A tour shutdown hasn’t kept Novak Djokovic from espousing his Tom Brady-brained thoughts on health and the coronavirus. This past weekend allowed him to pull off his pandemic coupe-de-grace, at least so far.
Updated on June 23 at 9:10 AM EST: And in a shocker to almost no one, Djokovic announced Tuesday that he, along with his wife, have tested positive for COVID-19 after holding his Adria Tour.
“I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection,” said the No. 1 tennis player in the world in a statement. “I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.
“The moment we arrived in Belgrade we went to be tested. My result is positive, just as [my wife] Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative.
“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region.
“We organized the tournament at the moment when the virus has weakened, believing that the conditions for hosting the Tour had been met. Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with.”
In the absence of the ATP Tour, some players and sites have hosted what are essentially exhibition tournaments. They have adhered to social distancing and other protocols for all players, staff, and fans. Djokovic, being from the planet Zoltron, was of course the first to buck this with his Adria Tour, which started in Belgrade and was supposed to conclude in the Croatian coastal town of Zadar. The final, between Djokovic and Andrey Rublev, was cancelled due to Grigor Dimitrov testing positive for COVID-19 after exiting the tournament, wouldn’t you know it.
The exhibition did not have any of the safety protocols or social distancing seen at similar events, with Djokovic, Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev photographed together either at the event (see above) or partying at a club together or playing basketball together. Fans were not socially distanced for the event, either. Coric announced the day after Dimitrov that he had also tested positive. Zverev announced today that he tested negative.
During the tournament, Djokovic was quick to claim he knew better than his critics.
“I know there has been some criticism as well coming especially maybe from the West of: ‘Why do we have the crowd? We don’t have the social distancing, what is going on, why are they having this kind of event in the midst of a really hard pandemic in the West?’” he said on Eurosport’s Tennis Legends Vodcast.
“But, you know, it’s hard to explain to people that the situation is really, really different maybe in America or the U.K. than it is in Serbia or maybe its surrounding countries.
“And obviously from day one of the organization of the Adria Tour, we’ve been following the rules and the measures that have been regulated by government institutions and health public institutions.
“So we’ve never crossed those lines, we’ve always waited for them to give us a green light whether we can have the crowd, and then we ask them how much we can have or whether there is an obligation for social distancing or not.
“We’ve been through all these processes and the result of it all was amazing.”
In Djokovic’s defense, Serbia is seeing less than 100 new cases per day at the moment, and Croatia even less than that. But obviously, tennis players are coming from all different points, including Dimitrov who flew to the event from the U.S.
If you thought Djokovic ignoring protocols fit in perfectly with his general, wacko attitudes about health and safety, we’re hardly finished. Djokovic refused to be tested after the event, claiming he felt no symptoms, even though we know many carriers are asymptomatic. Given Djokovic’s level of fitness, health, and age, it would stand to reason he would be a good candidate to be asymptomatic as well if he were to contract COVID-19. Neither Dimitrov nor Coric reported feeling symptoms either. It was later reported that Djokovic decided to get tested, a test which turned up positive for the coronavirus.
Restrictions have been eased or lifted in both Croatia and Serbia, which has led to various athletes in various sports seeing a rise in positive tests. Five players on the soccer team Red Star Belgrade tested positive after fans were let back into their matches.
If it seems hypocritical for Djokovic to be so cavalier with the rules at his own event while decrying the U.S. Open being held at all, remember his complaints about attending the event in New York had more to do with the restrictions on the number of staff members he could bring and not having access to Manhattan. Djokovic has also claimed he would not take a vaccine if that were required to continue on the ATP Tour in the near future.
Djokovic and the tournament were rightly roasted by his peers on social media, with Nick Kyrios going in especially hard. As of yet, the U.S. Open is still planning to go ahead without fans, as well as hosting the displaced Western And Southern Open the week before, which usually takes place in Cincinnati. The Open will obviously adhere to stricter guidelines than the event hosted by Djokovic did, but the questions of if any restrictions are enough or worth it will only grow stronger after this.