Novak Djokovic has made the startling admission that he would hold the Adria Tour again if he could, despite multiple virus cases coming from the ill-fated tennis event.
The World No.1 and wife Jelena both contracted coronavirus at the Adria Tour exhibition event in June, an event he was the face of and helped organise.
‘LESS PRESSURE’: Serena's huge advantage at US Open
‘INSULTING’: Aussie champion's 'dangerous' coronavirus claims
He was widely condemned for holding the event in the middle of the coronavirus crisis in Serbia and Croatia, with fellow players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki also testing positive.
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic was among a number of staff who also tested positive, however the Serb has admitted he holds no regrets about the event.
“Whether it's fair or not, you tell me, but I know that the intentions were right and correct, and if I had the chance to do the Adria Tour again, I would do it again,” Djokovic told the New York Times on Thursday.
“I don't think I've done anything bad to be honest. I do feel sorry for people that were infected.
“Do I feel guilty for anybody that was infected from that point onward in Serbia, Croatia and the region? Of course not.
“It's like a witch hunt, to be honest. How can you blame one individual for everything?”
Yeah ok point taken ... but what happened in the Adria tour is still a disgrace on tennis because it didn’t need to be like that. Battle of the Brits proved that.— Carolyn Russell 🎾🍷 (@csruss) July 5, 2020
Color me shocked. I wish him a speedy recovery, but this is a direct result of his irresponsible decision making re: Adria Tour. An utter disgrace given his position on the Players Council. I hope the @usopen is paying close attention here. Not worth risking athletes' health. https://t.co/6Q1rsjh6Gq— The Nancer #BLM #BidenHarris2020 (@TheNancer212) June 23, 2020
Awful Djokovic. Take out the self pity. Be more responsible. If 1 person is ill due to you you should feel terrible. Now arrogantly living in your luxurious accommodation while other players are stifled up in hotel. A disgrace.— KeiraEve (@tohabebj) August 20, 2020
Djokovic chasing Federer record at US Open
Djokovic says he nearly skipped the US Open but plans to play the New York grand slam in part to chase tennis history.
The 17-time grand slam champion said trying to catch Roger Federer's men’s record of 20 slams was “of course” a major factor in his decision to play the Flushing Meadows fortnight that begins August 31.
“One of the reasons why I keep on playing professional tennis on this level is because I want to reach more heights in the tennis world,” Djokovic told the newspaper.
The 33-year-old has won five of the past seven men’s singles grand slams but came to the New York hardcourts only after assurances from European officials that players returning from the US Open would not face a long quarantine before upcoming European events such as the French Open.
“I was very close to not coming,” said Djokovic, who made the final decision less than a week before arriving.
“There were a lot of uncertainties.”
Djokovic said he is happy to have rented a house in the New York suburbs rather than going into coronavirus-secure hotels for the US Open.
The World No.1 felt the hotels would be too suffocating and he battled with organisers to be allowed to stay elsewhere - even though he has had to pay for security to show he is not breaking the rules.
“With the trees and serenity, being in this kind of environment is a blessing,” he said.
“And I'm grateful, because I've seen the hotel where the majority of players are staying.
“I don't want to sound arrogant... but it's tough for most of the players, not being able to open their window and being in a hotel in a small room.”
Defending US Open champion Rafa Nadal has opted not to attend because of the pandemic, and is instead preparing for the rearranged French Open from September 27.
Federer is injured and won’t play again this year, leaving Djokovic as the star attraction.