Novak Djokovic aimed to help people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with his charity tournament but with a number of players testing positive for the virus after attending the event, it could imperil the resumption of professional tennis.
The men’s world number one was the fourth player to contract the virus after Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Croatia’s Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki previously tested positive after playing in the Adria Tour event in the Balkan region.
The tournament was among many events that have recently been held while professional tennis remains suspended due to the pandemic.
But there was one key difference about Djokovic’s event.
While the other tournaments were contested without any fans in attendance and those present adhered to social distancing rules, Djokovic’s Adria Tour attracted a capacity crowd in the Serbian capital, where players interacted, embraced and partied like they did in pre-COVID-19 days.
“Djokovic shot himself in the foot by organising the Adria Tour,” Radmilo Armenulic, a former Yugoslavia Davis Cup coach, told Reuters by phone.
“The organisation of the Belgrade leg was catastrophic, the stands were so full that fans were virtually sitting on top of each other. He staged this event with the best of intentions but it turns out it was a big mistake.”
While the players hugged at the net, played basketball, posed for pictures and attended news conferences together, Djokovic also organised nights out in Belgrade and pictures and videos of him dancing with the players made it to social media.
The players, however, did not break any government protocols in Serbia or Croatia with both countries easing lockdown measures weeks before the event.
But it highlighted the risks of athletes from different countries being in close proximity to one another, which could be a concern for the men’s ATP and women’s WTA Tour when they resume the professional circuit in August after five months.
The United States Tennis Association...