Novak Djokovic: ‘I am so deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm…we were wrong’

Novak Djokovic presser

It’s so bizarre to see what was a minor story among a handful of tennis fans become a global story of toxic masculinity, poor decision making and viral illness in the middle of a global pandemic. To recap, two weekends ago Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour exhibition series began in Belgrade. Novak brought some of the top men’s players in the world for his mini-exhibition tour, and he intended to bring the tour to different countries for four weekends in a row.

As soon as those top players began flying into Belgrade, there were already problems. Players got off the plane without masks, only to be greeted with hugs by Novak and his team. It got worse from there – as soon as the matches began, the stadium filled up entirely, with no masks and no social distancing. None of the ball kids, staff, etc wore protective gear. Players hugged at the net. Novak and company posted videos and photos showing all of the evening entertainment in Belgrade – dinner out in a group, lots of kissing and embracing and a night out dancing. All the men were shirtless, sweaty, hugging and drinking. I kind of believe the nightclub in Belgrade was ground zero for many of the infections in the group.

By the time the men descended on Zadar, Croatia on Friday, many of them were looking worse for wear. Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverez all played poorly and all seemed out of sorts. Grigor dropped out of the tournament and flew home to Monaco. It turns out that he was already showing coronavirus symptoms in Zadar but he refused to be tested on-site. He announced he tested positive on Sunday. The final match was cancelled and all of the players on-site (except for Novak) got tested. Turns out, there were several infected players, coaches and wives-of-players. Novak waited to take his test in Serbia, then he waited to make the announcement: he tested positive. He packaged the announcement in a statement about his “pure heart and sincere intentions” and claimed that they waited to put together the exhibition tour until the virus had “weakened.” The initial statement completely ignored the fact that despite the loose local protocols, Novak has a responsibility to not only set the right tone, but he also actually has the total responsibility for the well-being of everyone associated with this catastrophe. So Novak ended up issuing another statement, this time with an actual apology of “I am so deeply sorry our tournament as caused harm… we were wrong and it was too soon.”

You know what bothers me about his two statements? At no time does he acknowledge that there were so many other options for all of this. Like, this wasn’t the first exhibition to be held in the past two months. There have been others, and none of them have ended up as huge global stories because everyone involved in THOSE exhos maintained social distancing protocols, there were little to no people in the stands, and everyone was wearing masks and taking precautions. Something like that could have easily been done in Croatia and Serbia. He also bears personal responsibility because he was taking people out to dinner and to nightclubs too.

When Tennis Twitter was complaining about the boneheaded decisions made by Novak and company, Novak’s defenders kept saying that “Serbia barely has any cases, they’re not like America!” Well, it turns out that the Serbia government has been under-reporting infection rates for weeks. Croatian tennis is in a pickle too – they completely f–ked this up and now a local WTA director is calling for an overhaul of the Croatian tennis federation.

As for the US Open, they issued a statement too:

uso novaxx

Portraits of May 2020

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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44 Responses to “Novak Djokovic: ‘I am so deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm…we were wrong’”

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  1. P says:

    What a dumba**

  2. Eleonor says:

    “Stupid is as stupid does”.

  3. Sierra says:

    Oh f**k off Novak, you intentionally boarded a packed flight knowing you could have the dangerous virus.

    This man has always been an arrogant, anti feminist prick and now, we can add no regards for others wellbeing as well.

    • Deedee says:


    • Jessica says:


    • khaveman says:

      “We believed the tournament met all health protocols” – if that means having none in place at all, then yes. If that means people sweating it out and breathing all over each other in packed, small club space. Ha what a joke and an obvious money-grab.

  4. KinChicago says:

    The guilt has to be overwhelming (if someone is irreparably ill or dies, how could anyone live with the shame of being the cause?) and the legal liability has to be astronomical.

    • Venus says:

      And considering how the virus can attack the lungs, any of these players could find their careers irreparably damaged.

  5. Oatmeal says:

    He needs to be removed as President for thr ATP player council immediately

  6. Erinn says:

    This dude is SUCH a dumbass. He’s a public health nightmare.

