arms with the umpire, although ball youngsters handed them their towels. They took selfies with fans later on, and signed autographs.

Serbia and Croatia, neither of which experienced big virus outbreaks, had not long ago lifted many lockdown steps. But the Serbian government was still asking men and women to continue to be a single meter apart. The lack of social distancing remaining several shocked.

“It is as if Coronavirus has handed?” wrote previous British No. 1 Greg Rusedski on Twitter two days later on. “How was this managed and why no issue for public social distancing and face masks. I know the figures in Serbia but why are they equipped to do this?”

The seemingly carefree mother nature of the occasion, which arrived a couple of times right after a 20,000-sturdy group attended a soccer match in Belgrade, also astonished Crow, a former chief government of London-based sports marketing agency Synergy.

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“It was a screw-up,” he reported. “As before long as you turned the Television on, you feel, ‘Hang on a 2nd, what is likely on here?’ And sadly, we all know what transpired.”

Also during that weekend, players which includes Djokovic, Thiem, Zverev and Dimitrov ended up filmed dancing in a packed Belgrade nightclub.

Behind closed doorways

The limited social distancing at the Adria Tour was in sharp distinction to other exhibition activities for the duration of the pandemic in the US, Germany, Britain and France, which have been all held powering closed doors.

When Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ very long-time coach, preferred to host an event at his academy in the south of France through the lockdown, he reached out to the authorities. It despatched him a very long list of protocols, which he has executed in his Supreme Tennis Showdown collection.

“I desired to make sure to do it in a way in which no a person is at hazard,” Mouratoglou explained to CNN Activity in a cell phone interview on Friday.

These incorporate all players becoming tested the day prior to each weekend’s matches, no followers, no handshakes or ball-sharing involving players, ball little ones sporting gloves and masks and sufficient length among each seat in the players’ box.

Talking at the ceremonial opening of the Adria Tour the working day before his match from Troicki, Djokovic defended the restricted social distancing of the group.

He emphasized Serbia had “improved quantities” compared with other nations. In accordance to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Useful resource Center, Serbia has had 13,372 confirmed instances, like 264 fatalities. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 instances, which includes 107 deaths.

“You can also criticize us and say this is probably risky but it truly is not up to me to make phone calls about what is right and improper for health and fitness,” Djokovic included. “We are accomplishing what the Serbian govt 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 future leg of the Adria Tour on June 20-21 the moment all over again attracted 1000’s of spectators, which includes Croatia Primary Minister Andrej Plenković, who briefly satisfied Djokovic. Because Croatia had eased its lockdown measures ahead of the occasion, players and supporters failed to have to stick to social distancing procedures.

Then came the bombshell announcement by Dimitrov on Sunday June 21 that he had analyzed optimistic for coronavirus.

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The organizers swiftly canceled the overall series, although most of the other gamers ended up analyzed the same evening. Then, on Monday, Croatia’s Borna Coric confirmed he also experienced examined favourable, though Zverev, former US Open up winner Marin Cilic of Croatia and Russia’s Andrey Rublev all tested adverse but promised to self-isolate for 14 times as a precaution.

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

Troicki uncovered he experienced analyzed constructive shortly just after and then, on Tuesday, Djokovic confirmed that he, much too, and his spouse, Jelena, experienced performed the identical. Troicki’s pregnant wife, Djokovic’s exercise mentor and Dimitrov’s mentor had been also constructive. Then on Friday, Djokovic’s co-coach, Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, disclosed he also examined optimistic.

Djokovic’s mother Dijana instructed Serbian newspaper Blic that despite the fact that the environment No. 1 is favourable it “does not imply he is sick.”

“He is a younger person and can bear it simpler,” she mentioned. ‘I also consider this virus is near to the stop so this would seem just like a second wave of Corona, which is not as sturdy as in the beginning.”

“It is horrible, far too horrible, what they publish (international media), but we are utilised to it. It is like they could not wait around for it (poor news) to transpire. It is apparent that they have a little something versus Novak.”

Examine: Tennis function arranged by Djokovic below fireplace


The condemnation was speedy, with Australian player Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded final decision” to go forward with the event. Britain’s Andy Murray explained that right after viewing some of the photos of the submit-occasion bash in Belgrade and of kids’ day it was “not shocking how several persons had tested constructive.”

Djokovic, who went from Zadar to Belgrade before currently being examined, reported he was “deeply sorry our event experienced triggered harm.” Stressing that all the things experienced been performed with very good intentions, he mentioned he experienced thought the match satisfied all the protocols but that “we have been completely wrong and it was way too soon.”

The blame game was speedily in entire flow, with Djokovic’s father Srdjan pointing the finger at Dimitrov.

“Why did this materialize? It is mainly because the gentleman (Dimitrov) has in all probability arrived unwell from who is familiar with in which and then anything occurred. Seemingly he failed to examination listed here but somewhere else and I never consider that which is proper,” the globe No. 1’s father advised RTL Croatia.

“He brought on important harm to you in Croatia, to us as a relatives and to us as Serbia,” Djokovic’s father added, continuing to place the finger at Dimitrov.

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Dimitrov’s agent failed to immediately answer to CNN Sport’s request for comment, but he was extensively quoted as telling other media that “Grigor landed right in Belgrade after a few months of full isolation. Neither in Belgrade (the first end) nor later in Zadar was he provided or needed to exam 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 has not been Djokovic’s only brush with controversy through the pandemic.

Soon in advance of the start off of the Adria Tour, Djokovic, who is also president of the player council of the men’s ATP Tour, angered some players by suggesting he may possibly not just take aspect in the US Open up in New York at the close of August for the reason that organizers said they required to restrict participant entourages to just a person additional person.

In April, he lifted eyebrows for declaring he was against the idea of getting to be vaccinated for Covid-19 as a feasible prerequisite to participate in on Tour once more. And in May well, he recommended for the duration of an Instagram Live that polluted h2o could be cleaned with positivity.

“He’s normally been an unconventional thinker,” claimed Crow. “That’s component of his make-up.”

But Crow, who has labored with some of the world’s most significant businesses, does not believe the collapse of the Adria Tour has destroyed Djokovic’s own brand.

“It is not suitable but I believe it truly is just a blip,” explained Crow. “He did it with the ideal intentions and he realizes he has screwed up. And all people screws up, each and every the moment in a while.”

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

Djokovic manufactured $33 million in the previous 12 months from corporate offers with 7 sponsors, together with racket company Head and French car or truck maker Peugeot, according to Forbes.

If it hadn’t been for the virus, he could have been effectively on his way to tying or even surpassing both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the most thriving male player of all time.

When the sport shut down in March, Djokovic had received 5 of the last seven majors, using his complete tally to 17. That’s just two shy of Nadal and 3 of Federer, who is out all season with a knee damage.

But alternatively of chasing his sixth Wimbledon title in the coming fortnight, Djokovic will devote most of it self-isolating with his spouse and children.

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