In his first interview since the Adria Tour fiasco, world No1 Novak Djokovic said that he is unlikely to play the US Open, while hitting out at those who criticised his own event for its lack of health and safety precautions.
Speaking to the Sportski Zurnal reporter Vojin Veličković, Djokovic was unrepentant about any unfortunate consequences that might have flowed from the lack of social distancing at his Adria Tour event, which involved a first leg in Belgrade on June 13 and 14, followed by a second leg in the Croatian city of Zadar a week later.
“Lately, I only see criticism, very malicious,” Djokovic said. “Obviously, there is something more than that criticism, as if there is an agenda, as if it were a witch hunt. Someone has to fall, some person, some big name to be the main culprit for everything.
“I leave it to others to say if that is fair,” he added. “I don't think it is, I think that we must learn from all of this and to adapt as we go along.”
With regard to its Covid-19 infection rate, Belgrade enjoyed a lengthy period of stability between May 2 and June 24, during which the number of new reported daily cases never rose above 120. The city is now suffering a second spike, however, and rioters broke into the National Assembly on Tuesday in protest at plans to impose a weekend curfew.
Djokovic was photographed training on Tuesday with his childhood friend Viktor Troicki on a clay court in Belgrade. Troicki was one of three players at the Adria Tour who tested positive for Covid-19, along with Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric. Djokovic and his wife Jelena also reported positive tests but then said that an additional test had come back negative ten days later.
To return to the less emotive question of Djokovic’s itinerary, he told Sportski Zurnal that “I'm not sure I'll play in the US Open. I plan to play Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros in September.
“I fully support the United States Tennis Association’s wish to hold tournaments in Washington, Cincinnati and the US Open,” added Djokovic, “because it is very important for survival of many tennis professionals. Like everyone, we are going through economic difficulties.
"Personally, I don't have that kind of pressure that the others feel and of course I understand them because the vast majority need to play now and earn money. I salute to the efforts being made to hold tournaments, especially in the USA and in Europe, despite this big crisis, but there is a limit to everything.”
This answer, coming less than 24 hours after Rafael Nadal confirmed that he will also play the Madrid Masters, suggests that the US Open will go ahead without any of the Big Three men. (Roger Federer will not play again in 2020 after a second bout of keyhole surgery on his knee.) If indeed it goes ahead at all.
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios continues to berate those involved in the Adria Tour – including Alexander Zverev, who tested negative for Covid-19 but was filmed in a Riviera beach bar less than a week after promising to self-isolate – on social media.
After Dominic Thiem – another Adria Tour participant – had shrugged off Kyrgios’s earlier criticisms of Zverev, and suggested that he should clean up his own act, Kyrgios replied “What are you talking about? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does? None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.
“This just shows what a joke Thiem, Zverev and Djokovic think this is,” added Kyrgios, using the players’ respective Twitter handles. “Two of them partying like potatoes during a global pandemic. People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake’. These guys are the ‘top’ of our sport. SMH [shaking my head].”
In addition, Kyrgios continued to argue that the planned resumption of the ATP Tour in the USA in August is a mistake. “50,000 new cases in the States,” he said. “Still planning on playing in the States. Stupidity.”
In view of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in the USA, both tours must now be wondering whether it is appropriate to press ahead with major tennis events there in August. Federer acknowledged as much on Monday when he said “I was in touch with the US Open [organisers] just yesterday. They told me they will decide between July 15-30about what will happen … These are uncertain times for tennis. Travelling and quarantine are big problems.”