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Novak Djokovic: A week to forget world number 1 after the exhibition tennis fiasco

Instead, the top-ranked Serbian takes part in a damage-limiting exercise after the show tour in the Balkans, which is expected to be an occasional rising moment due to the coronavirus pandemic, three other players Djokovic, his wife Jelena, three coaches and one player’s pregnant wife for the virus. tested positive.

Unlike other exhibition events during the pandemic, the Adria Tour, which was played in crowded stadiums, had a limited social distance where players hug each other and crash high, play basketball and dance together.

British sports marketing expert Tim Crow has clearly put on a phone conversation with CNN Sport.

When Djokovic announced that he was going to host the Adria Tour in May, tennis appeared to appear slowly after closing, which led to the first cancellation of Wimbledon since World War II.

The Adria Tour, which is planned to be played in four cities from June 13 to July 5, has attracted three times the great slam finalist Dominic Thiem from Austria, Germany’s number 7 world Alexander Zverev and three times the semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov. Bulgaria, among others. Djokovic’s 24-year-old brother, Djordje, was named tournament director.

Speaking at a launch press conference on May 27, Djokovic said he was “extremely happy” to announce the show organized by him and his family. He emphasized that “absolutely all income” will go to humanitarian organizations before proudly declaring that all players will play for free.

The prime minister also said the tour “will and will adhere to local regulations and rules”.

READ: Djokovic tests positive for coronavirus

Belgrade party

When Djokovic played his first match against Serbian Viktor Troicki in Belgrade on Saturday afternoon, on June 13, around 4,000 spectators filled the stadium near the Danube river to capacity, and several fan masks wore it. The actors hugged good friends after Djokovic won on straight sets.

As the ball boys gave them their towels, they shook hands with the referee. Then they took a selfie with the fans and signed a signature.

Serbia and Croatia, both of which have not experienced major virus outbreaks, have recently lifted many key measures. However, the Serbian government still wanted people to stay one meter away. Lack of social distance stunned many people.

“As if Coronavirus passed?” Old British No. on Twitter. 1 Greg Rusedski wrote two days later. “How was this managed and why there is no concern about public social withdrawal and face masks. I know the numbers in Serbia, but why can they do that?”

The carefree nature of the event, which took place a few days after a crowd of 20,000 people participated in a football match in Belgrade, also surprised the former chief executive of London-based sports marketing agency Synergy, Crow.

“It was a mess,” he said. “As soon as I turn on the TV, ‘Wait a second, what’s going on here?’ Unfortunately, we all know what’s going on. “

Also that weekend, players like Djokovic, Thiem, Zverev and Dimitrov She danced in a full Belgrade nightclub.

Behind closed doors

The limited social distance on the Adria Tour contrasted sharply with other exhibition events during the epidemic in the USA, Germany, England and France, all held behind closed doors.

Serena Williams’ long-time coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, reached the government when she wanted to host an event at the academy in the south of France during the lockdown. He sent him a long list of protocols he implemented in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown series.

“I wanted to do it in a way that nobody was at risk,” said Mouratoglou, speaking to CNN Sport on a phone call on Friday. Said.

These include all players tested one day before each weekend match, no fans, no handshake or ball sharing between players, ball kids wearing gloves and masks, and enough distance between each seat in the players’ box.

Speaking at the ceremony opening of the Adria Tour the day before his match against Troicki, Djokovic defended the limited social distance of the crowd.

He stressed that Serbia has “better numbers” than other countries. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Serbia has 13,372 approved cases, including 264 deaths. Neighboring Croatia recorded 2,483 cases, including 107 deaths.

“You can criticize us and say it’s perhaps dangerous, but it’s not up to me to call for what’s right and wrong for health,” Djokovic said. “We do what the Serbian government has told us.”

Spectators watch the matches on Sunday, June 21, 2020 in the Adria Tour in Zahar, Croatia. Later that day, tennis player Grigor Dimitrov said he tested positive for Covid-19 and led to the cancellation of the entire Adria Tour.

