I saw this story when it came out, and I spent most of Wednesday thinking about how f–king wrong it is. As we’ve been discussing all week, Novak Djokovic organized the “Adria Tour,” an exhibition tennis tour of Balkan countries over the course of several weekends. The first stop was Belgrade, Serbia, with Djokovic acting as congenial host – there was so much bro-hugging and sweaty nightclub dancing and dinners out and sweaty soccer games and sweaty kids’ clinics. By the time Djokovic and the other players arrived in Croatia last weekend, all of them looked worse for wear. Within days, we learned that Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki had all tested positive for the coronavirus, and that other people around the tour (coaches, Troicki’s pregnant wife) had tested positive as well. Then Novak confirmed on Tuesday that he and his wife had also tested positive.
I’m recapping all of that because… we honestly don’t know who had what and when. At no point were ANY of these players getting corona tests in Belgrade. It doesn’t even seem like they even got their temperatures taken by the tour. Masks were not handed out to anyone. And yet, Novak’s father is convinced that because Dimitrov was the first to PUBLICLY SAY he had tested positive, that somehow Dimitrov is the Patient Zero of this outbreak, and it’s all Dimitrov’s fault.
Novak Djokovic’s parents defended their son on Wednesday and blamed another tennis player for spreading the coronavirus at a series of exhibition matches hosted by the top-ranked player. Djokovic and his wife tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. The 17-time Grand Slam champion apologized online for organizing the Adria Tour events, which brought together professional players from various countries to play matches in Serbia and Croatia. Thousands of spectators attended the matches, and no social distancing was observed.
Djokovic’s father blamed the cancellation of the tour on Grigor Dimitrov, one of three other players to test positive in the past few days. There is no evidence to suggest Dimitrov spread the virus to others.
“Why did it happen? Because that man probably came sick, who knows from where,” Srdjan Djokovic told RTL Croatia TV. “He didn’t test here. He tested somewhere else. … I think that’s not fair. He inflicted damage to both Croatia and to us as a family in Serbia. Nobody is feeling well because of this situation.”
NBA player Nikola Jokic, a Serb who plays for the Denver Nuggets, has also tested positive for the coronavirus. He was pictured shaking hands with Djokovic at an exhibition basketball event in Belgrade this month. Jokic is reportedly recovering in his hometown of Sombor.
Djokovic’s mother said both her son and his wife, Jelena, are feeling fine but are suffering because of the widespread criticism. “It is horrible what is being written, but we are used to it,” Dijana Djokovic told the Belgrade Blic daily newspaper.
The air of grievance from Novak’s parents is an ugly thing, as is placing the blame on Grigor, who is arguably one of the most well-liked players on both the men’s and women’s tour. The players who flew to Belgrade came there *because* they respected Novak and what he was trying to do, which was raise money for charity. Novak wasn’t actually paying his friends for this exhibition tour, they were donating their time and energy. And now they’re being thrown under the bus by Novak’s parents, because clearly the Djocovid family doesn’t understand “science” or “viral infections.”
It’s possible that Dimitrov was carrying the virus. It’s possible that Sascha Zverev carried it, or Nikola Jokic, or perhaps one of the dozens of people partying with players in that Belgrade nightclub. Just because Dimitrov was the first to feel symptomatic (and even that I doubt) and the first to publicly announce his positive test, that doesn’t make him the FIRST infected. And even if he was, what does it say about Novak and the way he organized this toxic tour that he completely blew off social distancing and testing protocols?
Here’s the response to Djocovid Senior from Grigor’s manager:
Grigor Dimitrov’s manager: “Grigor landed directly in Belgrade after three months of complete isolation. Neither in Belgrade nor later in Zadar was he offered or required to test for coronavirus. The event organizers are the ones responsible” pic.twitter.com/BkJfpVYSgS
— Break Point (@BreakPointBR) June 24, 2020
Also, Dominic Thiem’s manager said some words. (Thiem has tested negative, and he’s been flying constantly all over Europe, despite being exposed to the virus like 30 times.)
Dominic’s manager: “In hindsight it was all dumb, even if it was allowed. Everyone knows it was dumb, no one needs a public apology. The only one who should apologize is Djokovic. He staged the whole thing. The others were only there. They didn’t kill anyone” https://t.co/QLJPuYSevJ
— Nawal (@NawalNadal) June 25, 2020
Photos courtesy of Getty, Avalon Red, Instagram.