Adria Tour Welcomes Tennis Back To Serbia

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic established the Adria Tour charity exhibition tournament in the Balkans as a means to help players return to match fitness following nearly three months of no competition due to the global coronavirus pandemic. It also served as a gift of tennis from him and his family to the Serbian fans.

Tickets sold out almost immediately once the tour was announced, and when play began on Saturday afternoon at Djokovic’s tennis club in Belgrade, along the Danube River, an appreciative crowd filled nearly all of the seats at the Novak Tennis Center. As players arrived on the centre court, each was given an appreciative ovation.

On Friday, Djokovic and former women’s World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic participated in a mixed doubles exhibition and it set a tone and atmosphere for the weekend that was welcoming for some and surprising to others.

It was difficult to tell if social distancing was being observed or not as few, if any, spectators wore masks either day. The Serbian government recently lifted lockdown restrictions, merely recommending people stay one meter apart.

In defending the lack of social distancing, Djokovic said Friday before the opening ceremonies, “It is not up to me to make calls about what is right or wrong for health.

“We have different circumstances and measures so it’s very difficult to think of international standards. We are doing what the Serbian government is telling us and hopefully we soon will get back on tour collectively. Of course, lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide. But life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing.”

Although there was a Fast-Four format in play for Saturday’s first day of competition, which included no-ad scoring, seen were ball kids retrieving balls, lines persons stationed behind the baseline and players exchanging traditional handshakes at the conclusion of each match instead of tapping racquets. So, anyone not aware there’s a global health crisis going on would have assumed it was tennis as normal in this multi-city clay-court event. It could have just as easily been Umag or Gstaad in normal times.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who played the third match in each of Saturday’s sessions – defeating long-time friend Viktor Troicki, 4-1, 4-1, in 34 minutes in the afternoon before losing to countryman Filip Krajinovic, 2-4, 4-2, 4-1, under the lights – was clearly the crowd favorite among the eight players participating in the first stop of the Adria Tour. Although, there was plenty of applause that awaited the other marquee names, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, when they were playing, too.

Adria Tour Montenegro cancelled

The Adria Tour event in Montenegro, scheduled for the weekend of June 27-28, has been cancelled. While Montenegro’s government has opened borders for citizens of countries that meet the entry criterial set by Montenegro’s health authorities, Serbia is not on the list. It was reported that tournament director Djordje Djokovic is looking at other locations – Zadar, Banja Luka and Sarajevo, which are all safe – to fill the void left by Montenegro’s departure.

UTS Opening Day washed out 

Saturday’s opening day of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown at the Mouratoglou Academy near Nice, France was rained out. Saturday’s five matches have been rescheduled for Monday.

Judy Murray: Park the ATP until next year

Judy Murray, mother of Andy and Jamie Murray, told BBC Sport she sees no need for elite tennis to rush back to play in 2020. Instead, because of the lockdown and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Murray said she would like to see the pro tours wait until next year. She suggests it would be fairer on all players – and that until there is a vaccine, tournaments may not see a full complement of players.

“Some players have been able to get back into playing and competing behind closed doors much earlier than others. So, maybe that’s an advantage,” said Murray. “Depending on which country you’re in, everyone has different travel restrictions, different quarantine restrictions. So, it kind of feels to me that we should just park it and start again at the beginning of next year with a clean sheet. I think it would be fairer to everybody.”

An open letter from LTA CEO Scott Lloyd

“Words alone do not cut it. We can’t just simply say that tennis is a sport that is open to anyone and expect things to change,” writes Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Scott Lloyd. The LTA has posted CEO Lloyd’s letter on its website, which addresses the subject of racism and racial injustice, a hot-button topic in the sports world following the recent killing of an unarmed black American, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer.

“We’re committed to making real changes as part of our drive to open tennis up. So we’re asking you to share your experiences, opinions and ideas to help us shape our plans.”

No net, no lines, no stands this year

Queen’s Club will return. / Things we are missing … 

BBC to air Wimbledon classics during fortnight

Wimbledon may be dark this year, having been cancelled this year due to the global coronavirus pandemic. However, the BBC will offer British tennis fans plenty of classic action from fortnights ago. So, grab your strawberries and cream and tune in.

BBC Sport announced on Friday that it will air over 50 hours of Wimbledon programming starting June 29. Included will be rewinds of memorable matches, an Andy Murray Greatest Hits weekend and a countdown of some of the best Wimbledon finals. Among the classic finals scheduled to air are: Ann Jones versus Billie Jean King from 1969 and Goran Ivanisevic against Andre Agassi from 1992.

Veteran BBC presenter Sue Barker will host a one-hour show, Wimbledon 2020, on BBC Two Monday through Friday at 8 p.m. BST. She will be joined in the studio by former British men’s No. 1 Tim Henman and three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker.

What they’re saying

In a recent Reuters interview, Naomi Osaka touched upon using her social media platforms to speak out: “Being silent is never the answer. Everyone should have a voice … and use it.”

What they’re sharing on social media

ATP and WTA / #Tennis United

Martina Navratilova and James Blake discuss how tennis has evolved.

Karen Khachanov / Happy Russia Day!