Dimitrov’s bomb

The next leg of the Adria Tour on June 20-21 once again attracted thousands of spectators. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who met briefly with Djokovic. Players and fans did not have to adhere to the rules of social distance, as Croatia reduced the locking measures before the event.

Then came the bomb announcement Dimitrov tested on Sunday (June 21st) that he was positive for the coronavirus.

While the organizers quickly canceled the series, most of the other players were tested the same night. Later on Monday, Croatian Borna Coric confirmed that he also tested positive, while Croatia’s former US Open winner Marin Cilic and Russia’s Andrey Rublev tested negative, but promised to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution.

Spectators watch tennis during an exhibition tournament in Zadar, Croatia, on Sunday, June 21, 2020.

Troicki announced that he was testing positive soon, and on Tuesday, Djokovic confirmed that he and his wife Jelena did the same. Troicki’s pregnant wife, Djokovic’s fitness coach and Dimitrov’s coach were also positive. Then on Friday, Djokovic’s assistant coach Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic also tested that he was positive.

Djokovic’s mother Dijana Blic told Serbian newspaper Although world number 1 is positive, it does not mean that he is sick.

“He’s a young man and can take it easier,” he said. ‘I think this virus is coming to an end, which looks like a second Corona wave that isn’t as strong as it was originally. “

“Their writing is terrible, terrible (international media), but we are used to it. As if they couldn’t expect it to be (bad news). It is clear that they have something against Novak.”

READ: Tennis event organized by Djokovic under fire

condemnation

The condemnation was quick, Australian actor Nick Kyrgios called it “a back-to-head decision” to continue with the incident. Andy Murray from the UK said that after seeing some photos of the post-event party in Belgrade and children’s day, it is not “surprising how many people test positive.”

Djokovic, who traveled from Zadar to Belgrade before the test, said that “our tournament is very upset that it has hurt”. Stressing that everything was done in good faith, he said he believed the tournament was compliant with all protocols, but “we were wrong and it was too early.”

The blame game was running fast, Djokovic’s father pointed his finger at Srdjan Dimitrov.

“Why did this happen? Because the man (Dimitrov) probably got sick, who knew where and then everything happened. Apparently I haven’t tested it anywhere else but here and I don’t think it’s true, ”said the father of world 1. RTL Croatia.

Djokovic’s father continued to show Dimitrov his finger and said, “In Croatia, you have done great harm to you, us as a family and us as Serbia.”

Dimitrov’s agent did not immediately respond to CNN Sport’s request for comment, but told other media that “Grigor had landed directly in Belgrade after three months of complete isolation. He offered to perform a coronavirus test in either Belgrade (first stop) or Zadar. or asked. “

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic (L) talks with his wife Jelena on June 14, 2020 during a match played at the Novak Djokovic Balkans charity tennis tournament in Belgrade.

Reputable fallout?

This was not the only controversial brush of djokovic during the epidemic.

Shortly before the Adria Tour started, Djokovic, the head of the men’s ATP Tour player council, angered some players, claiming he might not be at the US Open in New York at the end of August. they wanted to limit their player to just one extra person.

In April, he raised his eyebrows, saying he was against the idea of ​​vaccination for Covid-19 as a possible prerequisite to play on the Tour again. And he suggested it during an Instagram Live in May dirty water can be positively cleaned.

“He was always an unusual thinker,” Crow said. “This is part of your makeup.”

But Crow, who works with some of the biggest companies in the world, doesn’t think the collapse of the Adria Tour has damaged Djokovic’s personal brand.

“It’s not ideal, but I think it’s just a hint,” Crow said. “He did it with the best intention and realized that he sucks. And everybody is ruined once in a while.”

Djokovic’s representative did not respond to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Djokovic earned $ 33 million last year from company deals with seven sponsors, including racket maker Head and French car maker Peugeot. Forbes.

Without the virus, he might have progressed on connecting or even overcoming Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the most successful actor of all time.

When the sport closed in March, Djokovic won five of the last seven buildings and increased his total to 17. This is only two shy Nadal and Federer, who had knee injury in three seasons.

But instead of chasing the sixth Wimbledon title in the next two weeks, Djokovic will isolate most of them with his family.

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