Novak Djokovic, who recently tested negative for coronavirus after testing positive during his Balkans tennis event, the Adria Tour, described the widespread criticism he received for hosting the event as a “witch-hunt” on Wednesday.
The Adria Tour was organised by Djokovic and his brother, with the first leg in Serbia and Croatia. The 33-year-old was criticised for not following safety protocols as four players – Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki – tested positive for the virus after the event which saw little social distancing and packed stands. Djokovic’s wife Jelena and coach Goran Ivanisevic also contracted Covid-19.
Players had embraced across the net, played basketball and even danced in a nightclub during the week of the first leg played in Belgrade.
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Djokovic later issued an apology, saying he was “so deeply sorry” that the event “caused harm” but believes that the criticism he received had a hidden agenda behind it.
“I see nothing but critics lately, many malicious,” he told a Serbian newspaper Sportski Zurnal.
“Obviously there is something more than criticism, as if there is an agenda, someone has to ‘fall’, a personality, a big name has to be the main culprit for everything,” he added.
The Serbian also said he still was not sure if he would play the US Open.
“I still do not know if I will play the US Open,” the tennis world number one said. “I will certainly not play Washington or Cincinnati as planned.”
The ATP and WTA tours are set to resume next month, even though several professional players have contracted Covid-19.
The US Open will be the first Grand Slam following the restart, due to get underway behind closed doors in New York on August 31.
Djokovic resumed training on Tuesday and said he would take part on clay events.
“Participation at Roland Garros is certain for now, Madrid and Rome are part of my agenda,” he said.
The Serbian said he thought the ATP’s revised ranking system, due to be introduced in August, was “correct”.
(With AFP inputs)