Novak Djokovic misses golden opportunity to shore up sport | Tennis News

BENGALURU: Novak Djokovic missed an opportunity, a golden one. For tennis, and for the world of sport. He was in position, the ball was on his racket strings and his timing was smack. In the end, it was a poorly directed shot. Not just was the world No. 1’s Adria Tour a chance gone abegging, it stoked new fears among sportspersons looking to get on with the game in the midst of a raging pandemic.
Positive Covid-19 tests are emerging in playing fields across the planet — be it in football’s premier leagues, ahead of international cricket tours or on the PGA’s manicured lawns — despite every protocol, WHO guidelines and government advice being followed. Against this backdrop, Djokovic’s fundraiser exhibition, to have been played across the Balkans from June 13 to July 4, didn’t just throw caution to the winds, it spat at it with bare-chested moves that may have lit up a Belgrade night, but extinguished good sense and hope.
With no physical distancing norms adhered to and hugs and handshakes for everyone and some 4,000 spectators in attendance with not so much as a stitch of protective gear on them, the event was well and truly unmasked.
It came as no surprise then when the 33-year-old Djokovic, along with the ATP Tour’s No. 19 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 33 Borna Coric, No. 184 Viktor Troicki and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, tested positive midway through a nicely conceptualized but recklessly executed affair. Djokovic’s wife Jelena and Troicki’s pregnant spouse Aleksandra too returned positive tests.
Djokovic said, “Everything we did in the past month we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions.”
The intent was never in question, just the carelessness of a leader of one of the most popular global sports, that has left already compromised comrades wringing their hands in hopelessness.
With the ATP and WTA tours coming to a screeching halt mid-March, the professional game is looking to restart in August with a couple of men’s and women’s Tour events scheduled in the lead-up to the US Open, starting August 31. Earlier, the New York Slam came in for severe criticism from Djokovic, who called the measures employed by the USTA when they first pressed at the possibility of staging the event, as ‘extreme’, further adding that the caveats that limited support staff of players was ‘non-sustainable.’
The Serb, who pushed for a player-driven relief fund to aid lower-ranked colleagues, however did a quick flip-flop and applauded the move to stage the Open once USTA relaxed the number on player entourages. He was equally unmindful that the major was going through without qualifiers, a move that will eat into the earning opportunities of players ranked between 100-250 in the rankings — the very men and women he wants to support.
As if what transpired wasn’t ugly enough, Djokovic’s father Srdjan blamed the slew of positive tests on Dimitrov. “How did the infection come about?” the senior Djokovic asked in a television interview, adding that the Bulgarian had probably arrived sick to Zadar. Dimitrov’s agent came back quickly with a statement saying, “Grigor landed directly in Belgrade after three months of complete isolation. Neither in Belgrade (first stop) nor later in Zadar was he offered or required to test for coronavirus.”
The Adria Tour could’ve been the ideal do-it-yourself exercise to 2020’s second swing that has tournament organizers in a flux. Djokovic had the cast with names like No. 3 Dominic Thiem, No. 7 Alexander Zverev and former US Open champ Marin Cilic, among others. It was small enough to control and big enough to have the world’s attention. The cause was worthy, a fund-raiser for charity projects across the region. The 17-time major winner, however, lost the plot after assembling the characters.
There was a way to go about things as shown by the Universal Tennis Ratings’ pro series in the United States last month which observed strict biosecurity protocols with racket taps instead of handshakes, and players even advised to bring their own towels, food and drinks.
The Adria Tour is an example in mismanagement, a lesson in how not to stage an event in critical times. As president of the ATP Player Council, Djokovic, owner of the strongest return game in tennis, is out of shots. And sorts.

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