Bengaluru, July 2: Novak Djokovic, who has drawn a lot of flak worldwide for organising the ill-fated Adria Tour where a number of players, including the ATP world No.1 himself tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, received support from an unusual friend in Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic.
Djokovic was criticised for hosting the tennis tournament amid a pandemic after his coach Goran Ivanisevic and players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki returned positive tests over the two legs in Serbia and Croatia.
Players were seen interacting, embracing each other, playing basketball and partying like they did in pre-COVID-19 days, but Matic said they were not required to adhere to any social distancing norms as Serbia had eased restrictions.
"People need to understand that the situation in Serbia was better than in England. The country allowed everyone to do whatever they want, everything was open, the shopping centres and the restaurants," Matic was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
"So they started to live normal lives because our country was closed for three months completely. You weren't allowed to walk on the street, you couldn't leave your home, so it was different (than England)."
While some unofficial tournaments have been played without spectators in the stands, such as the Battle of the Brits exhibition tournament in London, the Adria Tour attracted a capacity crowd in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade.
Sport under scrutiny in Djokovic's event
Ivanisevic tests positive for COVID-19 after two negative tests
"When they opened they said, 'you're more than free to do whatever you want'," Matic added.
"Before that tournament, there was a game with 20,000 people and nobody said anything about that.
"I just wanted to say that it is not his fault that he made the tournament, he just wanted to help the players play competitions. I don't see that he did something wrong."
The tennis season has been suspended since March due to the COVID-19.
Wimbledon, the oldest Grand Slam tournament scheduled to begin on June 29 was cancelled for the first time since World War II.
Wimbledon cancelled for 1st time since WWII because of coronavirus
The ATP and WTA Tour seasons are scheduled to resume in August though, subject to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.
(With inputs from Agencies)