Not only did you play tennis in front of a large audience on the Adriatic Tour. They hugged, ran up and celebrated together: some of the players even formed a line and hovered one evening in Belgrade, Serbia.
But the ramifications quickly became much more serious than the mood with two of the tour’s main attractions, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric, which according to a Serbian media report announced they were positive for the corona virus, and another, Viktor Troicki.
And on Tuesday Novak DjokovicThe men’s best single player, who organized the exhibition series in the Balkans, said he and his wife Jelena had both tested positive for the virus.
Nick Kyrgios, who tweeted from his native Australia, called it “a decision without a head” to play the event.
“Speedy Recovery Fellas” he wrote in response to the positive tests. “But that’s exactly what happens when you ignore all the protocols. It’s not a joke.”
Dimitrov, the Bulgarian star and semi-finalist of the United States Open 2019, announced its test result on Sunday upon his return from the last stop of the tour in Zadar, Croatia, to his base in Monaco.
“I’m so sorry I did harm,” Dimitrov said on social media.
Coric, a promising Croatian, finished 33rd in men’s singles, said on Monday that he also tested positive. So also Troicki, a well-known Serbian player; Christian Groh, Dimitrov’s trainer; and Marco Panichi, Djokovic’s fitness trainer, according to media reports in Serbia.
Three other Adria Tour players – Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and Andrey Rublev – announced on Monday that they had tested negative for the virus but would isolate themselves for 14 days.
“I sincerely apologize to anyone who may have jeopardized me on this tour,” said Zverev, the men’s seventh single player. said on Twitter.
The announcement by Dimitrov forced event officials to cancel Sunday’s final between Djokovic and Rublev. Djokovic, who was in frequent physical contact with Dimitrov during the tour, returned to Belgrade to wait for his test result.
The rest of the Adriatic tour that is due to travel to Montenegro this week is now very dubious. But the reaction of some members of the tennis community to the lack of social detachment – which included pickup basketball and a group photo with ball kids – was quick and violent.
“I summarize it as a horror show,” said Bruno Soares, member of the ATP Player Council, whose president is Djokovic, in an interview with the Brazilian news agency GloboEsporte. “Enormous irresponsibility and immaturity. They were completely careless and it is difficult for me to find the right words. “
Kyrgios is not the epitome of self-control. He was suspended from the tour for misconduct and was often fined. In this health crisis, however, he urged tennis to take a conservative approach, as he also criticized the recent decision to hold the United States Open 2020 on the originally scheduled dates.
However, the US Open and the regular tour events that precede it should be played without spectators and with strict social distance requirements. As Djokovic explained, there were some restrictions on the Adriatic tour because the local authorities did not ask for it. Serbia and the neighboring countries had comparatively few positive coronavirus cases and reported deaths.
Even before Dimitrov and Coric tested positive, there were concerns about the look of full stadiums and party players, from which so many worldwide suffer.
“You need to be aware of who you are and set a good example,” said Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst and former player who has recovered from the corona virus, referring to Djokovic. He added that it is “hard to imagine” that another top player like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Serena Williams is holding a similar tour.
When the men’s and women’s tours were stopped in March due to the pandemic, Djokovic was unbeaten on the pitch in 2020, but he hardly had a winning streak in the longer break. He has sparked controversy by questioning the need for a possible coronavirus vaccine and stating that if the tour required one, he would have to make a difficult decision. When the US Open announced plans to protect players from the virus by restricting the size of its followers and restricting player movement, Djokovic was an outspoken critic of the idea, calling the plan “extreme” and asking if it would play .
The risks of a less cautious approach are now clear, especially in a sport with an international group of players who need to travel.
“Hopefully, people can see that this is not a problem with the concept of returning to tennis, but the way you are returning to tennis,” said Mark Ein, owner of the Citi Open in Washington, which is expected to be the one will be a comeback event for the ATP Tour in August. “Even if places feel safe, it is still advisable to take basic precautions.”
Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP chairman, said the tour recommended that players participating in the Adria Tour and other unapproved events “take reasonable precautions and respect social distance”. Ultimately, however, ATP was not authorized to issue safety regulations.
“Obviously we feel sorry for the players,” said Gaudenzi in a telephone interview. “We want them to recover as quickly as possible. I know there has been a lot of criticism, but on the other hand we have to be careful with the ATP, the USTA and everyone because we also have to be aware that even extreme measures could end up making some players test positive. You don’t need players and people hugging so someone can test positive. So we are all at risk. “
The positive tests on the Adria Tour could help make subsequent events safer, Gaudenzi said, as players are more willing to stay in the restricted environment imposed to reduce the risk of infection.
“It’s a bit like telling your kids when they’re trying to learn to ride a bike to wear the helmet,” said Gaudenzi. “It’s” no, no, no “. And they ride a bike, fall and then wear a helmet. Now we all know that we can get this very easily, so we’ll be more careful and maybe we’ll be a little more tolerant towards the bubble. “
It’s also a reminder to organizers – like Bob Moran, tournament director of Credit One Bank Invitational, a six-day exhibition for women’s teams in Charleston, SC – of the importance of security measures. Participants in the event, which is slated to start on Tuesday without spectators, include Sofia Kenin, this year’s Australian Open champion, and Sloane Stephens, a former US Open champion. According to Moran, the players practiced social distancing on site and wore masks when they were not training or participating in competitions.
Nets and seating areas are renovated after the training.
“To be honest, I think they are two different animals,” said Moran about his event and the Adriatic Tour. He added: “The players who tested positive are all players who know these women and with whom they have spent time. It is very unfortunate. I hate to see this and to see it now, but it underlines again why we take all the precautions we take. “