Embarrassing twist in Novak Djokovic's 'reckless' tennis event

There hasn't been much social-distancing at Novak Djokovic's charity event. Image: Getty

Novak Djokovic’s Balkans charity tennis tournament suffered an embarrassing setback on Saturday when the planned Montenegro leg was cancelled over coronavirus protocol rules.

The Adria Tour, which features World No.1 Djokovic, as well as the likes of third-ranked Dominic Thiem, No.7 Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, the World No.19, got underway in Belgrade on Saturday.

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However there was shock and concern over the packed crowd and a lack of social-distancing measures among players and officials.

The Montenegro leg was due to be the third stop on June 27 and 28 after Croatia and before the conclusion in Bosnia.

However, a spokesman for the organisers said the visit to neighbouring Montenegro was called off when it became apparent Serbia did not match strict health guidelines.

“The fact that citizens of Serbia are not on the list of the Montenegrin public health institute, and cannot travel to Montenegro, is an insurmountable obstacle,” organisers said in a statement.

Podgorica re-opened its borders on June 1 for countries with fewer than 25 people infected with the coronavirus from 100,000 inhabitants.

The list of those countries is regularly updated, however Serbia does not figure on it.

Nenad Zimonjic, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic pose for a photo at the Adria Tour charity event. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic hits back at criticism

Asked to comment on social distancing measures during the Belgrade leg of the event, which has witnessed packed stands, Djokovic said that both Serbia and the region were relatively successful in containing the virus.

“Of course you can criticise, you can also say this is dangerous or not, but it's not up to me to make the calls what is health-wise right or wrong,” he told reporters on Friday, stressing he was acting in line with recommendations of the Serbian government.

Serbia has registered more than 12,000 COVID-19 cases and 252 deaths, although the numbers have been rising again since the government lifted most of the lockdowns and restrictions last month.

Commentator Nick McCarvel said the scenes on Friday were “shocking”.

“Players are calling for safety measures at the #USOpen and saying they might not play... but are OK w/ full stadiums, a packed, close-quarters kids day, hugs, mic-sharing, selfies at an exo?” he tweeted.

”Actually can't believe what I’m seeing.”

Leading tennis writers Stuart Fraser and Mike Dickson were also taken aback.

Rene Denfeld wrote: “Obviously, no social distancing at the press conference. Fans courtside, no social distancing.

“Different countries, different stages of the pandemic but after months of avoiding human contact like crazy, an event like this is a super jarring sight.”

And Ben Rothenberg said: “Watching the all the human closeness and hugging at Adria Tour, you’d almost forget why the Adria Tour exists in the first place.

“Hope it goes well, but golly does seeing crowds like this make me nervous in June 2020.”

Adria Tour moves on to Croatia

On June 20 and 21, the Adria Tour tournament will move to Zadar, on Croatia's Adriatic coast.

Djokovic will be joined there by Croatia's 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic and Borna Coric.

The final stop in Bosnia will be in the northwestern town of Banja Luka on July 3 and 4.

The tournament will close on July 5 with an exhibition match in Sarajevo between Djokovic and Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur.

The money raised will be donated to various regional charities.

Balkan countries coped with the coronavirus pandemic with relative success.

The region of some 22 million people registered about 24,000 infections and fewer than 800 deaths.

The ATP and WTA Tours have been suspended since March due to the pandemic and will not resume at least until the end of July.

With Yahoo Sports Staff