As an alternative, the top-ranked Serb is concerned in a harm limitation train after his exhibition tour within the Balkans, supposed to be an uplifting second in the course of 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 in the course of 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, taking part in basketball and dancing collectively.
“He hasn’t had a very good lockdown,” British sports activities advertising and marketing professional Tim Crow put it bluntly in a cellphone 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 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 match director.
Talking at a launch press convention on Could 27, Djokovic mentioned he was “extraordinarily pleased” to announce the sequence, organized by him and his household. He burdened “completely all revenue” from it could be going to humanitarian organizations, earlier than proudly saying that every one the gamers can be taking part in without spending a dime.
He additionally mentioned the tour would “comply with to and cling to” the native rules and guidelines.
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 stuffed the stadium near the Danube river to capability, with few followers sporting masks. The gamers, good associates, hugged after Djokovic gained in straight units.
Additionally 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 lately 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.
The seemingly carefree nature of the occasion, which got here just a few days after a 20,000-strong crowd attended a soccer match in Belgrade, additionally shocked Crow, a former chief govt of London-based sports activities advertising and marketing company Synergy.
“It was a screw-up,” he mentioned. “As quickly as you turned the TV on, you suppose, ‘Dangle on a second, what is going on on right here?’ And sadly, everyone knows what occurred.”
Behind closed doorways
The restricted social distancing on the Adria Tour was in sharp distinction to different exhibition occasions in the course of 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, wished to host an occasion at his academy within the south of France in the course of the lockdown, he reached out to the federal government. It despatched him a protracted record of protocols, which he has carried out in his Final Tennis Showdown sequence.
“I wished to verify to do it in a approach the place nobody is in danger,” Mouratoglou instructed CNN Sport in a cellphone interview on Friday.
These embrace 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 group.
He emphasised Serbia had “higher numbers” in contrast with different international locations. In keeping with the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Useful resource Heart, Serbia has had 13,372 confirmed circumstances, together with 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia had registered 2,483 circumstances, together with 107 deaths.
“You can even criticize us and say that is perhaps harmful however it’s less than me to make calls about what is true and unsuitable for well being,” Djokovic added. “We’re doing what the Serbian authorities is telling us.”
Then got here the bombshell announcement by Dimitrov on Sunday June 21 that he had examined optimistic for coronavirus.
The organizers swiftly canceled your entire sequence, whereas a lot of the different gamers have been examined the identical evening. 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.
Troicki revealed he had examined optimistic quickly after after which, on Tuesday, Djokovic confirmed that he, too, and his spouse, Jelena, had executed 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.
“He’s a younger man and might bear it simpler,” she mentioned. ‘I additionally suppose this virus is near the tip so this appears identical to a second wave of Corona, which isn’t as sturdy as at first.”
“It’s horrible, too horrible, what they write (worldwide media), however we’re used to it. It’s like they could not anticipate it (unhealthy information) to occur. It’s apparent that they’ve one thing in opposition to Novak.”
The condemnation was fast, with Australian participant Nick Kyrgios labeling it a “boneheaded resolution” to go forward with the occasion. Britain’s Andy Murray mentioned that after seeing among the photos of the post-event celebration in Belgrade and of youngsters’ day it was “not shocking how many individuals had examined optimistic.”
The blame sport was shortly in full circulation, with Djokovic’s father Srdjan pointing the finger at Dimitrov.
“He brought on 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.”
This hasn’t been Djokovic’s solely brush with controversy in the course of the pandemic.
Shortly earlier than the beginning of the Adria Tour, Djokovic, who can also be president of the participant council of the lads’s ATP Tour, angered some gamers by suggesting he might not participate within the US Open in New York on the finish of August as a result of organizers mentioned they wished to restrict participant entourages to only one further individual.
“He is at all times been an unconventional thinker,” mentioned Crow. “That is a part of his make-up.”
However Crow, who has labored with among the world’s largest firms, does not suppose the collapse of the Adria Tour has broken Djokovic’s private model.
“It is not best however I feel it is only a blip,” mentioned Crow. “He did it with one of the 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.
If it hadn’t been for the virus, he might have been nicely on his option 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 gained 5 of the final seven majors, taking his complete 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 a substitute of chasing his sixth Wimbledon title within the coming fortnight, Djokovic will spend most of it self-isolating along with his household.