Novak Djokovic: A 7 days to neglect for environment No. 1 following exhibition tennis fiasco

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

Instead, the major-rated Serb is involved in a harm limitation exercising soon after his exhibition tour in the Balkans, meant to be an uplifting moment during the sport’s hiatus for the reason that of the coronavirus pandemic, was cancelled when Djokovic, his wife Jelena, a few other players, three coaches and 1 player’s pregnant wife analyzed beneficial for the virus.

As opposed to other exhibition activities for the duration of the pandemic, there was limited social distancing on the Adria Tour, which was performed to crowded stadiums, with gamers hugging and higher-fiving each individual other, playing basketball and dancing collectively.

“He has not experienced a good lockdown,” British sports activities advertising specialist Tim Crow put it bluntly in a cellular phone job interview with CNN Activity.

When Djokovic declared in May he would host the Adria Tour, it appeared like tennis was slowly rising from the shutdown, which experienced led to the initially cancellation of Wimbledon since Entire world War II.

The Adria Tour, which was scheduled to be played in 4 cities from June 13 as a result of July 5, had attracted three-time grand slam finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, world No. 7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and a few-time important semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, amongst others. Djokovic’s 24-12 months-outdated brother, Djordje, was named tournament director.

Speaking at a start press conference on May well 27, Djokovic said he was “really satisfied” to announce the collection, organized by him and his household. He pressured “completely all revenue” from it would be heading to humanitarian corporations, in advance of proudly asserting that all the gamers would be actively playing for cost-free.

He also claimed the tour would “abide by to and adhere to” the community regulations and principles.

Belgrade get together

When Djokovic played his to start with match versus fellow Serb Viktor Troicki on the afternoon of Saturday June 13 in Belgrade, some 4,000 spectators experienced filled the stadium near to the Danube river to capability, with several fans wearing masks. The players, very good pals, hugged after Djokovic gained in straight sets.

They also shook arms with the umpire, while ball youngsters handed them their towels. They took selfies with followers afterwards, and signed autographs.

Serbia and Croatia, neither of which experienced big virus outbreaks, had not long ago lifted many lockdown actions. But the Serbian government was nonetheless asking folks to keep on being 1 meter apart. The absence of social distancing still left quite a few shocked.

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

The seemingly carefree mother nature of the party, which came a number of times right after a 20,000-powerful group attended a soccer match in Belgrade, also stunned Crow, a previous chief govt of London-based mostly sports marketing agency Synergy.

“It was a screw-up,” he mentioned. “As shortly as you turned the Television set on, you believe, ‘Hang on a next, what is actually going on in this article?’ And however, we all know what took place.”

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

Powering closed doors

The limited 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 all held at the rear of closed doors.

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When Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ prolonged-time mentor, preferred to host an event at his academy in the south of France all through the lockdown, he achieved out to the authorities. It sent him a extensive checklist of protocols, which he has applied in his Supreme Tennis Showdown sequence.

“I wished to make certain to do it in a way where by no a single is at risk,” Mouratoglou informed CNN Sport in a mobile phone interview on Friday.

These involve all players being tested the working day before each weekend’s matches, no enthusiasts, no handshakes or ball-sharing involving players, ball children putting on gloves and masks and enough distance concerning every seat in the players’ box.

Speaking at the ceremonial opening of the Adria Tour the day right before his match from Troicki, Djokovic defended the constrained social distancing of the group.

He emphasized Serbia had “greater figures” when compared with other countries. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Source Centre, Serbia has had 13,372 verified circumstances, such as 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 conditions, which includes 107 fatalities.

“You can also criticize us and say this is possibly unsafe but it is not up to me to make phone calls about what is appropriate and mistaken for well being,” Djokovic extra. “We are undertaking 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 upcoming leg of the Adria Tour on June 20-21 at the time once more attracted countless numbers of spectators, together with Croatia Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who briefly met Djokovic. Due to the fact Croatia experienced eased its lockdown actions right before the celebration, players and admirers did not have to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

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

The organizers quickly canceled the entire collection, though most of the other players ended up tested the exact same night. Then, on Monday, Croatia’s Borna Coric verified he far too had analyzed positive, even though Zverev, previous US Open up winner Marin Cilic of Croatia and Russia’s Andrey Rublev all analyzed 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 disclosed he experienced tested constructive before long immediately after and then, on Tuesday, Djokovic verified that he, too, and his wife, Jelena, experienced done the identical. Troicki’s expecting wife, Djokovic’s health mentor and Dimitrov’s mentor have been also optimistic. Then on Friday, Djokovic’s co-mentor, Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, discovered he also analyzed favourable.

Djokovic’s mom Dijana instructed Serbian newspaper Blic that whilst the earth No. 1 is favourable it “would not mean he is ill.”

“He is a young man and can bear it simpler,” she said. ‘I also think this virus is shut to the end so this appears just like a 2nd wave of Corona, which is not as solid as in the beginning.”

“It is terrible, also terrible, what they publish (global media), but we are used to it. It is like they could not wait for it (negative information) to come about. It is noticeable that they have a little something against Novak.”


The condemnation was speedy, with Australian participant Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded conclusion” to go ahead with the celebration. Britain’s Andy Murray said that soon after seeing some of the pictures of the submit-party bash in Belgrade and of kids’ working day it was “not shocking how lots of people today experienced tested beneficial.”

Djokovic, who went from Zadar to Belgrade right before getting examined, explained he was “deeply sorry our tournament experienced brought about harm.” Stressing that everything had been finished with excellent intentions, he stated he experienced thought the match satisfied all the protocols but that “we were being incorrect and it was way too quickly.”

The blame recreation was rapidly in comprehensive movement, with Djokovic’s father Srdjan pointing the finger at Dimitrov.

“Why did this materialize? It is mainly because the male (Dimitrov) has in all probability arrived sick from who appreciates in which and then every thing occurred. Seemingly he failed to exam right here but somewhere else and I don’t think that that’s appropriate,” the earth No. 1’s father told RTL Croatia.

“He induced big hurt to you in Croatia, to us as a family and to us as Serbia,” Djokovic’s father included, continuing to level the finger at Dimitrov.

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

Shortly ahead of the commence 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 well not take part in the US Open up in New York at the finish of August simply because organizers said they needed to restrict player entourages to just just one further man or woman.

In April, he lifted eyebrows for expressing he was from the idea of possessing to be vaccinated for Covid-19 as a achievable prerequisite to participate in on Tour all over again. And in May, he prompt during an Instagram Stay that polluted drinking water could be cleaned with positivity.

“He is usually been an unconventional thinker,” mentioned Crow. “That’s part of his makeup.”

But Crow, who has worked with some of the world’s most important providers, isn’t going to assume the collapse of the Adria Tour has damaged Djokovic’s own brand name.

“It is really not perfect but I feel it’s just a blip,” mentioned Crow. “He did it with the very best intentions and he realizes he has screwed up. And all people screws up, each at the time in a although.”

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

Djokovic manufactured $33 million in the past year from company discounts with seven sponsors, such as racket company Head and French auto maker Peugeot, according to Forbes.

If it hadn’t been for the virus, he may have been well 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 activity shut down in March, Djokovic had gained five of the previous 7 majors, taking his whole tally to 17. That’s just two shy of Nadal and 3 of Federer, who is out all year with a knee damage.

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


About the author: Muhammad

Wayne Ma is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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