Major virus twist in Novak Djokovic's 'reckless' tennis event

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Novak Djokovic poses with tournament volunteers after the Belgrade leg of the Adria Tour. (Photo by Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images)

There are fresh concerns about Novak Djokovic’s controversial Adria Tour tennis event after it emerged he recently attended a basketball game featuring a player who has since tested positive for coronavirus.

Djokovic has copped widespread flak from tennis commentators and fans after hosting the charity event in Serbia amid the pandemic.

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Many were shocked to see a lack of social-distancing in the packed grandstands, with players, ball-kids and officials high-fiving and hugging on the court.

But there is now even more concern after it was revealed that Serbian basketball player Nikola Jankovic has tested positive.

Just days before the first leg of the Adria Tour in Belgrade, Djokovic was in attendance at a game in which Jankovic played.

It is unclear if Djokovic came into contact with Jankovic, however there are photos of Djokovic on the court hugging former player Dejan Milojevic.

Djokovic was the guest of honour at the testimonial match for Milojevic and was presented with his own jersey.

He was also spotted celebrating at a packed cabaret club with fellow Adria Tour players after the event wrapped up on Sunday.

Nikola Jankovic (left) in action for Partizan in the EuroCup Top 16. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Adria Tour forced to cancel Montenegro leg

It comes as another embarrassing blow for Djokovic, who was also forced to cancel the third leg of the Adria Tour scheduled to take place in Montenegro.

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.

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.

Dominic Thiem in action during the Adria Tour, where there was a distinct lack of social-distancing. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Djokovic defends event after criticism

Asked to comment on social-distancing measures during the Belgrade leg of the event, 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.

However that didn’t sit well with many in the tennis community, who described the scenes in Belgrade as ‘shocking’ and ‘reckless’.

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 pushes on amid controversy

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

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 agencies