    This is the same guy who refused proper treatment for a shoulder injury, instead pushing holistic methods. And guess who needed surgery because of his refusal to take time off and his insistence on holistic ‘medicine’. It ended up getting worse because he just ignored the recommendations.

    Then we have him pushing anti-vaxx rhetoric.

    Then he’s out here thinking he’s somehow saving the world by helping create a super spreading event. THEN refusing to get tested before boarding a plane. Then testing positive.

    He’s a moron, and it seems like he’s dead set on ignoring real medicine in favor of bullsh-t. Which wouldn’t be SO bad if he kept it to himself. But he doesn’t. I wish we’d stop idolizing people who do and say stupid things publicly when their main talent is hitting a ball around.

    • Sarah says:

      The anti-vaxx thing wrote him off for me. I’m only a casual tennis fan but it’s horrifying when people with such big platforms and reach actively promote actions that are proven to harm others. He clearly has no conscience and needs to be removed from as many public roles as possible.

    • emu says:

      I didn’t realize he was anti-vax. Barf.

  7. Laalaa says:

    If I connected everything right, Đoković was the one who infected others, because he was in contact with Jokić, unlike Dimitrov.
    I don’t want him any harm, but I am personally so piss*d off, this will end our (Croatian) tourist season and he had said many things that show he thinks about himself only.
    However – he is not the only one to be blamed. Everybody messed up.

    • Roo says:

      @LaaLaa, I agree. He’s not the only dumbass in this scenario, but he’s the main one. All the other players and tennis organizations also must take responsibility for their part in this fiasco and their decisions that led to so many people getting infected. It’s sad and pitiful.

    • Yamayo says:

      But Dimitrov apparently had flown in from the States.
      He could have caught it there.
      He also refused to be tested and flew home while symptomatic.

  8. Carol says:

    OMG, I’m surprised no one is commenting on the Disco video. I would be embarrassed to be a part of that dancing? scene. That was a true disgrace.

    • SomeChick says:

      That’s how people dance over there. It’s a traditional folk style of the region, and it is done in the clubs all the time.

    • TyrantDestroyed says:

      I find it super embarrassing. I come from a country whey this kind of group dancing is accepted and encouraged in parties so the style doesn’t shock me at all. What impresses me is the toxic masculinity vibe and the lack of shirts besides being super closed dancing in a bar in the middle of a very well known pandemic. Their attitude screams that they are not worried about the virus because only the chronically ill and elder people have to worry about it and since they are young and high profile athletes that makes them practically Corona-untouchable.
      If the video would have released in any other normal times it would have been seen as meh “it’s a bunch of dudes dancing in the club” and that’s it but not at these times and in these circumstances.

  9. Chelly says:

    Under reporting infection rates. Exactly what Trump is trying to do. Hes actually requesting less tests to be taken to keep the actual numbers low. The ego, the irresponsibility!!!

  10. TIFFANY says:

    This should be a career. None of these boneheads are seeing how having COVID 19 is horrible on the body and its aftermath. There are people out there losing part of one of their lungs.

    The health side would any athletes retiring because of the grind of their sport.

    I would like to pretend to show sympathy but….*shrugs*

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “None of these boneheads are seeing how having COVID 19 is horrible on the body and its aftermath. There are people out there losing part of one of their lungs.”

      yeah, all of these people who are like “but the fatality rate is only X%! Plenty of people recover!”

      “Recover”. with permanent organ damage. asthma. thickened blood. etc. “recovery” is not always complete, and leaves a LOT of people in a bad way, for a long time, if not permanently. I hope that he and his fellow athletes don’t lose their entire tennis careers due to infection and minimal recovery. I wouldn’t wish that on them, but it would be a harsh life lesson if it happened.

      • lucy2 says:

        I know, I read a scary article about the people having neurological problems from it. It’s nasty, and dangerous, and we don’t know enough about it yet for anyone to take it lightly. These idiots not only put themselves in danger, but everyone else they came into contact with, especially if they were flying. Horrible.

