Novak Djokovic: A 7 days to forget for earth No. 1 just after exhibition tennis fiasco

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

In its place, the best-ranked Serb is involved in a problems limitation exercise soon after his exhibition tour in the Balkans, meant to be an uplifting second in the course of the sport’s hiatus due to the fact of the coronavirus pandemic, was cancelled when Djokovic, his wife Jelena, a few other gamers, a few coaches and a person player’s expecting spouse tested beneficial for the virus.

Unlike other exhibition events in the course of the pandemic, there was constrained social distancing on the Adria Tour, which was played to crowded stadiums, with players hugging and substantial-fiving each individual other, enjoying basketball and dancing collectively.

“He hasn’t had a superior lockdown,” British sporting activities promoting pro Tim Crow set it bluntly in a cellphone interview with CNN Sport.

When Djokovic announced in May well he would host the Adria Tour, it appeared like tennis was slowly emerging from the shutdown, which had led to the first cancellation of Wimbledon considering that Environment War II.

The Adria Tour, which was scheduled to be played in 4 towns from June 13 through July 5, had attracted three-time grand slam finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, earth No. 7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and three-time big semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, amid some others. Djokovic’s 24-yr-outdated brother, Djordje, was named event director.

Talking at a launch press convention on Might 27, Djokovic reported he was “incredibly happy” to announce the sequence, arranged by him and his spouse and children. He pressured “unquestionably all money” from it would be going to humanitarian organizations, ahead of proudly asserting that all the players would be playing for no cost.

He also mentioned the tour would “stick to to and adhere to” the regional polices and guidelines.

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Belgrade social gathering

When Djokovic played his initial match from fellow Serb Viktor Troicki on the afternoon of Saturday June 13 in Belgrade, some 4,000 spectators had filled the stadium near to the Danube river to capability, with couple of fans carrying masks. The players, excellent friends, hugged after Djokovic received in straight sets.

They also shook hands 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 skilled important virus outbreaks, had not long ago lifted a lot of lockdown measures. But the Serbian government was nevertheless asking people to remain a single meter apart. The deficiency of social distancing remaining quite a few stunned.

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

The seemingly carefree mother nature of the function, which arrived a number of days after a 20,000-solid crowd attended a soccer match in Belgrade, also astonished Crow, a former chief government of London-primarily based sports advertising and marketing agency Synergy.

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“It was a screw-up,” he mentioned. “As before long as you turned the Television on, you feel, ‘Hang on a next, what’s heading on listed here?’ And unfortunately, we all know what took place.”

Also throughout that weekend, players such as Djokovic, Thiem, Zverev and Dimitrov have been filmed dancing in a packed Belgrade nightclub.

Behind closed doors

The confined social distancing at the Adria Tour was in sharp contrast to other exhibition situations for the duration of the pandemic in the US, Germany, Britain and France, which ended up all held powering closed doorways.

When Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ lengthy-time coach, preferred to host an party at his academy in the south of France in the course of the lockdown, he reached out to the authorities. It despatched him a lengthy list of protocols, which he has executed in his Greatest Tennis Showdown series.

“I desired to make sure to do it in a way the place no 1 is at danger,” Mouratoglou explained to CNN Activity in a phone interview on Friday.

These consist of all players remaining tested the working day right before just about every weekend’s matches, no fans, no handshakes or ball-sharing in between gamers, ball youngsters putting on gloves and masks and sufficient distance involving every seat in the players’ box.

Speaking at the ceremonial opening of the Adria Tour the day in advance of his match versus Troicki, Djokovic defended the confined social distancing of the group.

He emphasized Serbia experienced “far better numbers” compared with other international locations. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, Serbia has had 13,372 confirmed cases, including 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 instances, such as 107 fatalities.

