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

Novak Djokovic: A week to neglect for globe No. 1 following exhibition tennis fiasco

As an alternative, the best-ranked Serb is included in a problems limitation exercising soon after his exhibition tour in the Balkans, intended to be an uplifting instant all through the sport’s hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, was cancelled when Djokovic, his spouse Jelena, three other gamers, a few coaches and a person player’s expecting spouse analyzed beneficial for the virus.

Compared with other exhibition occasions during the pandemic, there was constrained social distancing on the Adria Tour, which was performed to crowded stadiums, with players hugging and higher-fiving each and every other, enjoying basketball and dancing collectively.

“He hasn’t experienced a very good lockdown,” British sports marketing and advertising professional Tim Crow set it bluntly in a phone interview with CNN Activity.

When Djokovic introduced in May well he would host the Adria Tour, it seemed like tennis was bit by bit emerging from the shutdown, which experienced led to the initial cancellation of Wimbledon considering the fact that Planet War II.

The Adria Tour, which was scheduled to be played in four cities from June 13 by July 5, had attracted a few-time grand slam finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, earth No. 7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and a few-time main semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, among the many others. Djokovic’s 24-calendar year-previous brother, Djordje, was named tournament director.

Talking at a launch push meeting on May perhaps 27, Djokovic reported he was “exceptionally content” to announce the collection, arranged by him and his household. He pressured “absolutely all profits” from it would be heading to humanitarian businesses, prior to proudly asserting that all the players would be taking part in for free of charge.

He also explained the tour would “comply with to and adhere to” the regional rules and principles.

Browse: Djokovic exams constructive for coronavirus

Belgrade social gathering

When Djokovic played his very first 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 close to the Danube river to potential, with few followers putting on masks. The players, good mates, hugged soon after Djokovic gained in straight sets.

They also shook fingers with the umpire, when ball little ones handed them their towels. They took selfies with enthusiasts later on, and signed autographs.

Serbia and Croatia, neither of which expert major virus outbreaks, experienced lately lifted many lockdown measures. But the Serbian federal government was nevertheless asking individuals to continue being a person meter aside. The deficiency of social distancing left a lot of surprised.

“It is as if Coronavirus has passed?” wrote former British No. 1 Greg Rusedski on Twitter two times later. “How was this managed and why no problem for community social distancing and deal with masks. I know the figures in Serbia but why are they equipped to do this?”

The seemingly carefree character of the occasion, which came a several days just after a 20,000-robust crowd attended a soccer match in Belgrade, also surprised Crow, a previous chief government of London-centered sports activities advertising agency Synergy.

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“It was a screw-up,” he stated. “As shortly as you turned the Television set on, you believe, ‘Hang on a 2nd, what’s likely on in this article?’ And regrettably, we all know what transpired.”

Also through that weekend, gamers including Djokovic, Thiem, Zverev and Dimitrov had been filmed dancing in a packed Belgrade nightclub.

Guiding closed doors

The confined social distancing at the Adria Tour was in sharp contrast to other exhibition occasions all through the pandemic in the US, Germany, Britain and France, which were being all held guiding closed doorways.

When Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ long-time mentor, desired to host an celebration at his academy in the south of France all through the lockdown, he achieved out to the governing administration. It despatched him a prolonged list of protocols, which he has implemented in his Top Tennis Showdown sequence.

“I needed to make confident to do it in a way wherever no a person is at hazard,” Mouratoglou instructed CNN Activity in a mobile phone job interview on Friday.

These involve all players getting examined the working day ahead of each and every weekend’s matches, no followers, no handshakes or ball-sharing amongst players, ball little ones sporting gloves and masks and enough length concerning each and every seat in the players’ box.

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

He emphasized Serbia experienced “improved figures” when compared with other nations. In accordance to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Source Middle, Serbia has experienced 13,372 verified situations, like 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 circumstances, which includes 107 fatalities.

“You can also criticize us and say this is possibly unsafe but it really is not up to me to make calls about what is proper and incorrect for health,” Djokovic extra. “We are carrying out what the Serbian federal government 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 upcoming leg of the Adria Tour on June 20-21 once once more captivated hundreds of spectators, which includes Croatia Key Minister Andrej Plenković, who briefly met Djokovic. Because Croatia had eased its lockdown steps before the party, players and fans did not have to stick to social distancing guidelines.

