Novak Djokovic tests positive for coronavirus
World number one asymptomatic, fourth player to test positive from Adria Tour events
Novak Djokovic and others pose at a charity exhibition match in Belgrade on June 12th. Photograph: Andrej Isakovic/Getty/AFP
The beleaguered world No 1, Novak Djokovic, has tested positive for coronavirus, along with his wife, Jelena, throwing tennis into turmoil as the sport’s official tour prepares to resume after a four-month lockdown.
They join three other leading players and two trainers infected by the disease towards the end of the Serb’s unsanctioned Adria Tour, which was aborted moments before the final in Croatia on Sunday.
Djokovic, who will go into quarantine for 14 days, said this was “the new reality”, although he had organised his tour “with a philanthropic idea” and said he was sorry for the other people who tested positive.
Djokovic declined to be tested on site and with his family flew directly to his home city, Belgrade, where he sought medical advice and was tested. He received the results on Monday evening and issued a statement on Tuesday.
The Serb stands widely accused of complacency for organising an unofficial charity event – in Belgrade, Zadar and Montenegro (subsequently cancelled) – without safety protocols applicable in most other countries and which have prevented resumption of the main Tour until August.
Djokovic expressed regret and sympathy but little contrition in a prepared statement. He was clearly upset that his close friend, Viktor Troicki, and the Serb’s pregnant wife, along with Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric – who played each other on Saturday – as well as Dimitrov’s coach and his own fitness trainer had also tested positive.
There are now genuine concerns that the rescheduled major tournaments – in New York in August and at Roland Garros at the end of September – could be postponed or even cancelled; many players, especially from Europe, South America and Asia, will be reluctant to risk their health travelling into suspect environments after these disturbing developments.
Most of the other players on the Adria Tour had tests in the team hotel in Zadar on Sunday night, and there have been no positive test results from there so far. However, Djokovic declined to take a test at that time, because he said he “did not feel any symptoms”.
Yet he admitted on Tuesday: “The moment we arrived in Belgrade [on Sunday night] we went to be tested. My result is positive, just as Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative.”
Djokovic, who organised the Tour against a backdrop of lowering Covid-19 spread in the Balkans, added: “Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. Our tournament was meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region.
“The Tour was designed to help both established and up-and-coming tennis players from south-eastern Europe to gain access to some competitive tennis while the various tours are on hold due to the Covid-19 situation. It was all born with a philanthropic idea, to direct all raised funds towards people in need, and it warmed my heart to see how everybody strongly responded to this.
“We organised the tournament at the moment when the virus has weakened, believing that the conditions for hosting the Tour had been met. Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with.
“I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection. I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that every will be fine. I will remain in self-isolation for the next 14 days, and repeat the test in five days.”
It is difficult to predict the further fallout from the Balkans fiasco, but Djokovic will likely come under serious pressure to step down as president of the ATP players council, where he has wielded much influence the past couple of years.
The British No 1, Dan Evans, and the three-time grand slam champion, Andy Murray – both playing in a charity event which started in London on Tuesday, the Battle of the Brits – were among several critics of Djokovic’s seeming disregard for safety requirements in place in other countries.
“It’s important any of the top athletes around the world should be showing that we are taking this extremely seriously,” Murray said.
Evans was particularly critical of off-court partying by several leading players, including Djokovic, at a nightclub in Belgrade the previous weekend. “I don’t think you should be having a players’ party and dancing all over each other and then two very good players test positive,” he said, referring to the earlier test results of Dimitrov and Coric.
“He should feel some responsibility for his event and how it has transpired. It is a poor example to set. Even if the guidelines in that country are not two metres, it is not a joke is it? There has been a total disregard for that.”
The ATP, which runs the men’s tour, did not add to its initial response, urging “strict adherence to responsible social distancing and health and safety guidelines to contain the spread of the virus”.
There was no response from the women’s tour organiser, the WTA. – Guardian