Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic admitted that some steps could have been done differently during his controversial Adria Tour exhibition event, but added that if he got the chance to host it again, he would do it.

Djokovic, who had been infected himself before testing negative for Covid-19, had said he was “deeply sorry” for the Adria Tour, which started in Belgrade in mid-June before moving to Zadar in Croatia last weekend. Top players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki had also tested positive after participating in the event.

Speaking after reaching New York ahead of the US Open, Djokovic reiterated that his intentions were right for hosting the event.

“Yes, there were some steps that could have been done differently, of course, but am I going to be then forever blamed for doing a mistake? I mean, OK, if this is the way, fine, I’ll accept it, because that’s the only thing I can do. 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,” said Djokovic in an interview with the New York Times.

Full text: Deeply sorry, we were wrong – Novak Djokovic on Adria Tour after testing positive for Covid-19

Djokovic’s decision to put on the ill-fated Adria Tour as “boneheaded” by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios. Djokovic, president of the ATP Player Council, had said the level of criticism as “like a witch hunt.”

Another off-season controversy the Serb was involved had to do with his opinion on vaccination in relation to coronavirus. Djokovic said he had been misunderstood.

“My issue is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body. That I don’t want. For me that’s unacceptable. I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world?”

Djokovic, who holds a perfect 18-0 in 2020, had confirmed on August 14 that he will play at the US Open, ending speculation about his presence at the first Grand Slam tournament since the season restarted following the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

The US Open gets underway behind closed doors in New York on August 31. The world No 1 is in New York already, preparing for the tune-up event — Western and Southern Open — which is normally played in Cincinnati but has been moved to New York this year.

Djokovic said he has taken all possible health precautions and his decision to travel to the USA was a last-minute one. He added that he was “very close to not coming.”

“I want to play. I mean that’s why I’m here. I am personally not afraid of being in a risky, dangerous health situation for myself. If I felt that way, I most likely would not be here. I am cautious of course, and I have to be responsible and of course respect the regulations and rules and restrictions as anybody else. But things are unpredictable. Anything can happen in the tennis court or off the tennis court,” he said.

The list of absentees includes four-time champion Rafael Nadal, world No 1 Ashleigh Barty and her fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep as well as defending women’s champ Bianca Andreescu. Five-time winner Roger Federer is also missing as the Swiss legend recovers from knee surgery.

Former champions Stan Wawrinka and Svetlana Kuznetsova are also notable absentees.

Confirmation that Djokovic will bid for a fourth US Open title came after he initially expressed scepticism over strict protocols, describing limits on players’ entourages at the tournament as “extreme” and “impossible”.

The US Open, which finishes on September 13, is followed a fortnight later by the rescheduled French Open at Roland Garros.

With AFP inputs