      • ChellyPie says:

        My dad mostly “recovered” physically from it about 2 months after he was diagnosed but what they don’t tell you is the psychological damage and trauma this causes. He is paranoid, hallucinating, can’t gain any weight (5’9 123 lbs) and still has stomach issues. These effects can be long term or permanent. And so much damage no one talks about

      • Chaine says:

        So sorry to hear this, Chellypie. I hope your dad improves soon and makes a full recovery.

      • Xpresson says:

        Chellypie was your dad intubated? there is a common occurrence of people that are under an induced coma and it is horrible hallucinations and trauma. Please do some research about this ( i found some very interesting you tube videos… you might find ways to help your dad.
        I really hope he gets better.

      • Chelly says:

        He was never hospitalized or intubated. Just sent the the ER a few times to treat pneumonia. But I’ll do some more research. Thank you

  11. S808 says:

    Ofc this idiot is an anti-vaxxer on top of everything. He deserves harsh consequences. None of that had to happen if he would’ve just FOLLOWED. HEALTH. GUIDELINES. I hope everyone he infected has a speedy recovery.

  12. Margareth says:

    When will this dumbass shut up? He’s so embarassing.

  13. El says:

    “We believe the tournament met all health protocols”? We is delusional? Sounds like they met exactly none of the health protocols, how is he allowed to write that when the whole world saw the middle finger they repeatedly gave to the health protocols?

  14. Oatmeal says:

    Someone on my tennis message board called him Novax Djocovid and for me that will bis name forever more.

  15. Katie says:

    Nick Kyrgios, for all his brat behaviour, absolutely has it on point: “Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the ‘exhibition’ speedy recovery fellas, but that’s what happens when you disregard all protocols, This IS NOT A JOKE.” “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”

  16. Canadi-Anne says:

    Off to google pics of Roger Federer to soothe my frustration with this virus-spreading idiot.

  17. Soni says:

    Ugh. He’s been one of my favorite tennis players for years (despite his many issues) but now he is officially cancelled for me. I hope he loses all of his endorsements. How dare he put others at such risk. To me it’s almost criminal.

  18. Who ARE these people? says:

    Also, the virus does not “weaken.”

  19. Catherine says:

    No words. They are young and professional athletes, they will likely recover and have few symptoms. But what about everyone else? It’s just like his anti-vaxxx stance: selfish, entitled, rude, thoughtless, vain.

  20. Sof says:

    So, Novak is gonna get all the blame? What about the authorities? If we knew all this was going to happen, the government for sure knew and decided not to intervene. The players were allowed to fly in and out without much restriction.
    To clarify, I think he is an idiot for doing all this, but he was not the only one.
    And what about Rublev? Has he said anything else besides isolating himself?

    Btw, I love tennis gossip in general but feel like nothing will top the Coria—Gaudio RG scandal.

    • emu says:

      Truth. And if the club was ground-zero, I’m surprised the club was open at all!

    • Ox says:

      @Sof came here to say the same thing.
      Sure, Novak deserves all the backlash he gets but what about the authorities that allowed this to happen?? Why clubs and restaurants were open? Anyone infected could go into a nightclub and make it new hotspot and spread the infection further. Why health department didn’t make any arrangements to make sure protocols were in place and were strictly followed?
      I understand these are hard times for everyone and lots of businesses are struggling and maybe this event brought much needed $$ infix but it can’t justify all the new cases of infection that possibly could be spread into other countries.

  21. emu says:

    I don’t understand the toxic masculinity part of this? Is it just ignoring the social distancing etc, guidelines? Partying at a club? Just wondering

  22. A.Key says:

    Welcome to the Balkans. This whole case along with his behavior is standard for that region. Just your typical selfish chauvinist prick who’s undereducated and full of himself and thinks he’s always right. Along with thousands of others who will suck up to him just because he’s got money and they care about nothing else.
    Btw the lack of masks is just how it is there. NO ONE wears masks in the Balkans and if they see a person wearing a mask on the street they stare at them and think they’re crazy. So yea, no one should be surprised by this. Also prior to this the Croatian government decided to remove the 2-week isolation rule for anyone entering the country from abroad so it’s their fault they allowed these infected tennis players to enter without a proper checkup and isolation in the first place. Stupid people all around.