Adria Tour: With Folly Comes Consequences

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The players who participated during this month’s ill-fated Adria Tour hugged and high-fived on the tennis court, both in Serbia and Croatia. They also partied together off it. Some, including tour organizer Novak Djokovic, even formed a line and did the limbo during a night out in Belgrade that went viral, thanks to a widely-shared video on social media. There were also pick-up basketball games and Kid’s Day activities that were well received, where players posed for photos and signed autographs but also came in close contact with fans.

Now, the World No. 1 Djokovic, who is also president of the player’s council, has contracted the contagious coronavirus along with his wife, Jelena, and six others, including three players – Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki. Dimitrov participated in both Belgrade and Zadar legs of the tour, while Troicki played only in Belgrade and Coric in Zadar.

Djokovic has come under much criticism for holding the Balkan charity exhibition series without much regard for public safety, which also had stops in Banja Luka and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, scheduled for early July. Now, in the aftermath of what happened in Zadar, the rest of the Adria Tour has been scrubbed.

“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions,” Djokovic said in a statement released by his team on Tuesday. “Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region. …

“We organized the tournament at the moment when the virus had 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.”

Sunday’s final in Zadar, which would have matched Djokovic against Andrey Rublev of Russia, who tested negative, was cancelled after Dimitrov revealed on his Instagram platform he had tested positive for the coronavirus. By Sunday evening, all of the tournament participants and their traveling parties were tested for the contagious coronavirus at the tournament hotel in Zadar – that is, all except Djokovic and his family, who opted to return home to Belgrade and be tested by his own medical officials. While Dimitrov’s coach and Djokovic’s fitness trainer received positive tests, the others players – including Rublev, Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev – tested negative. Rublev, Cilic and Zverev confirmed their negative tests via social media, apologized for their actions, and all said they would self-isolate for 14 days.

With its laissez faire attitude, the Adria Tour now bears the consequences for its bacchanalian approach to conducting a non-ATP sanctioned event. In the midst of a global pandemic, the contrast of the Adria Tour to recent regional exhibitions in other parts of Europe and in the U.S. – each played with social distancing as well as with medical checks conducted, and with plenty of hand sanitizer placed on the court, plus racquet taps instead of handshakes – was evident. The Adria Tour, it seemed, was a recipe for disaster because by all appearances, it seemed to overlook the importance of health and safety – both for players and fans alike.

Plenty of player and media response

Now, with Djokovic’s highly-anticipated announcement that he tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon, there has been plenty of response and feedback on social media. Much of it, while offering prayers and encouragement for a full and speedy recovery to the players, points fingers of blame at Djokovic.

Here’s a sample of responses from both players and media:

“Insane” tweeted Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“Oh boy.” tweeted Nick Kyrgios. Later, he tweeted: “Prayers up to all the players that have contracted Covid-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake.”

Naomi Osaka: “hope everyone feels better 🙏🏾🧚🏾✨❤️ ”

Karen Khachanov: “I’m upset that my friends and colleagues were tested positive for COVID-19. I wish everyone who has it fast recovery. Stay safe!”

Chanda Rubin, former player turned Tennis Channel analyst: “It’s not unreasonable to say I told you so, but spare a thought for players wives and loved ones who are also feeling the fallout.”

Matt Roberts, co-host of The Tennis Podcast: “The Adria Tour became a real-life Greek tragedy for Djokovic: he was the protagonist, he thought it was well-intentioned, but his hubris meant he lost touch with reality and caused his downfall. And with a sad 2020 twist: public health was risked. It was frankly indefensible.”

ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant: “People will gloat, but this isn’t funny. Could we please have some professional respect for the medical community?”

Mike McIntyre, co-host of the Match Point Canada tennis podcast: “Hoping Novak Djokovic and his wife recover quickly from Covid-19. That being said, ‘Pure hearts and and sincere intentions’ are not a viable means of protecting against this virus. It’s too bad Djokovic is only now realizing that we are living in a ‘new reality.’”

Marcus Buckland, Amazon Prime tennis presenter: “I guess the one consolation for @DjokerNole, for whom I wish a speedy and full recovery, is that he now has less to fear in New York assuming he plays the #USOPEN”

Point / Counterpoint

Paul McNamee / Rock n Roll Tennis Podcast

Battle of the Brits begins – Andy’s return

The British are here! 🇬🇧 The first day of the Schroders Battle of the Brits arrived at the Lawn Tennis Assocation’s National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England, as Andy Murray made his 2020 debut a successful one. The former World No. 1 defeated Liam Broady, 6-2, 6-2, Tuesday evening. Earlier, both Kyle Edmund and British No. 1 Dan Evans won their respective matches, both in straight sets, over James Ward and Jay Clarke.

Credit One Bank Invitational underway 

Are you Team Peace or Team Kindness? 

With two teams of WTA stars headlining this unique new team competition, captained by Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Keys, the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston, S.C., is the largest women’s competition to take place during the tennis lockdown. There are a total of 16 individuals representing the U.S, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia this week, with play in both singles and doubles.

A televised team draft broadcast by Tennis Channel took place Monday night and play began Tuesday afternoon, headlined by reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin against 2019 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Alison Riske. Kenin won 6-1, 6-1 to earn a point for Team Peace. Then, Team Kindness got on the scoreboard as Leylah Fernandez defeated Emma Navarro, 6-4, 6-0. Two other matches were rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday.

“I guess I wanted to win 0 and 0, but … I’ll take this win, it’s fine,” Kenin said during her post-match interview with Tennis Channel.

What they’re writing

Kevin Mitchell, tennis writer, The Guardian of London, from “Novak Djokovic has learned he cannot hide from coronavirus in his own bubble”:

Novak Djokovic has gone to ground in Belgrade, embarrassed, perhaps, possibly contrite, after the coronavirus pandemic crept up on his Balkans carnival of tennis, bringing the Adria Tour to a shuddering conclusion.

It began in such robust spirits in his home city two weeks ago, in a makeshift setting at his tennis complex on the banks of the Danube. There were doubts and warnings about playing in front of fans but Djokovic, determined to showcase some of the best players in the world – Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric among them – was defiant.

In need of some uplifting tunes?

Monica Puig’s got you covered.

What they’re sharing on social media

Billie Jean King / I brought the dreams of each girl and woman …

Sloane Stephens / It feels so good to be back …

Stan Wawrinka / Today my daughter taught me how to horse ride.