World number one Novak Djokovic insists he does not have to repair his reputation after hosting an exhibition event where he and a number of players contracted coronavirus.
Djokovic, Borna Coric and Grigor Dimitrov all tested positive after playing and socialising at the Adria Tour in Serbia and Croatia without any social distancing measures.
The players were filmed dancing and hugging together in a nightclub.
The Serbian has said he has no regrets over his actions ahead of his return to the main tour at the Western & Southern Open in New York and that he does not see his participation at the event – and the US Open which follows on the same site – as a PR exercise.
“I don’t see it that way,” he said. “I don’t think that I’m going to show a different face because the people know my face mostly from the tennis court, so obviously I’m back to kind of the environment that I’m most comfortable with.
“Obviously I don’t enjoy anything that I do off the court that is related to tennis as much as I do the things that I do on the court, so I love competing.
“I think we all are professional tennis players, and we all want to be here and (for) our season to restart. No, that was also not the deciding factor why I came to New York. First of all, I miss tennis. I miss competition.”
— ATP Tour (@atptour) August 21, 2020
Djokovic expressed major doubts about whether he would travel to the United States because of the proposed safety protocols put in place, including a proposed quarantine when returning to Europe.
He has decided to compete, but plenty of big names have not, including defending champion Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard’s withdrawal played no part in Djokovic’s decision to go to New York.
“I did not make my decision because Rafa pulled out. I mean, if that’s what people want to hear…” he said.
“I made my decision months ago to come to (the) US Open and play here because I really wanted to restart on a hard court where I feel the most comfortable. That’s the surface that I have most success on. I love playing in the US Open.
“So I did make my call to come, but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure whether that’s going to happen or not until certain points were defined and clarified before coming here, which was the special exemption, coming without quarantine back to Europe and so forth.
“I was obviously close to not coming, honestly, until probably a week before I landed in New York.
“I didn’t know whether I’m going to be playing or not because things were so unpredictable. I mean, there were so many different points that were discussed.
“For me, the crucial, the most fundamental point that had to be confirmed, I think, for us players is this special exemption of coming back to Europe without being quarantined so we can actually be able to compete in the European tournaments like Roma or Kitzbühel for that matter or anything on the provisional calendar.”