“You can also criticize us and say this is perhaps risky but it is not up to me to make calls about what is proper and erroneous for overall health,” Djokovic included. “We are carrying out what the Serbian 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 up coming leg of the Adria Tour on June 20-21 at the time once again captivated countless numbers of spectators, together with Croatia Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who briefly fulfilled Djokovic. For the reason that Croatia had eased its lockdown steps in advance of the celebration, players and supporters failed to have to adhere to social distancing regulations.

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

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The organizers swiftly canceled the complete sequence, while most of the other players were being examined the similar night. Then, on Monday, Croatia’s Borna Coric confirmed he also experienced analyzed optimistic, whilst Zverev, former US Open winner Marin Cilic of Croatia and Russia’s Andrey Rublev all examined damaging 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 discovered he experienced tested optimistic shortly immediately after and then, on Tuesday, Djokovic verified that he, too, and his spouse, Jelena, experienced accomplished the similar. Troicki’s expecting spouse, Djokovic’s conditioning coach and Dimitrov’s coach had been also favourable. Then on Friday, Djokovic’s co-coach, Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, exposed he also analyzed constructive.

Djokovic’s mom Dijana informed Serbian newspaper Blic that even though the planet No. 1 is optimistic it “won’t signify he is sick.”

“He is a young man and can bear it easier,” she explained. ‘I also consider this virus is close to the close so this appears to be just like a next wave of Corona, which is not as potent as in the starting.”

“It is awful, also awful, what they generate (international media), but we are utilized to it. It is like they could not wait around for it (negative information) to come about. It is obvious that they have anything in opposition to Novak.”

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Condemnation

The condemnation was swift, with Australian participant Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded decision” to go in advance with the occasion. Britain’s Andy Murray claimed that just after looking at some of the pics of the article-occasion get together in Belgrade and of kids’ day it was “not surprising how many persons experienced tested good.”

Djokovic, who went from Zadar to Belgrade prior to remaining analyzed, said he was “deeply sorry our event had induced hurt.” Stressing that every thing experienced been done with great intentions, he stated he had believed the event met all the protocols but that “we ended up incorrect and it was too shortly.”

The blame activity was speedily in full movement, with Djokovic’s father Srdjan pointing the finger at Dimitrov.

“Why did this transpire? It is mainly because the guy (Dimitrov) has likely arrived sick from who is familiar with in which and then anything happened. Evidently he failed to exam here but someplace else and I don’t imagine that that is suitable,” the entire world No. 1’s father instructed RTL Croatia.

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

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Dimitrov’s agent failed to promptly respond to CNN Sport’s request for comment, but he was commonly quoted as telling other media that “Grigor landed right in Belgrade right after 3 months of total isolation. Neither in Belgrade (the initial stop) nor afterwards in Zadar was he provided or essential to examination 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 in advance of the start off 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 not consider aspect in the US Open in New York at the end of August for the reason that organizers said they required to limit player entourages to just 1 further man or woman.

In April, he lifted eyebrows for indicating he was versus the strategy of having to be vaccinated for Covid-19 as a achievable prerequisite to participate in on Tour all over again. And in Might, he instructed through an Instagram Stay that polluted water could be cleaned with positivity.

“He’s often been an unconventional thinker,” mentioned Crow. “That’s element of his make-up.”

But Crow, who has worked with some of the world’s greatest providers, would not consider the collapse of the Adria Tour has broken Djokovic’s personalized model.

“It can be not perfect but I feel it’s just a blip,” explained Crow. “He did it with the ideal intentions and he realizes he has screwed up. And everyone screws up, every at the time in a whilst.”

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 seven sponsors, together with racket maker Head and French automobile maker Peugeot, in accordance to Forbes.

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

When the activity shut down in March, Djokovic had received 5 of the past seven majors, taking his full tally to 17. That’s just two shy of Nadal and three of Federer, who is out all period with a knee injury.

But rather of chasing his sixth Wimbledon title in the coming fortnight, Djokovic will invest most of it self-isolating with his relatives.

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