Then arrived the bombshell announcement by Dimitrov on Sunday June 21 that he experienced analyzed beneficial for coronavirus.

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The organizers quickly canceled the overall sequence, although most of the other gamers had been examined the exact evening. Then, on Monday, Croatia’s Borna Coric verified he as well experienced analyzed favourable, even though Zverev, former US Open winner Marin Cilic of Croatia and Russia’s Andrey Rublev all tested negative but 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 uncovered he had analyzed positive quickly following and then, on Tuesday, Djokovic verified that he, much too, and his wife, Jelena, had carried out the identical. Troicki’s pregnant spouse, Djokovic’s exercise coach and Dimitrov’s coach were being also good. Then on Friday, Djokovic’s co-mentor, Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, discovered he also examined optimistic.

Djokovic’s mom Dijana explained to Serbian newspaper Blic that while the planet No. 1 is positive it “would not suggest he is sick.”

“He is a youthful guy and can bear it less complicated,” she mentioned. ‘I also believe this virus is close to the finish so this seems just like a next wave of Corona, which is not as strong as in the starting.”

“It is terrible, as well terrible, what they generate (worldwide media), but we are utilized to it. It is like they could not hold out for it (negative news) to transpire. It is noticeable that they have anything in opposition to Novak.”

Study: Tennis party structured by Djokovic under hearth

Condemnation

The condemnation was speedy, with Australian participant Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded final decision” to go ahead with the event. Britain’s Andy Murray stated that soon after looking at some of the photos of the put up-event occasion in Belgrade and of kids’ working day it was “not astonishing how quite a few individuals had examined beneficial.”

Djokovic, who went from Zadar to Belgrade ahead of being analyzed, explained he was “deeply sorry our match had triggered harm.” Stressing that every little thing had been performed with excellent intentions, he mentioned he experienced thought the match achieved all the protocols but that “we ended up improper and it was far too soon.”

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

“Why did this take place? It is mainly because the male (Dimitrov) has in all probability arrived sick from who knows wherever and then everything happened. Seemingly he failed to test in this article but someplace else and I don’t feel that that is proper,” the earth No. 1’s father instructed RTL Croatia.

“He brought on key hurt to you in Croatia, to us as a household and to us as Serbia,” Djokovic’s father additional, continuing to position the finger at Dimitrov.

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Dimitrov’s agent failed to straight away answer to CNN Sport’s ask for for remark, but he was extensively quoted as telling other media that “Grigor landed right in Belgrade soon after 3 months of finish isolation. Neither in Belgrade (the initially quit) nor afterwards in Zadar was he supplied or necessary to take a look at 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 only brush with controversy in the course of the pandemic.

Shortly prior to the start out of the Adria Tour, Djokovic, who is also president of the participant council of the men’s ATP Tour, angered some players by suggesting he may well not take aspect in the US Open in New York at the end of August simply because organizers said they required to restrict player entourages to just just one added man or woman.

In April, he elevated eyebrows for saying he was versus the plan of having to be vaccinated for Covid-19 as a probable prerequisite to play on Tour all over again. And in May perhaps, he advised throughout an Instagram Are living that polluted h2o could be cleaned with positivity.

“He is often been an unconventional thinker,” reported Crow. “That is element of his makeup.”

But Crow, who has worked with some of the world’s greatest businesses, would not think the collapse of the Adria Tour has destroyed Djokovic’s personalized manufacturer.

“It really is not ideal but I imagine it really is just a blip,” reported Crow. “He did it with the finest intentions and he realizes he has screwed up. And anyone screws up, each and every at the time in a even though.”

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

Djokovic designed $33 million in the previous 12 months from corporate deals with 7 sponsors, such as racket producer Head and French car maker Peugeot, according to Forbes.

If it hadn’t been for the virus, he may perhaps have been nicely on his way to tying or even surpassing equally Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the most prosperous male player of all time.

When the activity shut down in March, Djokovic had gained five of the last seven majors, having his overall tally to 17. Which is just two shy of Nadal and a few of Federer, who is out all time with a knee harm.

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

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