World No. 1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic has tested positive for the coronavirus after taking part in a tennis exhibition series he organised in Serbia and Croatia.
The Serbian superstar is the fourth player to test positive for the virus after competing in Belgrade and then again last weekend in Zadar, Croatia. His wife Jelena also tested positive.
“The moment we arrived in Belgrade we went to be tested. My result is positive, just as Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative,” Djokovic said in a statement on Tuesday.
Djokovic is “not showing any symptoms”, according to a statement from his spokesperson.
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Djokovic has been widely criticised for organising the tournament and bringing in players from other countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Croatia’s Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Viktor Troicki also tested positive — all three played in the Adria Tour, an exhibition tournament launched by Djokovic that saw events take place in the Balkan region.
There were no social distancing measures observed at the matches in either country.
“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions,” Djokovic said.
“Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region.”
Djokovic, who has previously said he was against taking a vaccine for the virus even if it became mandatory to travel, was the face behind the Adria Tour.
He left Croatia after the final was cancelled and was tested in Belgrade. Despite the positive test, he defended the exhibition series.
“The Tour has been 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,” Djokovic said.
“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.”
Djokovic said he will remain in self-isolation for 14 days and repeat the test in five days. He also apologised to anyone who became infected as a result of the series.
“I am hoping things will ease with time so we can all resume lives the way they were,” the statement read.
“I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection. I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.
The mind-boggling scenes of players not taking any precautions to prevent against the spread of coronavirus were widely slammed when jarring images of the tournament emerged two weekends ago.
Djokovic was later seen partying the night away at a packed Belgrade night spot.
Tennis stars who weren’t involved in the Adria Tour have criticised Djokovic in the wake of the positive test results.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said: “In hindsight with what’s happened there it is not a good look.
“When you are going through a time like this it’s important any of the top athletes around the world should be showing that we are taking this extremely seriously and knowing that we are using social distancing measures and whatever it is.
“I hope that we learn from it and off the back of it they will be taking it extremely seriously because ultimately the tour won’t get back again if we are having problems every single week and the players are doing what they want. We need to make sure we are doing the right thing.”
Last week the ATP and the WTA issued revised calendars for the resumption of the circuit from August while organisers of the US Open said the grand slam will be staged without fans starting on August 31.
— With Reuters