Tennis fiasco: Every week to neglect for Novak Djokovic

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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.

In contrast to 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, enjoying basketball and dancing collectively.

“He hasn’t had a very good lockdown,” British sports activities advertising professional Tim Crow put it bluntly in a telephone 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 by way of 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 event director.

Talking at a launch press convention on Could 27, Djokovic stated he was “extraordinarily glad” to announce the sequence, organized by him and his household. He careworn “completely all earnings” from it will be going to humanitarian organizations, earlier than proudly asserting that each one the gamers could be enjoying without cost.

He additionally stated the tour would “observe to and cling to” the native laws and guidelines.

Belgrade social gathering

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 crammed the stadium near the Danube river to capability, with few followers sporting masks. The gamers, good mates, hugged after Djokovic received in straight units.

In addition 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 not too long ago lifted many lockdown measures. However the Serbian authorities was nonetheless asking individuals to stay one meter aside. The dearth of social distancing left many shocked.

“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 ready to do that?”

The seemingly carefree nature of the occasion, which got here a number of days after a 20,000-strong crowd attended a soccer match in Belgrade, additionally stunned Crow, a former chief government 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, ‘Grasp 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, needed 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 carried out in his Final Tennis Showdown sequence.

“I needed to ensure to do it in a method the place nobody is in danger,” Mouratoglou informed CNN Sport in a telephone 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 gang.

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 instances, together with 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 instances, together with 107 deaths.

“You too can criticize us and say that is perhaps harmful nevertheless it’s lower than me to make calls about what is true and incorrect 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 following 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 all the sequence, whereas many 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 unfavorable 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 achieved 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 told Serbian newspaper Blic that though the world No. 1 is optimistic it “doesn’t suggest he’s in poor health.”

“He’s a younger man and may bear it simpler,” she stated. ‘I additionally suppose this virus is near the top so this appears similar to a second wave of Corona, which isn’t as robust as to start with.”

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

Condemnation

The condemnation was fast, with Australian participant Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded resolution” to go forward with the occasion. Britain’s Andy Murray stated that after seeing a few of the photos of the post-event social gathering in Belgrade and of youngsters’ 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 event had brought about hurt.” Stressing that everything had been done with good intentions, he said he had believed the tournament met all the protocols but that “we were wrong and it was too soon.”

The blame recreation was shortly in full move, 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 little thing occurred. Apparently he did not check right here however some other place and I do not suppose that that is proper,” the world No. 1’s father informed 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 lads’s ATP Tour, angered some gamers by suggesting he could not participate within the US Open in New York on the finish of August as a result of organizers stated they needed to restrict participant entourages to only one further particular person.

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

“He is all the time 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, does not suppose the collapse of the Adria Tour has broken Djokovic’s private model.

“It isn’t preferrred however I believe it is only a blip,” stated Crow. “He did it with the very best intentions and he realizes he has screwed up. And everybody screws up, each occasionally.”

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

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

If it hadn’t been for the virus, he could have been effectively on his method 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 together with his household.





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